Cobble Hill speaker talks her way into national speech competition in Toronto

“From the very first speech I gave, I have loved every aspect of public speaking”

Cowichan’s Allison Gelling is headed to Toronto on Nov. 2 after earning the right to compete at the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture.

The Cowichan Community 4H Club president earned her spot in the prestigious competition by successfully navigating her way through a host of smaller similar public speaking contests.

“In 4H there are several levels to public speaking competitions. The first is Club Level; where you compete against your own club members,” she explained. “From there, the top two to three continue on to District, where you compete against the top speakers from each club in your District (community). Again the top two to three from District level continue to the next which is Regional.”

That’s Vancouver Island for Gelling. The top two from there advance to provincials.

“This year the Provincials were held in Kamloops. At Provincials only the top speaker moves on,” she said.

Gelling was that speaker and earned herself an all-expenses-paid trip to compete in Toronto at the national competition.

SEE RELATED: Coming up in Cowichan: Public speaking, water, food preservation

Public speaking can be daunting for many, but Gelling has grown up with a passion for the art.

“I first got involved in public speaking through 4H at the age of nine,” she explained. “From the very first speech I gave, I have loved every aspect of public speaking; the challenge of having to capture and maintain the attention of an entire crowd, and the opportunity to share what I’m passionate about.”

She said she does get a tad anxious beforehand but she works through that.

“Don’t get me wrong I can be just as nervous as the next person,” she said. “But the feeling I get when I deliver a speech is exhilarating. The opportunity to spread whatever message it is that I am speaking on, is what makes me want to get up and speak. I also love a challenge; trying to keep the attention of a room of 20 to 60 people, of multiple generations, while making sure my message is not only heard but also understood, is the greatest challenge for a speaker.”

For the Canadian Young Speakers for Agriculture competition, as a senior speaker, Gelling will present a timed five- to seven-minute prepared speech on a current issue pertaining to Canada’s farming and agri-food industries. Six speakers will be selected to advance beyond the preliminary round. Gelling and her fellow competitors will be judged on speech content and presentation. A $1,000 prize is on the line.

Gelling is set to speak on Nov. 3.

“Part of the reason I continue to compete every year, is so that I can learn from, not only my own past experiences, but also the other speakers I have heard, and the judges at the competitions. The 4H motto is ‘Learn to Do by Doing’, and for me this comes through every time I compete in public speaking,” she said.

“Being in 4H is a major part of who I am, I love the leadership and mentor aspect that comes with being a senior member,” Gelling added. “After seven years in the club I feel that it’s my responsibility and opportunity to help mentor the new members, and that is the main reason I continue with 4H.”

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