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Debater launches public-speaking consultancy

Debate champion Kenza Wilks has turned his gift of the gab into a business proposition.

The 19-year-old, who came top in the World Schools' Debating Championship last year said his company would “turn your public-speaking liability into greatest asset”.

Now his CodeBlue Consulting, founded earlier this year, has won glowing reviews from island businesses after Mr Wilks spent his summer delivering workshops on effective speaking.

Mr Wilks said he started CodeBlue after “thinking about how the skills I learnt could help others to improve their public-speaking ability”.

The former captain of England's national debating team used university studies in China earlier this year to deliver workshops in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Mr Wilks also highlighted public speaking tips in Seoul, South Korea, and London.

And he delivered seminars to island companies such as professional services firm KPMG, and insurance firms AIG and Allied World Assurance.

He said CodeBlue was inspired by marketing theory bestseller Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. Mr Wilks explained: “It's about being able to differentiate yourself in the market from your competitors.

“Public-speaking skills are one way in which you can differentiate. The book is also a call to action for companies to invest in their human assets.

“Finding new and innovative ways of doing that is only going to become more important.”

Mr Wilks, who just completed a year at Tsinghua University in Beijing, is headed to King's College, London for a degree in politics, philosophy, economics and Chinese.

But he said he would continue with his workshops.

Colm Singleton, head of Bermuda and global markets at Allied World Assurance said Mr Wilk's presentation was “insightful and dynamic”.

He added: “His practical suggestions are valuable for anyone looking to improve their speaking and presenting skills.”

Charlie Thresh, head of advisory practice at KPMG Bermuda, said Mr Wilks had “an undoubted talent for getting his message across to a large audience”.

Mr Thresh added: “What is particularly impressive is Kenza's self-awareness and self-analysis to make the best use of his time in front of others.

“This is a journey which professionals typically go through at a much later stage in their careers, if ever, and sets Kenza apart from his peers.

“CodeBlue Consulting provides Kenza with a platform through which he can leverage his well-developed skills for the benefit of his clients.”

Mike Morrison, chief executive of KPMG Bermuda, said his staff had given “an overwhelmingly positive response”, and said the company looked forward to more.

Peter Gregoire, general counsel for the Hong Kong insurance regulator, said he had been “lucky enough to attend Kenza's presentation on debating skills and public speaking tips” when he worked at AIG.

Mr Gregoire added: “It was brilliant and insightful. A very engaging session from which everyone benefited.”

Mr Wilks said that public speaking could present several challenges. He added: “It ranges from people that lack confidence in addressing large groups to people who want to fine-tune a keynote speech.

But he said: “The power to inspire an audience is of paramount importance — you're never too old to develop your skills.”

Mr Wilks added, however, there was no single trick to confident public speaking.

He added: “I don't think there's one thing, but I'd say always practise your speech in the mirror. Practising in your head is like practising your golf swing in your head. Using the mirror is an easy way to improve your next presentation.”

Mr Wilks said his young age made him stand out in the business world. He added: “People are intrigued by it. And my experience in debating lends a level of credibility.”

Full house: teen debate champ Kenza Wilks has moved on to public-speaking workshops, including this corporate address over the summer in Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

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Published September 20, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 20, 2018 at 10:00 am)

Debater launches public-speaking consultancy

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