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In the news - Malachi Talabi

Malachi is a Year 6 teaching assistant at Peter Hills CofE Primary in south-east London. He will represent Britain at the Toastmasters International public-speaking competition, to be held in Las Vegas in August.

When did you start out as a toastmaster?

After I gave a speech at a local youth group, my wife found the Toastmasters public-speaking website. I said: "What kind of loser trains to speak? I would never, ever do anything like that. Ever." I'm a young black man from Bermondsey. This was middle-class.

What happened?

The next day, a friend said that his communication skills increased after a course at Toastmasters. I don't believe in coincidences, but I said I would do it anyway. At my first meeting, I was the youngest in the room. A man came to the front and said: "Hi, my name's Bob, and I'm here because I'm scared to speak in public." I thought I was in a cult.

But something changed?

I got up to speak and they said I was a natural. So I went back the next week, and the week after. Then, one week, the woman said: "Malachi, you can't speak today, because it's a competition." And I said: "I'm speaking, even if I have to enter the competition." So I entered, and I won.

Do your pupils help you prepare?

Kids are the most disorderly audience ever. They scream out questions. So I know what my audience will be thinking, and I can tailor my speech around that. If the children like my speech, I know it will appeal to the child in every adult.

Have they been impressed so far?

I already feel like a G-list celebrity. And I hope it will be inspirational for the pupils. It's talking, and they all love talking. So they think: "Wow, I could possibly do that." Kids have so much potential. All they need are good words to water their minds and imaginations.

Next stop, Las Vegas?

No one from the UK has ever won an international speaking competition. Americans usually win it: the Americans have big mouths and a good accent. If I win, great. If I don't, it's a holiday. Toastmasters is great, but really I just want to impart something good to someone young.

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