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Home > News and views > Top 10 tips to…prepare your students for ESU competitions

Top 10 tips to…prepare your students for ESU competitions

Is your school preparing for the first rounds of a national competition? Then look no further for some expert advice to share with your students

Entering any type of competition can be a nerve-wracking business, especially if it’s one in which you will be representing your school. Luckily, a little bit of preparation goes a long way towards transforming that fear into excitement for our competitions. Here, we’ve compiled ten top tips from staff across the English-Speaking Union who, over the years, have seen and heard it all.

1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Doing research aids preparation and gives your work a real boost. Be sure though, that your research supports and helps your ideas and arguments, rather than replacing your thoughts with ‘what the internet says’.

2. It’s all about perspective

Before you start researching your topic or preparing your response, spend time brainstorming different approaches and ideas with others. Talking it over with others in your class, debate club or peer group can be helpful to get new or different perspectives from your own.

3. Scoring marks

Make sure that you’ve checked the competition handbook so you know exactly what you’ll be awarded for. Make sure you try to achieve in every category. Even if a certain element isn’t your strength it’s silly to lose all of the marks because you didn’t try – give it a go. You might surprise yourself with how well you do.

4. Practice makes perfect

So you think you’re confident with what you’ve prepared, but have you thought about trying to deliver it in different ways – so that it still feels fresh to you? If you’re too over-polished, you may lose some spontaneity or it may sound too rehearsed in delivery.

5. Think allies – not competition

Take the opportunity to meet other people during the breaks at the competition. They may share different experiences with you which can be insightful for you and aid your thinking. They may even give you an idea or some rebuttal that you hadn’t thought about.

6. Be open to critique

Get as much feedback as you can from people who see you perform – this may be the judges, but also your friends, teammates, mentors or teachers. Listen carefully and take note of what they say. Even if you might not think it’s useful in the moment, with a calmer perspective later on, you may see it in a totally different light.

7. Nerves are natural

Don’t worry if you feel a bit nervous in the lead-up, or during your speech. Everybody feels nerves and you can’t eliminate them completely, instead, you can learn to use the emotion to your advantage. Take lots of deep breaths, trust your preparation and use the extra energy to deliver your words – you’ll be great!

8. It’s not over until it’s over

It’s very hard to judge yourself when you’re standing up and speaking. So, even if you feel like it’s not going perfectly, keep giving it your best until the end – you don’t how the judges are receiving it, and there’s a good chance they like it a lot.

9. Not winning doesn’t equal failure

It’s a bit of a cliché but speaking competitions really are about the taking part, not just winning. Every single participant takes away something different, from new skills, improved confidence, additional knowledge or simply making new friends. Try to make the most of your time in the competition and don’t focus too hard on winning – be the best that you can be.

10. Be yourself

Let your own interests and expertise shine through, speak in your own voice – this is your chance to express yourself, and an authentic performance is always the most compelling.

Check out our top 10 tips to win a public speaking competition from the winners of our Public Speaking Competition.

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