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Home > News and views > From a class project to the ESU International Final

From a class project to the ESU International Final

20 teenagers in marble courtyard of Dartmouth HouseQuinten Jakobs, the Dutch representative in this year’s IPSC, tells us about his experience

In February of this year we were assigned a project for English at school (Gymnasium Sorghvliet, Den Haag, NL). We had to give a five-minute speech and answer questions afterwards. I really enjoyed the project and giving the speech. It also went really well. When my teacher then told us about a national public speaking competition (GNE Awards by Nuffic) I immediately signed up.

It was then that I started to prepare for the first round of this Dutch national public speaking competition. I had to choose between six topics and decided to write my speech on the topic of ‘Is there a future for the EU?’ The first round was online and in a small room at school I gave my speech. I was waiting for the result with my teacher and friends and we all jumped
up when I was through to the national final.

Making it to the national final meant I had to give two speeches live on stage. Firstly, I had to redo my speech on ‘Is there a future for the EU?’ but the big surprise was that we also had to perform an impromptu speech. A few weeks before the final we had a great workshop given by Stephen McLaughlin. I started to learn more and more about public speaking. On the day of the final I was full of nerves. The rules for the impromptu were that we had 15 minutes to prepare on a topic (we could choose from 3 different topics) and afterwards we had to give a 3-5-minute speech and answer questions. I chose the topic ‘What we can learn from the pandemic’ and it went really well. The second speech I had to give was on the same topic as in the preliminary round, which also went great. I was really nervous waiting for the result as all the other competitors were really strong as well. When the judges came with the result, I was shocked and most of all really happy as I had won. I got the invitation to represent The Netherlands in the International Public Speaking Competition (IPSC) organised by the English-Speaking Union (ESU), which was a great honour for me. Due to the pandemic, the 2022 edition would be held online instead of in London. It involved an entire week of activities with my fellow competitors.

This is where things really started to get very serious. I had to write two speeches, one for the first heats and one for if I made it through to the Grand Final. The first speech was on the topic of ‘Our real choices are made without us realising it’. A very interesting topic. I got help from Ingrid de Beer (GNE Awards), my English teacher and my parents and wrote the
speech. The theme of the second speech was ‘We expect too much from our heroes.’ After many drafts and many hours of writing both speeches were finally done and it was time to prepare.

On Monday May 9, after a long anxious wait the very exciting week kicked off with a cultural exchange, online sessions in which candidates from 33 participating countries told about their country’s traditions, music, food, and beautiful sights. I presented something about my country, The Netherlands, and listened to all the interesting stories from other countries from all five continents around the world. We had great conversations and were able to ask each other questions on their views of the world and global issues. I then noticed that I was in a group full of inspiring young people.

Day two focused on a public speaking workshop with mentors. We practised doing speeches but also listened carefully and asked each other good questions. We provided the speakers with good feedback, which was very useful. On Wednesday the first heats were held. I was in a heat with students from France, Denmark, England, Hungary, Mexico and Spain. The title of my speech was ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze’. I was very nervous, but after the first seconds I started feeling more relaxed and
ended up doing very well. After six other amazing speeches the judges appointed me as winner of my heat and I was through to the Grand Final, one of the six finalists!

On Thursday we had time to explore London, no not live, but it was a virtual walking tour. The guide we had was very knowledgeable and we learned more about London and its history. After that I had only one-and-a-half day to finalise my speech for the Grand Final. With a lot of amazing help I was able to be ready on time. This time my title was ‘Who are the real heroes?’ On Friday evening the finals began. I stood in my family’s living room, carefully staged between a Delft blue vase and a vase filled with red tulips. I was up against the best speakers in the world representing China, Canada, Hong Kong, Romania, and Brazil.

Viewers from all around the globe watched us giving our speeches via the ESU’s YouTube channel. The level was outstanding and China won the IPSC with a very inspiring speech: ‘A superhero movie that needs to end’. For me, however, I was so happy for all the great experiences that I gained during this amazing journey. I received great feedback from the judging panel. In the evening I celebrated with my family and this ended a truly fabulous week and an amazing few months. And the experience doesn’t end here, because the British Ambassador to the Hague, Mrs Joanna Roper, a keen supporter of the competition, has invited all finalists of the Dutch contest to meet her. Something to look forward to!

I want to thank everyone so much for helping me in this virtual journey around the globe and blessing me with this amazing opportunity! I have learned more than I could have imagined when signing up for the class project …

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