The ESU International Public Speaking Competition


The National Public Speaking Competition 2012, March 1:

"The Wisdom of Youth"

The City Council at 12 Vana-Viru was very crowded on March 1: about 100 people gathered in the Big Hall to listen to the best young public speakers of Estonia. The fourth National Public Speaking Competition was held in the City Council premises.  The Competition was organized and run by the English-Speaking Union of Estonia. HM Ambassador Mr. Holtby welcomed the audience and wished every success to the participants. He was impressed by the number of the contestants and guests. He said: ‘I much enjoyed witnessing the first heat, including the enthusiasm and commitment of the participants from across Estonia.’

This is an annual event run by the English-Speaking Union International in London in May, where the winner of he National Competition represents their country.

This year we had 37 bright young people aged 16-20 from all over Estonia: Tallinn, Tartu, Pärnu, Kohtla-Jarve, Jõhvi, Viljandi. Senior students of 24 schools competed in five Heats delivering their 5-min speeches on the theme “The Wisdom of Youth” and answer some questions from the audience. The choice of topics was varied, from beauty and relationship to philosophy and IT. The winners of the Heats progressed to the semi-final, where they had 15 min to prepare their 3-min speeches. The six best speakers competed in the Final with the same 5-min speeches and the judges had a very hard time making their decision as all the finalists very good. The judges for the Final were: Robert Gilchrist, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy; Professor Suliko Liiv, Tallinn University, Director of the Institute of Germanic- Romance Languages and Cultures; Andrus Alber, AmCham President; Ian Watts, Defence Attache, British Embassy; Gustaf Hertsius, ESU Estonia.

 The best young public speakers and their winning speeches this year are:

winner : Vahur Hansen - Gustav Adolf Grammar School, ’ The Three States of Mind’
runner-up :  Kelly Toode - Viimsi School, ’Whose Life Is It?’
second runner-up :  Kristin Parts - Pärnu Ühisgümnaasium, ’Irrationality of Our Day’
audience's favourite : Pavel Volõnkin - Kohtla-Järve Ühisgümnaasium, ’We won't reach great destinations in the couch of the past’

 The English Speaking Union would like to thank all the instutions and people who supported the Competition in any way. Special thanks go to:

  1. American Embassy in Tallinn
  2. British Embassy in Tallinn
  3. British Council
  4. Tallinn City Council
  5. Tallinn City Education Department
  6. Tallinn City Government
  7. Member of European Parlament Kristina Ojuland
  8. Bookshop Allecto
  9. Restaurant Kuluaar

To see the photos visit our Blog.

The first ESU Estonia seminar for students on public speaking and impromptu speech, January 10, 2012. Getting ready for the Competition.

On January 10 the very first seminar for students was held  by the ESU Estonia team at Jakob Westholm Gymnasium. About 70 students and 15 teachers attended the event. They all were from different schools across Estonia: Tallinn Jakob Westholm Gymnasium, Tallinn French School, Tallinn High School of Humanities, Tallinn English College, Tallinn Gustav Adolf Gymnasium, Võru Kreutzwaldi Gümnaasium, Kohtla-Järve Ühisgümnaasium, Kohtla-Järve Ahtme Gümnaasium , Miina Härma Gümnaasium, Tallinna Mustamae Humanitaargumnaasium, Sakala Private School, Viimsi School, Audentes School, Audentes Sports Gymnasium, Tallinna Tõnismäe Reaalkool, Tallinna Kesklinna Vene Gümnaasium, Tallinn Secondary Science School, Tallinn Järveotsa Gymnasium, Pirita Majandus Gümnaasium, Tallinn Jewish School, Pärnu Ülejõe Gymnasium, Jõhvi Vene Gümnaasium.

We are very grateful to our host school  JWG and its teachers  Marje Liigus and Tiina Tiiman, who prepared all the necessary equipment for a smooth run of the seminar. The presentation and coaching session was done by Phillip Marsdale, the director of the International Language Services language school and ESU Estonia member. Gustaf Hertsius and Vladimir Svet, both ESU Estonia Committee members, talked about their personal experience in public speaking and gave some advice too.

