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Students Compete in 3rd Annual HBS Public-Speaking Competition

After a grueling and nerve-wracking series of speeches, the competitors of the 2006 HBS Public Speaking Competition finally finished their quest for glory.and prizes.

This year’s competition followed last year’s tradition of awarding $1,500 in prizes to the eight finalists. PJ Kim (OD) won the grand prize – a $600 Amazon gift certificate, and he also won last year’s contest, making him the first back-to-back champion in the short history of the event.

The competition began with two preliminary rounds. Contestants had to place as one of the top four speakers in one of these rounds to be among the eight finalists. With almost 20 students registered for each of the prelim rounds, this was not an easy task.

Making things more difficult, the competitors’ ability to think on their feet was also judged in the prelim rounds. Each student received a randomly selected quotation, and with four minutes to prepare, delivered a four-minute impromptu speech on the surprise topic. The quotations did not make it easy to stand up in front of an audience of 20 people and share thoughts in an organized and compelling way.

Two examples of quotable sources include Roseanne Barr (“The thing women have got to learn is that nobody gives you power. You just take it.”) and Thomas Huxley (“It is not who is right, but what is right, that is of importance.”) Each competitor had a different quotation and was challenged to articulate his or her thoughts. The competitors and other audience members voted on the winners.

For the final round, the speakers developed their own topics and delivered a prepared speech. The first speaker, Greg Marsh (OH), delivered a strong and dramatic exposition on America and his impressions of the country after coming to study at HBS from his native Britain. Citing de Tocqueville and John Donne, Greg’s speech had strong content with an effective delivery.

Although this was a hard act to follow, PJ Kim won the audience over with a tightly organized and highly entertaining speech on lessons he has learned from his ongoing search for a job.

The third speaker, Kyle Flodder (NC), called for a balanced perspective of the pharmaceutical industry without sensationalist media misrepresentation.

Kyle’s sectionmate, Adrian Brown (NC), once again returned to levity as he tackled the age-old problem of which is better: cats or dogs? Adrian finished with a strong conclusion: “For the problem of whether the sun revolves around the earth, we can look to Copernicus for a clear answer. Similarly, for the old chicken-and-the-egg question, Charles Darwin told us the egg was first. And for the dilemma of today, we can strongly conclude that cats are better than dogs. And I invite you to quote me, Adrian Brown, Public Speaking Competition 2006.”

Noah Brodsky (NI) followed Adrian with a strong discussion of customer service with great examples from his personal experience as a manager at a Four Seasons hotel. Christopher Palazzolo (NI) relied on humor with some ironic observations on life at HBS.

The third member of the most represented section in the event, Konark Singh (NI), followed with a dramatic and compelling presentation on the life of his mother. His powerful speech earned him a very close second place in the event.

The final speech, by third-place winner Heather Thompson (NG), was a clear and articulate account of discoveing her national identity and an examination of how travel informs one’s understanding of national identity.

The goals of the event were to have quality speakers, distinguished judges, and a good audience turnout. As such, the event was a success.

The event was judged by an expert panel, including: MBA Program Dean Rick Ruback; Director of Forensics at Suffolk University and Professor Bruce Winkelgren; and HBS’s “speech guy,” Simmons College Professor Dale Deletis. The audience also had a vote, making the event HBS’s own “American Idol.” About 150 students and spouses came to support the speakers, giving them great practical experience in speaking before a large audience.

The Public Speaking Club routinely conducts training sessions to help HBS students prepare for the communication-intensive professional world. Why wait until you are challenged in the professional world? Now is the time to fine-tune these skills in a comfortable setting. Frequently speaking in front of audiences, coupled with thoughtful reflection and informed feedback, can make the difference for many.

Email the Club’s Co-President, Magen Xia at xxia@mba2007.hbs.edu for more information.

April 24, 2006
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