James Pirot

For the last 2 years I've worked as a Learning and development manager for the Government Digital Service. From day to day my role is extremely varied. I support the organisation by sourcing suppliers for different types of training, regularly advising staff on learning opportunities available to them. I also have to manage a large training budget to ensure we don't overspend for that year.
In addition to this I also facilitate and deliver our induction to all new starters, and I train/coach new line managers through line manager training sessions.


2. How would you describe yourself?

I like to think of myself as a happy person, who goes through life smiling, and is always willing to help people. I'm very laid back, logical, optimistic and very much a people person. These skills have definitely helped me through my other career as a songwriter and musician, so understandably I guess I'd also describe myself as music-loving!


3. What attracted you to being part of the judging panel?

I was asked to be! (seriously…!) I've had a few interactions with the College of Public speaking, and have always enjoyed the courses. It was an honour to have the opportunity, and something I thought would be a great experience to be involved in.


4. What advice would you give to beginner public speakers?

It's not easy to do. Most people know this, so you'll have already gained their respect just for standing up in front of a crowd and speaking. Try not to let your nerves get the better of you (easier said than done I know), but you'll find this speeds up your speaking. So try and ensure you speak clearly and calmly, that way you won't stumble over your words.


5. What's the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your career?

Don't be afraid to ask questions if you don't know the answers, you learn so much from asking. It's also ok to not know everything. Honesty generally gets you in less trouble than false facts!


6. What do you love most about public speaking?

If I'm honest, I never did particularly enjoy it. I was an extremely shy child and teenager. Performing in front of people as a musician gave me the confidence to start presenting and public speaking and I haven't looked back since.
I love engaging with an audience. It sort of feels like a conversation, even if they're not talking back to you. I really enjoy making people laugh, smile, making them happy. So I try to talk about topics I know well, because they're the ones that I'll be most passionate and confident about, and therefore most engaging for the audience.



7. What are you hoping to see from the contestants?

Preparation definitely, but I'd also hope to see them enjoying themselves with their material and engaging with their audience.


8. Have you had the opportunity to contribute to any magazines or national/local

A few times through my work as a musician in a band or as a solo artist. I recently took part in a 16 hour charity golf day for Macmillan, and apparently posted about it so much on social media that I caught the attention of the media, and my local newspaper approached me for a story! I certainly wasn't expecting that!


9. What do you feel is your contribution to the world of public speaking?

Now that's a hard question! I guess I'd have to say training people. I feel through my personal experience, I'm able to impart my knowledge onto others, and help coach them with their own fears or worries about public speaking, having difficult conversations, giving feedback etc. It's something I do regularly and really enjoy.


10. Are you a member of any specific speaking clubs and/or groups?

Not currently. I used to be a member of an amateur dramatic society.


11. Please list your own website, twitter, LinkedIn details.