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A word about public speaking

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Ten days of debate, 30 different classes. Bermuda's world champion Kenza Wilks is offering new and experienced debaters “a fantastic opportunity to develop skills in debate, public speaking, and critical thinking” through his online camp, CodeBlue ClassPass.

Its coaches come from top universities; bursaries, courtesy of Allied World, are available to ease the cost.

Q: What does CodeBlue offer?

A: It offers students the chance to meet other kids interested in debate, public speaking and current affairs. The camp also boasts a line-up of some of the best debaters and coaches in the world working with our students. Our coaching team includes five world schools champion debaters and two of the world's best speakers, with all of our coaches having excelled at debating both nationally and internationally. They also attend some of the top universities in the world including Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard.

Q: Do you run CodeBlue on your own?

A: I run everything alongside Issy Fidderman, who is the manager of the England national team. All of the coaches are people who we've worked with on the debate circuit and at our camps for many years now, incredibly talented debaters and coaches from all around the world.

What's amazing is the breadth of things that our coaches are involved in now — we've got one mentor in his fourth year of a biochemistry PhD, who's going to be talking about current trends in science, including Covid-19. We have another coach who leads an organisation spreading competitive debate across all of India and who has worked at a consultancy specialising in development, who's going to be talking about feminism in the developing world.

What all our coaches have in common is the belief that debating is what set them on these paths — and that the skills they learnt are crucial in their current success.

Q: How do students benefit?

A: Debating helps us develop the skills that we use throughout our daily lives. If you think about it, we are always having to listen to other people, understand their views, and consider how we can express ourselves in response. These are all the skills that debating teaches as it's all about improving communication skills with respect to both listening and speaking.

Q: What else does the camp offer?

A: Our camp has 11 lectures on current affairs, which are useful in debating but also in terms of learning more about the world. Our lectures range from the US election, to China's current actions, to trends in artificial intelligence, to financial markets.

All of our lectures are delivered by coaches who have studied and worked in these fields, but will be presented in a way that's accessible to people who don't have much pre-existing knowledge; a really unique kind of opportunity.

Q: Online debate? How will that work?

A: Myself and Issy are both working with teams at the online world championships — I help coach Team India, and Issy manages Team England. It's actually not that different. The only strange thing is realising you're at a world championships, while being in your bedroom!

The world seems likely to move towards doing a lot more of its business online, and so this is a great opportunity for students to be able to build their online presentation skills.

Q: What ages?

A: The camp is open to ages 13 to 18, but different classes have different age guidelines.

Q: And I understand that diversity is one of your aims?

A: Debating can sometimes be seen as an elitist activity and so we have always worked hard to actively recruit more racially diverse students to our camps and programmes. I think that equipping students from a range of backgrounds with the skills to debate the ideas and challenges that Bermuda and other countries around the world are facing — ranging from economic growth, to inequality to racial justice — is of the utmost importance for our society.

Q: Do you need debate experience to attend?

A: We are running different classes for different experience levels so there are classes whether you're a total beginner or already speaking on your national team.

Q: Cost? Details on scholarships available?

A: The cost is $265, and this gives you access to over 45 hours of coaching across the two weeks and works out to around $8 per class if you were to attend them all. We are committed to not turning away students because their parents couldn't afford it. This meant that in our 2019 camp, almost half of all attendees received either partial or full bursaries thanks to our corporate sponsors. This year we have partnered with Allied World who will be helping us provide bursaries to Bermudian students.

Q: You had planned to launch in China and Ireland … how will that now play out?

A: Of course we were incredibly disappointed to lose out on our in-person camps in China and Ireland this summer. While we still don't have plans to launch later this year — just because the world is such a crazy place still — we are hopeful that by summer 2021 things will be somewhat back to normal and we'll be able to relaunch then!

In the meantime, we are interested in expanding our online offering to students from around the world.

Q: How do you run it as a business?

A: The company operates in two divisions: we have a corporate division, where we run training programmes with business professionals on how to improve their communication and public-speaking skills.

We have delivered workshops at firms including AIG and KPMG as well as non-profits like TeachFirst in the UK.

We are working to expand our corporate offering to deliver specific public-speaking advice for the workplace or public sector. We also have our education division, which focuses on running training camps for students in competitive debate.

CodeBlue ClassPass runs August 3 to 14. For more information, visit codebluewsbc.com

Kenza Wilks (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
Talk team: Kenza Wilks, right, with coaches Ellie Shearer, left, Issy Fidderman, Louis Collier, Rory Flynn and Rosa Thomas at CodeBlue's London camp in 2019 (Photograph supplied)
Talk team: Kenza Wilks, right, with coaches Ellie Shearer, left, Issy Fidderman, Louis Collier, Rory Flynn and Rosa Thomas at CodeBlue's London camp in 2019 (Photograph supplied)

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Published July 27, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 27, 2020 at 9:06 am)

A word about public speaking

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