Here is what some teachers and students say about it.

Marje Liigus, teacher, Jakob Westholm Gymnasium: “The event was successful, of course. I even did not expect so many participants. It is good that teachers have taken the speaking contest seriously and have also involved more students than in previous years.
The seminar was very variously planned and it definitely fulfilled its aim. The introductory lecture/workshop made the young people think why they want to go and perform. It was an interesting point that it`s not important what you say, but how you say it.
The videos were necessary, of course.
So thank you for an interesting and necessary event.”

Kristina Tsventarnaja, student, Kohtla-Jarve Ühisgümnaasium:

“On 10th of January we were in Jacob Westholm Gymnasium on ESU seminar.
The event was interesting and useful for young people to get new knowledge about how to build an impromptu speech and what to avoid in it.
We think that it is very important to attend this kind of seminars as it helps to improve public speaking skills and become more knowledgeable in this field. For example, now we know what kind of structure a speech must have and how to behave while you are speaking in public.
Also we really enjoyed a training part and we think that there could be more exercises like that.
All in all, we really liked this event as it gave us new practical input and experience which we will use in the competition.”


National Public Speaking Competition 2012 is organised by the English-Speaking Union of Estonia. It is aimed at young people who strive to achieve excellence in English and make active use of the English language. This competition gives students the opportunity to express their opinions to a young audience, who like themselves, are facing questions about their own lives and their hopes for the future. The theme for the National Competition 2012 is The Wisdom of Youth. Participants may interpret the theme in any way they wish, but may not use the theme as the title of their speech. The chosen topic and title cannot be changed during the competition.

The National Public Speaking Competition is based on the same rules as those of the highly successful English-Speaking Union International Public Speaking Competition. The aim is to give young people practical experience in the art of public speaking. It also gives them the opportunity to express their views on topics of national and international interest. 

1. Eligibility
The ESU Estonia Public Speaking Competition is open to 16 to 20 year old students attending Secondary schools (i.e. the youngest possible competitor would have his/her 16th birthday no later than on the day of the prize-giving event of the International Final in London on May 18th, 2012 and the oldest possible competitor would turn 21 the day after the competition of the International Final in London ends).
Each school may nominate a maximum of two students to participate in the preliminary rounds. Selection is the responsibility of the schools.
Competitors are required to speak on a chosen topic for five minutes, followed by a four minutes period (answer at least 2 questions from the judges and 2 questions from the audience), so questions need to be answered briefly and to the point.

2. Theme 2012 – The Wisdom of Youth

Speakers may interpret the theme in any way they wish, but may not use the theme (topic) as the title of their speech.

The organisers reserve the right to reject unsuitable titles or topics. It is appreciated that speakers have limited time to make their case and competitors’ persuasiveness and ingenuity in dealing with the subject is of considerable importance. Although the judges may penalise the treatment of any subject they consider offensive, unnecessary flippant or outside the aims of the competition, speakers should not be afraid to be provocative, hard-hitting or humorous as long as their intention is clearly constructive. It is advisable to ensure that the speech – and this applies especially to a more light-hearted topic – has pith and substance. Speakers must avoid speeches that are likely to be perceived as doctrinal or political.

3. Timing
The Chair of the session will introduce the speaker. Each speaker is allocated 5 minutes with a margin of 30 seconds either way.  Marks will be deducted for speeches which vary from this limit. After 4.30 minutes a signal is given that the speech must be finished within 1 minute. After 5 minutes another audible signal indicates that 30 seconds remains to end the speech. After 5.30 minutes the last audible signal indicates the end of the speaking time (at which point the participant must conclude their speech immediately). The speech will be followed by a question period of 4 minutes. The speaker will deal with the questions without an intermediary. One of the Judges or member of the Question Team will ask the first question, followed by questions from the Audience. Question period of 4 minutes must be completed. Audience members who are connected with a participant (e.g. a family member, teacher or an accompanying guest) may not ask questions to that participant. After 4 minutes the Chairman of the round/heat signals the end of the question round.

