GROWING up, Imelda Sandrasagaran was a little shy and sensing that, her grandmother signed her up for drama school.
“After one session. four year old me fell in love with performance and speaking!
“Ever since then, I have participated in story-telling, public speaking and debating,” said the 17-year-old first year law student.
Imelda was named the national champion of the annual public speaking competition.
The competition was organised by the English Speaking Union (ESU) of Malaysia in collaboration with the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking (MIDP) and Taylor’s College, with the support of the Education Ministry.
She beat 11 other finalists with her speech on “Nature is A Common Language”.
Imelda will now represent Malaysia at the International Public Speaking Competition (IPSC) in London, from May 13 to 17, sponsored by ESU Malaysia. She received RM1,500 in cash sponsored by Taylor’s College.
All participants were required to deliver a prepared speech on the theme, “A Lie Has Speed, But Truth Has Endurance” and an impromptu speech at the preliminary round before they qualified to speak on the national theme, “Nature Is A Common Language” at the finals held on April 20.
Twenty participants managed to qualify as semi-finalists where a further 12 were then shortlisted as finalists.
Each speaker was also required to give his or her reply to one or two questions given by a judge after the speech. Marks were allocated for listening and responses.
The judging criteria of the speech included expression and delivery, reasoning and evidence as well as organisation and prioritisation.
“When I first read the themes for the competition, I was definitely excited because the themes were not one dimensional but instead touched on philosophy and human nature; two topics which I am a huge fan of.
“Then I started listing down all the points I wanted to address in my speech, before thinking of an introduction.
“Once the introduction came to me, I let my flow of thought guide me to the completed speech,” said Imelda when asked about her preparation.
“Over the last four years, I have become a spoken word poet and ironically I had to miss competing at a poetry slam in order to participate in the ESU competition,” she said.
On whether she felt any nerves before the competition, she said she does not get nervous but has ‘’nervous energy’’.
“The nervous energy is a mixture of 30% nerves and 70% excitement and I usually experience it an hour or two before competing.
“However, when I’m up on stage, I feel completely at home and at ease and there is no trace of nerves,” she added.
On preparing for the competition in London, Imelda described it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a global dialogue.
“I am working on refining my speech in order to ensure my message and beliefs really resonate with the audience.
“I will also be working on improving my style of speech and even focusing on little changes that could make a difference.
“The competition is going to be unbelievably tough so I will be preparing myself to compete on a global scale and will definitely give it my best,” she said.
Other than her passion for any activity to do with speaking, Imelda plays the veena, a classical Indian instrument.
She is also passionate about reading and as a child, her mother would often find her with a novel in between her textbooks!
“I enjoy pondering on philosophical questions and am a huge climate change enthusiast.
“I believe that now more than ever, countries and leaders should be looking at sustainability and be taking actions to prevent further global warming.
“For the finals of the ESU Malaysia, my speech echoed similar sentiments as I chanelled my passion for climate change,” she said.
Matthew Anderson Hendricks and Matthew Ernest Paul were named second and third place winners respectively.
Matthew Anderson and Matthew Ernest received RM1,000 and RM500 respectively. The other finalists received RM100. All finalists received a Certificate of Merit each.
The winner of the IPSC will have the opportunity to take part in the February 2020 Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations in New York.
The chief judge of the competition was ESU of Malaysia chairman Tunku Dara Tunku Tan Sri Naquiah Tuanku Ja’afar.
The other judges were ESU Malaysia deputy chairman Raja Tan Sri Arshad Raja Tun Uda as well as Datuk John Louis O’Hara and Iris Tan, MIDP CEO Emellia Shariff, Bernama chairman Datuk Seri Azman Ujang and Taylor’s College Head of School, Pre-University Studies Dr Sivabala Naidu.