The 14th English Speaking Union Korea Public Speaking Competition (aka ESU Korea Public Speaking Competition) was held on the 9th floor of Ilsan Hyundai Department Store, Kintex branch. Once I arrived at the venue where the competition was held, I was met with a bustling crowd of people, varying from small elementary kids chatting along with their moms to stiff, stern looking high schoolers. I walked around the competition hall, trying to get through the crowd. After going through registration and getting a quick briefing about how the competition will take place, I walked into the main hall with a guide by the staff. I took a deep breath and went into the competition hall.
“Nervous gulps, furrowed eyebrows, and frantic eyes”: thesewere the first impression at the hall. Contestants were in their seats, murmuring their speeches with their eyes looking at the ceiling. I quickly got into a seat and waited for the orientation to begin.
The orientation ended pretty quickly. There were formal greetings and short introductions about the competition. All contestants were divided into groups beforehand, and they were allowed to roam around the mall freely until it was their group's turn to go into the speaking hall to give their speeches. So I grabbed a quick lunch at the food court and then I got myself to work. After a couple of hours’ worth of last minute practice, it was finally my turn to go into the speaking hall.
The room was neatly organized. It was a neat white function room with a white ESU banner, a posh looking camera, and seats for the contestants and panel of judges to sit on. The parents of the contestants were allowed to go into the rooms with their children, so there were already some parents who were seated at the back of the room. After a few minutes of squirming in my seat, the panel of judges came in. The panel of judges consisted of a mix of different races: one Asian, one white, and one black. They were chatting amiably with each other, but at that time, I was just too busy trying to stop myself from shaking even to overhear what they were talking about. Soon, a staff came in to signal the start of our session.
Overall, the competition went on with a much lighter atmosphere than I expected. I expected the panel to look at the contestants with very stern or even curt looks, but as it turned out, they were very encouraging and friendly. They smiled or nodded from time to time, and even gave hints to the contestants when they accidentally forgot their speeches. The questions they asked at the end of the speech were pretty sharp though. I personally was taken aback by the question that I was given. It took me a few seconds before I could fully grasp how I could answer the question.
After all the groups were done with the competition, we were told to wait in line at the back of the hall to get our certificate of participation. After that, the contestants were asked to sit at the back of the hall, where they were met by their parents. Finally, after watching long videos about past contestants who took part in the international English Speaking Union, the awarding ceremony began. It started off with formal nods and greetings by the sponsors and even an amusing and fruitful speech by one of the judges.
Then, the competition’s main host came up to the podium to call out the names of the winning contestants, starting off with the prize for creative speeches. First came in the proud, happy looking elementary schoolers with dreamy eyes, followed by the middle schoolers with nervous yet solemn faces. The high schoolers were even calmer, but anybody could see the sparkle in their eyes as well. After all the winners for each prize were given their medals and aligned in one row, a photographer rushed to the middle of the hall and took a picture.
Preparing for ESU Korea Public Speaking Competition might have been a very time-consuming and tiring endeavor, but it allowed me to experience new things and meet new friends. I believe this competition could be a very good opportunity for those who wish to test their perseverance and diligence in doing things.
Myungduk Foreign Language High School
Heekyung Ko firstname.lastname@example.org
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