News

HBS' Own American Idol

Sponsored by the HBS Public Speaking Club, the public speaking competition has entered its fourth successful year, supported by the abundance of HBS students who desire to enhance their public speaking skills while at business school.
Despite being on crutches, Dean Light remained poised and charismatic as he stood and delivered his opening remark on the importance of speaking in front of large audiences and its relevance in our future career paths. This year’s judges included two extremely qualified individuals: Dean W. Carl Kester, the Mizuho Financial Group Professor of Finance at HBS and currently Deputy Dean for Academic Affair, and Professor Heather Erickson, the Professor of Communication Studies at Emerson College, a premier communications school in downtown Boston. Both Dean Kester and Professor Erickson have significant teaching experience and possess substantial knowledge in training individuals in public speaking.
The eight contestants of this competition – Avin Bansal (NE), Adrian Brown (OC), Steve Davis (NJ), Andrew Graham (NE), Lauren Moses (OE), Ali Palmer (NG), Shane Rahmani (NG), Konark Singh (OI) – were chosen from two rigorous semi-final rounds, where they were asked to prepare a four-minute speech within a three minute time limit on a randomly chosen quote by a renowned individual. For the Wednesday competition, the contestants were asked to prepare a six-minute speech based on a topic of their choice.
The quality of the speeches was nothing short of impressive: one after another, the contestants wooed the audience with their charisma, wit, and personal conviction. From the depiction of Shakespeare in 1980s cartoons, to inspirational advice from ECs, to the recounting of bittersweet memories in life, the speech givers continuously made us reflect (sometimes humorously) on overlooked and understated sides of life.
Avin Bansal (NE) stole third place in the competition with his heart-moving speech on approaching life with humor. Kicking off the afternoon, Avin recounted how he learned to approach life’s every obstacle from his sister, who fought her every battle with leukemia with humor and made a difference every step of the way. Second place went to Ali Palmer (NE), who captivated the audience’s emotions with his poetic depiction of his life as a married soldier fighting in Baghdad. The champion of this year’s public speaking competition went to Adrian Brown (OC) who wittily engaged the audience on a topic that could not be closer to his British-ness: irony.
“Everyone was superb. I’m surprised at how talented our schoolmates are and how seriously they took this competition,” remarked Alex Wong (NE), the incoming co-president of the Public Speaking Club. “It’s obvious that they spent tremendous effort preparing for their speeches. The audience turnout was also exceptional. The inclusion of audience in the voting process definitely helped to increase involvement of other HBS students. I hope that we can attract even more people to enter the competition next year. This is the best way to improve one’s public speaking skills.”
The Public Speaking Competition marked the final major event sponsored by the Public Speaking Club in the 2006 – 2007 academic year. Starting in 2007, the Public Speaking Club will join forces with the Negotiations Club and the Leadership and Ethics Forum, and will continue to bring in high-caliber speakers, events, and training sessions for the HBS community in the areas of speech and leadership development.

April 23, 2007
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