Teen speaker wows UK crowd

Teen speaker wows UK crowd

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Federation of Youth Groups
Photo: The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups

DGS student's plea for lesser focus on money wins runner-up prize at public speaking contest in London, writes Wong Yat-hei

If you are having a hard time mastering the art of public speaking, you can take inspiration from Karen Chan Kar-wun.

The Form Six student from Diocesan Girls' School (DGS) took on more than 80 participants from 40 countries and regions to emerge runner-up at the 29th International Public Speaking Competition 2010 held in London. This was Hong Kong's best-ever result at the event.

Karen was selected to represent the city after beating more than 2,000 locals at The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups The Standard Chartered Hong Kong English Public Speaking Contest.

The 18-year-old gave a speech on 'Human, Humane, Humanity' under the topic 'Speculation on Our Future' at the grand finals in England in May.

Initially Karen's speech was based on the environment, but her family suggested the topic had been done too many times so she decided to change it.

'My speech focused on humanity. In the modern world, people are too involved with a materialistic lifestyle. The goal of making money has demoralised them and this has to change if humans want a better future,' she says.

Karen says the trip gave her a taste of Britain's rich heritage and let her make friends with young people from different cultures.

'The cultural life of the British is much more colourful than Hong Kong people's,' she says. 'There are posters of shows and musicals everywhere, and there's a full house every day. I was lucky to go to a play at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and it was fabulous.'

Karen is amazed by some of the participants' speaking skills and preparation.

'The speaker from New Zealand really blew my mind,' she says.

'He captivated the audience with his casual tone and jokes. Hong Kong students tend not to do that. They focus on providing the audience with loads of information rather than getting the crowd involved.

'I think Hong Kong's spoon-feeding education system prevents this type of presentation.

'There's a participant from Belgium who plays golf with his public speaking coach to help him concentrate. Sometimes he can take a day off from school to prepare for the speaking contest. It shows he really cares about the competition.'

Karen has been accepted by the University of Hong Kong, where she will study medicine. Although being a doctor does not involve a lot of public speaking, she says the skill will help her throughout life. 'Public speaking is a skill that will come in handy not only in my professional field, but also in life.'

Karen has filmed a video to give students useful tips on the HKCEE English oral examination. Check out the clip here

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