• fb icon sml
  • twitter icon sml
  • linkedin

Our stories, our words, our voice

Brent Alford Nov15 Speakers Bank presenterIn its fifth year of operation, Speakers Bank has truly blossomed. Big things have happened over the past 12 months.  The project refined its purpose and commenced its journey towards a more accessible format, and found new audiences.

Speakers Bank gives people living with disability or those who experience disability, the opportunity to share their stories with the wider community.  All speakers are trained in public speaking and are assisted to develop engaging talks that educate the broader public in the sorts of things people with disabilities can do, instead of focusing on what they can’t do. 

“Speakers Bank gave me the opportunity to combine my university learning and my experience as a disabled person in a meaningful and productive way,” explains Rufus Uulf.

With 36 speakers on the books, and ten speakers actively engaged at any one time, Speakers Bank is proving popular with a broad cross section of the general public.  “People want to hear from speakers with interesting stories,” explains Mimi Laurilla, Speakers Bank, project manager.  “We have requests for speakers regularly, and we match the speakers to the audience.”

Over the past 18 months, Mimi has concentrated on making Speakers Bank more accessible.  “We will still have face-to-face speaking gigs, but we want to also make some of the talks available in the digital format,” explains Mimi.  With requests for speakers from interstate, Speakers Bank has the potential to engage a national and international audience.

The Speakers Bank new website went live in August 2015. The site will eventually have the capacity to profile each speaker, and present a video presentation by that speaker.  This allows people to see the type of talk they will get and gives organisations the option of screening digital talks as part of their functions, in addition to face-to-face presentations.  “We have some requests from organisations in other states, and the video format will allow the speakers to present without actually having to be in the room,” says Mimi.  “For some presenters, travelling to a venue may not be appropriate.”  

To get funding for the new digital strategy, Mimi participated in fundraising activities, such as a Bunning’s Sausage Sizzle, and the Seddon Bendigo Bank’s Community Pitch Event.  Mimi pitched her ideas of growing the Speakers Bank digital presence and was successful in winning $450 towards the project on the night, and the chance to enter into round two of the pitch competition.  Successful in the second round too, the Speakers Bank won an additional $1000 towards the project while increasing their Facebook community to 296 followers, and received a new iPad worth $500.

Universities, service clubs, TAFEs, schools and health providers are currently the biggest users of the service. Over the past twelve months, the project engaged with 33 face-to-face speaking events and four media events.  Audience members benefit from hearing the stories, told by the individual and engage better with both the topic and the individual. 

“Louise engaged her audience from the outset. There were too many questions for the time allocated, a sign she had made a positive impact. She was very well prepared, and I would recommend her to other organisations” said John Illot - Rotary Club of Melbourne.

Speakers benefit hugely from being involved in the Speakers Bank.  The experience gives them the opportunity to share their story, improve their communication skills, enhance their self-confidence and educate the general public.

Speaker Michael Burrowes first started delivering his presentation in question and answer format and typing the answers to questions from the audience into his talking machine, which would generate the words. Michael couldn’t deliver the presentation in his own voice. This wasn’t the most engaging way to speak to an audience, and it took a lot of time and effort on Michael’s part. We prepared a PowerPoint presentation for Michael, and he pre-recorded his speech to go with the slides on his talking machine.  Recently he performed this speech to more than 60 students at Monash and took questions afterwards.

Brent Alford speaks in schools to younger audiences about life choices. Brent has Acquired Brain Injury as a result of binge drinking, and he speaks to kids about what they can do to prevent themselves from going down the same path.

Kathryn Beaton doesn’t like it when organisations speak on her behalf. Kathryn is vision impaired and takes her guide dog Zeke with her when she presents.  “I do not like having an agency speak for me; without Speakers Bank I would not have the option to advocate for myself,” said Speakers Bank presenter – Kathryn Grace Beaton.