National Public Speaking Competition

National Public Speaking Competition: past, present, future.

On March 7, 2013 the Assembly Hall of the Jewish School of Tallinn was full. Eventually, 28 participants from 19 different schools of Estonia and more than 90 supporters and guests came to enjoy the 5th National Public Speaking Competition run by the English-Speaking Union of Estonia. HM Ambassador Chris Holtby, also the Chair of the Panel of Judges, welcomed the audience and wished the participants good luck.

The first round of the competition were the 4 Heats, where all the contestants competed in assigned groups. The speakers had to deliver their 5-minute speeches on the theme “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand”, which they had prepared in advance (the theme had been announced in November 2012 at the time of the publishing of the competition Handbook with rules and tips). Then they answered up to 3-4 questions from the audience. The judges had difficulties choosing three good speakers out of the nine of every heat because they all were very good.

In the second round, the semi-final, 12 winners of their heats had to prepare a 3-minute speech on a topic chosen by them 15 minutes earlier. No Q&A session followed this round. The semi-finalists were: Mari Marta Makarov and Berit Sootak from Viimsi Kool; Sander Klein from Audentese Spordigümnaasium; Joonas Põder and Heiki Riisikamp from Tallinna Reaalkool; Ruslan Bolkvadze from Tallinna Kesklinna Vene Gümnaasium; Gabriel Oprish from Tallinna Tõnismäe Reaalkool; Oliver Grauberg from Gustav Adolfi Gümnaasium; Aleksandr Milovidov from Jõhvi Vene Gümnaasium; Makar Timofejev from Tallinna Humanitaargümnaasium; Britt Randma from Jakob Westholmi Gümnaasium; Deivi Õis from Tallinna Inglise Kolledž.

Then the six finalists, winners of the semi-final, were announced: Mari Marta Makarov and Berit Sootak, Sander Klein, Joonas Põder, Gabriel Oprish, and Deivi Õis. The Final was held at Tallinn University with the help of Suliko Liiv, who has been a judge for all these five years of the NPSC. The finalists delivered their 5-minute speeches one more time and answered some questions from the audience.  Again all the judges said they were impressed by the finalists’ public speaking skills and their high standard of English. The judges who made the final decision of the winner and runners-up are:

Chris Holby, HM Ambassador
Robert Gilchrist, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy
Suliko Liiv, Professor, Tallinn University, ESU Estonia
Piret Kärtner, Head of Language Policy Department, Ministry of Education
Phillip Marsdale, International Language Services, ESU Estonia

Finally, at the end of a long day and after the three-round competition, the best speakers of the NPSC 2013 were announced: the winner and audience favourite – Deivi Õis, Tallinn English College; the runner-up  – Sander Klein, Audentes Sports Gymnasium. Deivi represented Estonia at the International Public Speaking Competition 2013 in May, where she delivered a speech on the theme “Ideas Are Our Greatest Weapons”. A short video of the fantastic week the participants spent in London is available here:

We are very grateful to all the organizations, institutions and people who made it possible to run the National Public Speaking Competition 2013 and represent Estonia at the IPSC in London, where Deivi won her heat as well as the semi-final and progressed to the Final. She competed in the Grand Final with five other winners from the USA, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, and Lithuania. They all performed equally well and it is a pity that only two can be chosen according to the rules. Deivi is a brilliant speaker. She does her research and prepares her speeches thoroughly. We all are very proud of her and her achievements!

It is possible to listen to all the six finalists’ speeches here:

But how did it all start? Some background information about us.

The ESU of Estonia is a branch of the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth, which was founded by Sir Evelyn Wrench in New York in 1918 to promote “international understanding and friendship through the use of the English language”. The ESU, an international educational charity, numbers over 50 international branches in every part of the world as well as almost 40 local branches in the UK and 75 branches in the USA. The English-Speaking Union of Estonia was established at its inaugural meeting in Tallinn on February 1, 2007.

The International Public Speaking Competition is one of the most successful and far-reaching of international ESU programmes aimed at young people aged 16-20. The first ESU International Public Speaking Competition was held in London in 1981 and included speakers from three countries. Since then the competition has expanded rapidly, especially since the early 1990s. In 2011, the 30th anniversary of the IPSC, 81 national winners from 48 countries competed against each other in the two-day competition in London.

The first ESU Estonia Public Speaking Competition was held on 12th March 2009, where 13 competitors from 6 schools of Tallinn battled on the theme “Regeneration and Renewal”. The winner Ingrid Teesalu from Tallinn Kuristiku Gymnasium and the runner-up Triinu Lepp from Tallinn French School represented Estonia at the IPSC in London for the first time in its history.

Since then more students from all over Estonia have taken part in the National Final of the International Public Peaking Competition. The National Final of 2010 attracted 30 participants from 17 schools from Tallinn, Tartu, Rakvere, and Kohtla-Järve, who delivered their speeches on the theme “Speculation On Our Future”. The winner Mariel Vain from Tallinn English College and the runner-up Martin Kilp from Tartu Miina Härma Gymnasium competed in London against 75 participants from 45 countries.

The NPSC 2011  “Lessons for the Future” brought 35 participants from 20 schools from all over Estonia to Tallinn. The winner Maria Silvia Martinson from Tallinn Gustav Adolf Grammar School and the runner-up Vladimir Svet from Tallinn High School of Humanities went to London to represent Estonia at the IPSC, where Maria progressed to the semi-final with her speech on the theme “Words Are Not Enough”, winning her Heat against 24 national winners from other countries. Starting from 2011, there have been different themes for the National and International Finals, which allows the participants to express themselves on a wider set of subjects.

In the National Final of 2012, themed “The Wisdom of Youth”, 38 participants from 28 Estonian schools competed in three rounds. Vahur Hansen from Tallinn Gustav Adolf Grammar School, who had participated in the  NPSC in 2010 for the first time, won in 2012 and represented Estonia at the IPSC in London.  The runner-up was Kelly Toode from Viimsi School, which has taken part in all the National Finals since 2009.  Our special thanks to all the teachers and participants who worked hard preparing their speeches and delivered them.

And what to expect in 2014?

There will be seven different themes for participants to choose from, which will allow students more flexibility in choosing their speech topics. Our supporters have promised to prepare new prizes. The English College of Tallinn is going to host the National Final in March.

Please contact us at if you want to know more.

Zinaida Jevgrafova, Chairman

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