South Australia

Plain English Speaking Award


Competition Rules


The Plain English Speaking Award (PESA) is a National Competition conducted through Australian Secondary Schools and Colleges. It aims to contribute to the personal development of 15-18 year old students through the enhancement of their oral communication skills and the best use of spoken English.

In previous years the National winner of the Plain English Speaking Award competes in an International Public Speaking Competition in London. This may be via Zoom depending on COVID restrictions.

Important Information:

1. PESA is not debating, elocution or acting. It is concerned with the speaker’s use of language to convey a point of view to an interested audience.

2. Your choice of words, intonation, articulation, pace and pauses are all important in getting the message across.

3. Anything which diverts attention away from the subject of the speech should be avoided (for example, unnecessary and inappropriate gestures, overuse of dramatics, exaggerated mannerisms or irrelevant humour).

4. Students are expected to demonstrate a wide general knowledge of national and international affairs in the presentation of their speeches.

 What do contestants need to prepare?

At each stage of the competition a contestant will be expected to deliver two speeches:

1. The prepared speechthis should be 8 minutes long on a topic of the student’s choosing. Contestants should avoid choosing topics which the audience may find upsetting or distasteful. The topic should have substance and be developed logically to a convincing conclusion within the time available. Adjudicators will be looking for knowledge of the subject matter, sincerity in the contestant’s presentation, skilful development of the theme and of course, the effective use of plain English. There will be a warning bell at six minutes.

2. The impromptu speech: this should be three minutes long with four minutes given to prepare. The same topic will be given to each of the contestants. The impromptu speech reveals a speaker’s ability to develop a point of view on a general topic and to organise a presentation within limited preparation time. There will be a warning bell at two minutes.

Each contestant that reaches the State final will be interviewed for three minutes based on the topic of their prepared speech and on information provided in their personal profile (submitted with their entry form). Adjudicators will be looking for the projection of a natural, sincere, intelligent and friendly personality and a depth of knowledge and opinion on the contestant’s chosen topic. The effective use of plain English remains, as ever, paramount during this interview.

What are the prizes?

All contestants will be awarded a Certificate of Participation. State Finalists will also receive a Certificate of Commendation and a book voucher given by the Dickens’ Fellowship.

The state winner will receive $300 as well as airfares and accommodation for the National Final in Brisbane. The second prize is $150 and the third prize $100.

What are the key dates?

See this section of our About the Competition page.

The Conditions of Entry

Each entrant is required to complete this online entry form and agree to abide by the conditions of entry before their entry can be accepted. There is an entry fee of  $20 per student, which may be reduced where hardship is demonstrated. Payment details for this fee are:

BSB: 105-134 Bank SA
Account Number: 054998940
Account Name: Plain English Speaking Award
Reference: Name of Entrant

The South Australian State Co-ordinator for PESA is Julie Gameau, reachable at

The 2022 Entry requirements are:

1. The contestant must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident of Australia.

2. Secondary students of 15 years or above, but under 18 years of age on January 1st 2022 are eligible.

3. The National prize is awarded on the condition that the winner take part in any International Competition/s that may be organised subsequent to the National Final.

4. In the event of the National winner being unable to attend and participate in any International Competition, the prize will be awarded to the runner-up, provided that the runner-up is able to represent Australia in the international field.

5. Participants in the National Final will provide the National Co-ordinator with a typed copy of the speech delivered at the National Final.

6. The State/Territory and National Committees reserve the right to reproduce the contestants’ speeches.

7. The Adjudicators’ decision is final at all levels of the competition and no correspondence on their decisions will be conducted subsequent to the competition.

8. Individual assessments of speakers will not be given at the State/Territory/National Finals.

9. All prizes are to be used by the winners and are neither transferable nor redeemable for cash or any other consideration.

10. The State/Territory/National winners will provide, if required, 500 word written reports on their participation in the National and International Finals.

11. It is the entrant’s responsibility to check all requirements of entry with the Co-ordinator in their State/Territory.

12. Contestants must be aware that their speeches might be used for publication. Consequently, in accordance with the Copyright Act, speech content should be original work of the speaker, with all quotations and direct references properly acknowledged. Material must not be plagiarised from other printed or spoken sources. 

At the State Final, a form must be signed by the student and teacher indicating that the speech is the original work of the student.



What makes an effective Plain English Speaking Award speech?

The speech:

is audible to all members of the audience.
is easy to follow.
is pitched to all members of the audience.
is sincere, genuine and honest.
is grammatical, and pays attention to correct syntax.
is not repetitive
is logical in construction (has an unambiguous opening and a convincing conclusion)
is on a topic of importance.
avoids clichés, buzz words, colloquial expression and words which are so overused they’ve become virtually meaningless.
uses accepted pronunciation.
avoids distracting mannerisms.

How will the award be judged?

The following criteria will be used:

In terms of the subject matter:

is the subject matter suitable and substantial?
is the speech original and intelligent in its exploration of the subject?
did the speaker develop the argument or line of thought logically and effectively?
was there a satisfactory conclusion which lent a sense of finality to the speech?
did the speech convey a worthwhile and convincing message?

In terms of presentation:

was the point of view conveyed in clear, correct, understandable and appropriate language?
were the pace, tone and volume suitable and effective?
did the speaker succeed in communicating effectively with the audience?
 did the speaker avoid distractions?
  was the speaker’s style fluent and natural?
  did the speaker make effective use of standard speaking techniques?

As a reminder, the prepared speech is 8 minutes long, with a warning bell at six minutes and the final bell at the eight minute mark, while the impromptu speech  is 3 minutes long, with 4 minutes of preparation time, a warning bell at two minutes and the final bell at the three minute mark.