By Zika Bobby
Mrs. Patience Essien, Registrar of Lagos based School of Eloquence speaks on the forthcoming Eloquence Cup Competition for secondary schools and how the skill of public speaking touches positively on the audience and drives speakers to their desired objectives
Briefly tell us about the school
The School of Eloquence was established in 2006 by West Africa’s first Certified Speaking Professional, Ubong Essien, to teach Nigerians effective public speaking and good presentation skills. Since then, it has helped thousands of leaders and professionals from all walks of life find their voices and become influential public speakers in their respective domains. That is why we pride ourselves as “The Home of Public Speaking” with the missionary slogan of “teaching the world to speak”.
We are purely into public speaking and presentation, and we’ve been doing that throughout the 16 years we’ve been active. We’ve trained different people from all settings and organisations, private and public, as well as executives and business owners. We teach how to comport yourself in public and overcome stage fright to face any audience, large or small and deliver impactful messages and presentations.
And so far, so good. We have done quite well because anyone who comes in here must leave with the ability to speak well in public.
Can you give us an overview of the Eloquence Cup and what inspired it?
The Eloquence Cup is a public speaking challenge between students in government-owned secondary schools. The students are assigned a topic of general interest upon which they are to speak before an audience. The audience includes students and teachers of competing schools, alums from the School of Eloquence, the School’s Board members and other members of the society. The winning school takes the trophy we call The Eloquence Cup, and we also have prizes for the participating individual students that excel in the competition, from laptops to tablets to cash. The maiden edition was won by King’s College in 2017, while Queens College won the last edition in 2021.
It has been a fascinating journey because when you see this younger generation in action and speaking on topics of national importance, you will appreciate how knowledgeable the students are and the bright future that awaits them.
As for what inspired the Eloquence Cup, it was initiated by the school’s founder and Dean, Mr Ubong Essien. He believes teaching the younger generation communication skills will help improve society. Our students and clients are business owners, corporate executives, government functionaries, directors and high-profile individuals who are very good at what they do but find it challenging to speak in public. To avoid public embarrassment, they come to the School of Eloquence to learn the skill later in life. So, the Dean thought that it must be essential if such highly placed people were still coming back to learn this skill at their level.
That gave birth to the “Catching Them Young” CSR initiative, where School of Eloquence alums visit public schools to create awareness about eloquence at an early age, teach them the art of public speaking and let them know how important it is. Then at the end of the year, we call them to come and display what they have learned and how well they can perform in the art of public speaking at a competition known as the Eloquence Cup.
This is what edition of the Eloquence Cup?
This is the fourth edition. The inaugural edition was in 2017. So far, Queens College has won it twice and Kings College once.
What has been the significant takeaway from previous editions?
The sight of the students coming together in a very keen contest and then winning prizes at the end of the day is something to behold. This means that we’re making a positive impact in their lives and improving their presentation skills because, prior to the competition, we go to their schools to teach them the art of public speaking.
What is the age bracket for the cup?
Our focus is on senior secondary school students for now.
And do you do follow-ups on past winners?
We have yet to do that because most of them are in their final year of secondary school when they come for the competition, and all things being equal, they are usually in the university.
What difference should followers of the event expect from the 2022 edition?
This year, we expect a better contest because we have added new schools to make the competition even keener. This year’s public speaking contest topic is: The Nigerian Youths and the ‘JAPA’ Syndrome – What is the Way Forward?
How can early embrace of public speaking advance career development and help build a better society?
Public speaking is seen as a superior skill here because with it, no matter your profession, you can sell yourself and compel your audience. And you find out that some people, even if they don’t know much, because they are eloquent, are the ones that the public will identify with and recognise. If the skill is learnt early in life, the students will grow up with the self-confidence needed to pitch their ideas during job interviews and other opportunities to get ahead.
Public speaking defines a man because people measure you by your words; you might have all the knowledge in the world, but it is wasted if you are unable to present it. Hence, public speaking will help enhance your career. You might not be the best in your profession, but with public speaking and the confidence that comes with it, you will be reputable.
Another mistake people make is in thinking that public speaking is for extroverts or something that you’re only born with, but this is not true. It is a skill that can be learned, which is why the School of Eloquence exists, and once you know the methodology, you will be able to stand up and speak anywhere.
How has the school fared this year regarding its impact on students and alums?
Coming out of the restrictions of COVID-19, where we had to run most of our classes and coaching sessions virtually, we have since resumed our live, in-person training programme and masterclasses. So, we have done well. Our recent relocation from Ikeja GRA to Ikoyi has brought us even closer to our core clientele of students who are majorly high-profile VIPs. In terms of impact, though, we’ve positively impacted our students. For our alums, there is the monthly Eloquence Club where, after the training, we come together to continue improving public speaking practice. The club’s coordinator is an alum member, and it is a forum that meets every second Saturday of the month. The club stands on three legs: community, continuity and continuation. Whatever you’ve learned in the class doesn’t end there but continues throughout your life.