HOW THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING UNION CHANGE MY LIFE

By Advik Goorah, College du St Esprit

Winner of the 2010 National Public Speaking Competition

Finalist of the 2010 International Public Speaking Competition

“I discovered the world with you guys,” those were the last words I said to the friends I had made at the ESU international public speaking competition. I am sure all of my friends all over the world will tell you the same thing: this competition is not a conventional one, where everyone is obsessed with the idea of winning; it is the creation of lifelong friendships. I cannot be grateful enough to the ESU for what they’ve done for me, whether it is in Mauritius or in England. Winning the national public speaking competition is one of my greatest achievements, if the not the greatest, and besides winning, I have acquired a great deal of self confidence. I normally am good at my studies and most of the time my results are satisfactory, but something lacking was an extracurricular activity where I could prove myself and it turned out to be public speaking. Even though I had taken part in educational television programs in primary school, facing a camera had nothing to do with facing an audience. Initially, my interest in the national competition was only for my curriculum vitae, because my teachers always stressed on the fact that such activities are highly favourable for scholarships and admissions at universities.  In fact, I am the first Lower 6 student to take part in this competition from my school, College du Saint Esprit, because it was believed that upper 6 students had greater maturity and suited the criteria of the competition better. However, my strong desire to participate resulted in selections being made at school, with me as the youngest participant. When I knew that I was selected, I was immensely happy. I wanted to make my speeches different from others by the humour, originality and the topic of my speeches varied from laughter, to the sense of smell and finally designer babies. One of the biggest surprises that this public speaking competition brought to me, was that it made me realise that I could face an audience, speak loudly and full of enthusiasm without fear, and surprisingly, at the same, time enjoy myself fully. I’ve often heard people say that they’d rather die than speak in public. Nevertheless, owing to the ESU which has made me realise my potential, public speaking for me is not a phobia like for many people, it’s a state of euphoria: it’s even spiritual. My belief is that public speaking does not involve merely the speaker, the speech and the audience. There is something I feel that connects me with the audience, that makes us so familiar and friendly to one another and I believe it’s a spiritual link.

I am also very grateful to the ESU for their mind-blowing organisation of the IPSC. Handling the pressure, when you are representing your country on an international level, is not an easy task.  Friday the 21st of May was the day the competition was held; the heats in the morning were much easier to handle because of the smaller audience and relaxing atmosphere prevailing. For me, just taking part in the international competition was a great honour and privilege. When the finalists were announced and I heard my name amongst them, I just could not believe that I would take part in the grand final held in the prestigious HSBC building in Canary Wharf. The six finalists had to rush to Canary Wharf following Annette Fisher, because we were expected to arrive first. There, in the building, was a special room for the finalists with food and drinks. We all were still very apprehensive and some time before the competition started, we all went in a corner to prepare ourselves mentally. Then, we entered a hall, already full, with cameras filming us: at that moment I felt great pride and was very happy to represent my country once again in the finals. I spoke fifth and surprisingly, I did not feel any usual stage fright. My speech, was well received by the audience who understood its underlying humorous parts and at the same time, grasped the message I wanted to convey. The speech was entitled “Designer Babies: from Homo sapiens to Homo futurus”: it dealt with genetic engineering of embryos and the future of humanity.  Many of my friends told me I had a good chance of winning because my speech was enjoyable. Even though I did not win, just being a world finalist and competing against 45 countries is such a great achievement for me. After the results were announced, I went to take my certificate of participation and something I did not expect at all happened: the entire audience stood up and applauded me, and that was my first standing ovation ever. At that moment, I felt an indescribable pleasure because I was glad that the audience appreciated me and wanted to manifest their appreciation in that way. For a public speaker, what counts the most is not himself or his speech; it’s the audience he is talking to. The biggest gift a public speaker can get is seeing his engrossed audience laughing, enjoying themselves and responding positively. The most difficult thing for someone, who is addressing an audience to do, is to keep the later attentive and alert until the end of the speech. Some of my speeches took several days to write because I wanted to make them simple, captivating, unconventional and above all, make the audience participate.The competition was on the last day and during a whole week prior to that, we visited places like the BBC, the Globe theatre, and debated in Kensington Palace, where Lady Diana once resided. We also had dinner in restaurants all over London. One night we went for karaoke and bowling and another day we watched a scary play, “Woman in Black”, which I avidly recommend to everyone who likes a good dose of adrenaline from time to time. Besides the great fun I had, I was able to share my culture and show my country to South Americans, North Americans, Africans, Europeans, and Asians. I learnt how different people are, but at the same time, how very similar they can be. I certainly gained in maturity and experience thanks to the competition, and the IPSC was a life enhancing experience that I will never forget. The week in London was like sailing across the oceans of the world, relishing every single moment, and I indeed discovered the world with all the wonderful people I met there.