The timing is therefore as follows:

  • Introduction of speaker      0.30 minutes (this is not included in the timing)
  • Speech                            4.30 - 5.30 minutes
  • Questions and answers     4 minutes
  • Total                               8.30 – 9.30 minutes

4. General
The order in which the speakers compete will be determined by drawing by the organizer. The speaker’s presentation should be purely oral without use of any other devices. The discreet use of notes, however, is permitted.

5. Judging
There will be at least two Judges per round, who will allocate points on the following basis:

  • Content: content, subject, reasoning and evidence   maximum 45
  • Expression and delivery                                       maximum 40
  • Handling questions & establishing credibility             maximum 15
  • Total number of points                                    maximum 100

The judges’ decision is final. No correspondence will be entered into.

6. Prizes
The winner of the National Final will be awarded a trip to London, where he/she will compete in the English-Speaking Union (ESU) International Speaking Competition Final 2012, as  the representative of Estonia.  Please note that the topic for the ESU International Final 2012 in London is different to that of the National Competition: “The Head or the Heart?”

7. Date
The ESU Estonia National Public Speaking Competition 2012 will be held  on March 1 at the Tallinn City Council, Vana-Viru 12, at 11.00.

11.00 -11.30      Registration
11.30 - 11.45     Welcome
11.45 - 13.30     Heats
13.30 - 14.30     Break
14.30 - 15.30     Semi-final
15.30 - 16.00     Break
16.00 - 17.00     Final
17.00 - 17.30     Mr Polt welcomes the audience
17.30 - 17.45     Award ceremony

8. Registration

Schools willing to participate should send an e-mail to by January 15.
Participating schools can register up to two applicants by completing the form online.

Register each individual candidate and complete each pupil’s entry (topic, title of the speech, etc) NO LATER THAN  February 15th, 2012.

Registration for the National Public Speaking Competition 2012

The ESU of Estonia

National Public Speaking Competition 2010: “Speculation on Our Future“



The Estonian National Finals of the English Speaking Union, Schools Public Speaking Competition,were held on March 4th at the Russian Cultural Centre,Tallinn.

 The proceedings were officially opened by Toomas Vitsut,Chairman of ESU Estonia at 1pm. Mr Vitsut welcomed all participants and their supporters and thanked the teachers for their enthusiastic preparitary work.

 Twenty nine contestants participated from 17 schools from Tartu, Rakvere, Kohtla-Järve, Viimsi and Tallinn.

 First were held four Heats which produced four winners and four runners-up all eight of whom then competed in the National Final held before a large audience.This produced an excellent variety of interpretations of the theme `Speculation on Our Future`.The judges, Gustaf Hertsius, Eha Teder, Suliko Liiv, Dario Cavegn, Alexandr Romenski, Tuuli Oder and Tiiu Vitsut finally came to their verdict and it fell to  Michael Wynne-Parker,Chairman of the Judges and Former Governor of the ESU of the Commonwealth to announce the winner: Mariell Vain of Tallinn English College. Second came: Martin Kilp of Tartu Miina Härma Gymnasium, and third came Grigory Gavrilov of Tallinn High School Of Humanities. Meanwhile the audience had participated in a secret ballot which produced its own favourite: Maria Steffil of Kohtla-Järve.

 Now the Estonian ESU Champion speaker,Mariell Vain, and the runner-up Martin Kilp are preparing to go to London to represent Estonia in the International Finals to be held in May. We try to find sponsors for sending the runner-up Martin Kilk to London as well. 

The ESU of Estonia is very grateful to Eugenia Djachuk, Katrin Ojaveer, Merike Saar for acting as chairpersons and timekeepers, to Riina Altpere for her coordination skills and Zinaida Jevgrafova the efficient Organizer of the competition.

