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The North of England’s gas distributer, Northern Gas Networks (NGN) has crowned the 2016 winners of its Outstanding Presenter of the Year and Young Outstanding Presenter of the Year competitions.


NGN transports gas to 2.7 million homes and business across the North East, Cumbria and most of Yorkshire, to towns and cities including Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Leeds, Bradford and Carlisle.


NGN’s employee competition gives colleagues across the business a chance to develop and test themselves, moving away from the comfort zone of their regular role by standing in front of an audience and delivering a presentation.


After a series of regional heats, the final was held in conjunction with a schools final on Thursday 26 May at the Tetley in Leeds.

2016 winners Ian Burns and Cara Kelly 1

NGN’s 2016 winners: employee champion Ian Burns, and schools winner Cara Kelly.


This year’s winner was Customer Care Officer Ian Burns, whose topic ‘A Difficult Conversation’ covered the theme of men’s mental health and accessing available support. Ian, from Seaham in County Durham, joined NGN in January 2014, and won £100 of entertainment vouchers and an engraved glass trophy.


“I entered the competition to transfer skills I use in my job to a more business-related setting,” he said.

“I’ve given presentations in various forms in previous jobs before, but wanted to see if I still had the skills to do it.


“The topic was a very personal thing to me. Mental health is a focus point for the Considerate Constructors Scheme which NGN is signed up to, and we receive assessments for on our gas mains replacement projects. It was a chance for me to help someone who may have been in the room, suffering in silence.


“I’m really proud that the judges thought my presentation was worthy of the trophy. I feel really lucky as the standard was so high and everyone saved their best performance for the final.”


Meantime, the Young Outstanding Presenter of the Year winner was Year Nine student Cara Kelly of Leeds West Academy. She impressed judges including NGN chief executive Mark Horsley with a presentation on carbon monoxide (CO) awareness.


It’s the second time NGN has opened up its internal public speaking contest for employees to school students in Years 8 and 9, working alongside social enterprise the Ahead Partnership and registered charity Hull Children’s University.


The schools competition aims to equip students with skills they can develop throughout their school career and into working life during interviews or presentations. It also encourages pupils to consider jobs in an industry they perhaps would not have thought about before.


Five schools contested the Young Outstanding Presenter finals: Whitcliffe Mount in Cleckheaton, Leeds City Academy, Leeds West Academy, Bradford Academy and Leeds East Academy.


Business mentors – an NGN employee with knowledge of the chosen topic – were then assigned to schools to coach students on their technique and help with research. Students could deliver the presentations as they wished, using slides, props, or even NGN’s personal protective equipment.


Champion Cara dramatically opened her presentation to a 60-strong audience of fellow students, teachers and NGN employees by exhibiting the symptoms of CO poisoning: confusion and dizziness.


Her prize was a £20 book voucher with Leeds West Academy also receiving £100 of book vouchers.


Sarah Napier, Education and Employability Champion for NGN said: “It’s been an amazing year for the competition, and the amount of work that went into each presentation was immense. I was lucky enough to see everyone go through the heats, watch the journey they went on and see their confidence increase and skills develop the further along they went.


“Ian’s presentation was extremely honest and emphasised the fact that help that is out there and where to go to find support. Cara delivered a really important message, making it relevant and understandable for everyone in the room. “


NGN now hopes to build a video gallery of speakers and invite some of the competition participants to future board meetings, to share their messages with a wider audience.


Anyone that smells gas or suspects Carbon Monoxide should call the National Gas Emergency Service immediately on 0800 111 999. This line is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.