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August 06, 2019
Winning Accenture’s Apprentice of the Year
By: Kathryn Pearce

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue which counts.” (Winston Churchill), was the opening line of my speech. The judges faced me straight on; all making direct eye contact. Can they tell how nervous I am? Do I look silly? Have I understood the brief correctly? These were the immediate thoughts spinning round in my head. I took a deep breath and continued…

Two months ago, I received the news that I had been nominated for the Apprentice of the Year Award 2019, this is the most prestigious and recognised award for apprentices at Accenture. I’d been invited to give a ten-minute presentation on my achievements across university, project work and extra circular activities to a panel of managers and senior leadership. Immediately, I started brainstorming notable moments from the last 17 months at the company. I’ve always enjoyed watching TED talks and used them as one of my main forms of inspiration to truly leave the judges speechless. In only one day, I’d written out my entire speech, only problem was it was five minutes too long. Reciting the speech at rocket pace was the only way I could fit all five pages into the allocated time.

After two weeks of fine tuning, memorising and cutting out large chunks, I’d finally learnt my speech. I then spent the last week creating slides to run alongside my presentation. Rather than use boring PowerPoint slides, which we’ve all seen before, I decided to be more creative by using a new presenting tool, Prezi. I would really recommend this tool to anyone who does a lot of presenting or pitching.

On the day I was a bundle of nerves; all ten shortlisted apprentices gathered in a meeting room. We were allocated ten-minute timeslots throughout the afternoon; mine was the penultimate speech. When it came to presenting, I was surprised I managed to remember my entire speech with only a few prompt words in case I lost my place. I did my best to use the floor when pitching, however, at one point, when I needed to change to the next slide, I found myself on the opposite side of the room to my laptop. I didn’t let this unsettle me, but instead made a joke out of it. Following this there was five minutes of Q&A, something I find difficult to prepare for. Rather than quizzing me on the technical achievements I’d talked about from 12 months ago, it was far more relaxed. I was asked questions like, “What advice would you give to new joiners?”

I’ve never been a particularly confident person so planning my presentation around significant milestones of mine, where I displayed self-confidence, was a challenge for me. Ironically, trying to overcome my nerves in front of the judges, whilst talking about how my confidence had grown was probably the biggest challenge of all. Winning the award has given me a true sense of pride and only encouraged me to continue working hard.

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