For more information please contact: Zinaida Jevgrafova

For more pictures visit our blog



The ESU of Estonia

National Public Speaking Competition 2009


The first ESU Schools Public Speaking Competition was held on 12th 
March. 13 competitors took part from 6 schools. Toomas Vitsut, 
Chairman of the ESU of Estonia welcomed all-competitors, judges, 
teachers, members of the ESU and others. Riina Altpere took the chair
and explained the background to the competition. She then introduced
the Judges-HE Peter Carter, British Ambassador acting as Chairman
of the Jury, 
Michael Wynne-Parker Member of the ESU of Estonia
 Committee, Former Governor of the ESU of the Commonwealth,
 Suliko Liiv Professor, Tallinn University, Institute of Germanic- 
Romance Languages and Cultures, Director, 
Tuuli Oder Tallinn University, Language SchoolDirector, 
Gustaf Hertsius Member of the ESU of Estonia Committee
 Riina Altpere  introduced the Convenor Zinaida Jevgrafova
( Member of the ESU of Estonia Committee) and Timekeeper finally 
calling all contestants to come forward to select a number 1-13 in a 
ballot to decide the order of speaking. 

13 competitors took part from 6 schools: Karl-Jakob Jürna, Tõnis Veispak and Paap Urbanus from Tallinn English College, Mari Pever and Trinu Lepp from Tallinn French School, Kristen Gilden and Ott Ilves from Gustav Adolf Grammar School, Ingrid Teesalu and Klarika Feldberg from Tallinn Kuristiku Gymnasium, Peeter-Paul Hallaste and Ken Kõrve from Viimsi Secondary School, Ekke Piirisild and Hendrik Kaju from Tallinn Secondary Science School.

 Following the 5 minute speeches 2 minutes was allowed for a variety of interesting questions. Although many of the competitors chose the topic of the threatened environment, many were very creative and argued for topics ranging from "man should move to mars", "The human race has to stop breeding to come in balance with the available resources"  to "We have to save the smaller and endangered languages". The jury was looking for an outstanding candidate to represent Estonia in a completion against youth from over 60 countries ( is this the correct number). The main points in the assessment of each candidate was:

Subject, reasoning and evidence

 Expression and delivery

 Establishing credibility

 Responding to questions

After the final speech the jury retired. Following their return and after a great deal of suspense Ambassador Carter announced the overall winner was Ingrid Teesalu from Kuristiku Gümnaasium closely followed by  Triinu Lepp ja Mari Pever from Tallinn French School .

 Mr Peter Carter ambassador etc chairman of the jury motivated their choice by saying that Ingrid Teesalu was not only able to communicate her message clearly but held the audience in the grasp of her hand from the beginning until the end of her speech.

This luck winner will now go to London in May to participate in the International Finals a daunting task. She will need a great deal of luck but with all our support and encouragement she will represent Estonia with distinction!

our blog

contact person : Zinaida Jevgrafova

 The First ESU Estonia Public Speaking Competition

In preparation for the first English Speaking Union of Estonia Schools Public Speaking Competition a meeting of English teachers from participating schools was held on 22nd January in Tallinn.

The meeting was addressed by Michael Wynne-Parker, a former Governor of the ESU of the Commonwealth who has had a long experience of the Schools Speaking Competition both in the UK where he has been Chairman of a local branch, Regional Chairman and Deputy National Chairman and Sri Lanka where he co-founded the ESU and held office as Chairman during which period over 5000 young Sri Lankans aquired a communicative skill in English and finally participated in and won the International Final of the Schools Competition in London against 43 other National teams.

Mr Wynne-Parker spends part of each year in Estonia which he uses as his writing base. He is author of four books and at present working on his fifth.

At the teachers' meeting Mr Wynne-Parker outlined both something of the 80-year history of the ESU and also the background to the Competition. He described the theme, the aims and the rules of this year's Competition and provided constructive ideas relating to speech content and delivery.

Following his presentation many questions were asked and arrangements for the Tallinn competition, to be held on 2th March, were discussed.



Contact person: Zinaida Jevgrafova