How to become a public speaker in schools

by Billy Nicholles
September 2022

Public speaking in schools - pupils listening to a talk

How to become a public speaker is something many people may ask – I’ve done this through speaking in schools with Just Like Us. And it has been an experience like no other. 

When I first heard about the chance to volunteer with Just Like Us, to talk to young people about the LGBT+ community and my experiences growing up bisexual, I leapt at it.

“I’ve spoken to over 1000 young people about my experiences of growing up LGBT+.”

I was amazed that such an opportunity existed and was so accessible to me, and I was thrilled at the idea of educating young people about a topic I was so passionate about. 

In many ways, my expectations were met. I’ve volunteered with Just Like Us for a year now, and I’ve spoken to over 1000 young people about my experiences of growing up LGBT+. As an ambassador, I’ve been able to talk to pupils about the need for a more LGBT+ inclusive future.

I’ve seen first-hand the continued need for LGBT+ education and inclusivity, and I’ve also felt students’ and teachers’ genuine passion for realising this future. 

How to become a public speaker and face your fears

I’ve also faced challenges – some unexpected – along the way. My first shock came in the form of a persistent blank page. I had never encountered a serious block when talking about my experiences growing up LGBT+. In fact, far from it.

Many of my friends and family would probably have appreciated a break from my verbalising every thought I had on the subject! And yet, when it came to getting my story down on paper, I didn’t know where to start. 

Billy does public speaking in schools
Billy does public speaking in schools as a volunteer

I guess this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It’s no mean feat to distil your life, childhood and journey with sexual orientation and gender identity into a 10-minute presentation. Let alone doing this for an audience of school children.

So, the first thing I learnt was to write, and write a lot. To think and reflect deeply about my life, my experiences, and the message I wanted to send with my story. It was hard, and harder still to be happy with what I came up with. I had to draft and redraft – even one year in my story still isn’t there yet. But the more I wrote, the more I practiced, and crucially, the more I talked in schools, the better I got. 

Knowing your audience

This brings me onto my second hurdle: the audience. A mixture of naivety and egotism propelled me into my first talk with the assumption that I would have the constant, full engagement of all pupils.

I assumed that they would all already care as much as I did about LGBT+ inclusion. The realisation that I potentially wasn’t quite always reaching everyone in the class was a powerful one. It reaffirmed to me the importance of growth and humility in this role.

And I count myself lucky to do this kind of public speaking. That’s because it’s rare that LGBT+ people are able to talk about their community’s needs so openly. 

Being a Just Like Us ambassador is therefore both a privilege and a responsibility. As ambassadors, we must all be mindful and willing to learn and grow from our experiences in this role. 

But this realisation also reminded me why I talk in schools. All children need to learn about LGBT+ allyship, and help to foster LGBT+ inclusivity at school. But fundamentally, we’re there to show them that being LGBT+ is not only OK, but nothing short of brilliant. 

I may not always see the child at the back of the room who is questioning or concealing their identity. But if I make a difference to just one of those children, then I’ve done what I set out to do. 

Benefits of public speaking

Just Like Us has also surpassed my expectations in many wonderful ways. I started volunteering with the charity to help young LGBT+ people. Little did I know how much they would help me. 

Since joining Just Like Us last year, I’ve had articles published in leading LGBT+ media outlets such as Gay Times, and been featured on BBC News. I’ve also been given 1-1 career mentoring from a senior LGBT+ professional through the charity’s mentoring programme.

Perhaps best of all, I’ve been introduced to a beautiful, vibrant, and thriving community of LGBT+ young people who are all passionate about making positive change for their community.

I’ve learnt a lot with this charity over the past year. But above all, I’ve learnt that it’s this community, and the incredible work that they do, that makes Just Like Us so special.

How to become a public speaker in schools

If you’re LGBT+ and age 18-25, you can join Just Like Us’ Ambassador Programme and speak in schools.