Year 12 student, Mo, captivated her audience at the Gresham College Oracy Competition finals, sharing her compelling presentation in front of a panel of expert judges.

We are proud to announce that Mo made it to the final 11 out of nearly 400 entries, an incredible achievement!

We caught up with Mo to hear about her experience:

How did you hear about the competition and what drew you to enter?

I read about the competition in our weekly Sixth Form newsletter, a compilation of super-curricular opportunities that we can take part in.

I’m always looking for opportunities to improve my communication skills, especially concerning public speaking. I already present assemblies at school and participate in debates, so this competition looked very exciting.

What was your chosen topic to communicate and why?

I chose to answer the question, “What is the greatest positive environmental change you expect to see in your lifetime?”.

I specifically chose this question as a challenge to myself, as my initial reaction to the idea of the environment ever improving was mostly disbelief.

Instead of continuing with that negativity, I confronted it head-on to prove myself wrong.

How did you feel when submitting your initial presentation? What were your expectations?

We filmed [the initial presentation] in an English Classroom at school. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting to make it to the finals at all.

While I was proud of the speech I’d written, I was also certain there’d be hundreds of students with better speeches, who felt less nerve-wracked by the whole process. I’m so glad that I submitted my work despite these fears.

I was so surprised that I had to re-read the email four times before I fully believed it. 

What did you have to do at the final? How was the experience?

The first thing all the contestants had to do before our rehearsals was respond to a few questions in front of a camera for an interview Gresham College wanted to post online.

Next, we individually practised and got ready (I changed outfits), before sitting downstairs for some refreshments.

I had five minutes to perform my speech, after which I had to answer about three minutes worth of questions from the judges.

Speaking of the judges, this competition boasted some serious academic talent! Two of the judges were sitting members of Oxford’s Net Zero Initiative, and one was a representative from the New York Times.

I remember one judge had previously carried out ecological research in Kenya. It was terrifying and exciting to know we were being evaluated by the cream of the crop.

One at a time we performed our speeches, and then took a seat at the back of the room to cheer the others on.

By the end of the night, I'm certain that the loudest applause was coming from the row of contestants.

Honestly, the whole experience was wonderful; all the staff were really lovely and I was lucky enough to compete alongside people who are talented and friendly.

What would you say to anyone thinking about entering the competition next year?

If you’re thinking of doing it, do it. Trying and failing is so, so much better than not trying at all.