The Henley Challenge may seem like quite a daunting prospect from the outside. You’re being invited to come up with something clever to say for 10 minutes and then deliver it professionally in front of the School’s senior faculty members and, more importantly, a good number of your own peers.
However, having been a finalist twice, I can quite honestly say that it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I will almost definitely be pitching my ideas for a third year.
For me, the joy of the Henley Challenge lies in the rare opportunity to genuinely stretch your intellectual capacity in a robust yet friendly and safe environment which is quite a rarity these days. What I have found most compelling about the competition is the vastly different ways in which each of the finalists have chosen to attack the topic with the past two years having seen presenters focussing on the benefits of war; eugenics; sustainable urban planning; the demise of cash; IT revolution; and a fantastically delivered promotion on the sustainable economy.
If I were to offer any tips for potential entrants, I would start with just simply generating the confidence to enter the competition in the first place. We are all at Henley Business School because, as undergraduates, you performed well at school, or as post-graduates, because we have done well enough in our careers to warrant high-quality personal academic at Masters level and above. As such, you can’t fail to be bright and it’s highly likely that your ideas are very much worth listening to.
Secondly, having decided to enter, being a little oppositional or controversial is unlikely to hurt your chances of getting through to the final.
In both of the years in which I’ve been selected, I’ve often wondered whether the selection panel has chosen my proposal to go through just out of sheer curiosity about what this utter lunatic was going to say given 10 minutes on the podium. Remember, that you’re there to entertain as well as to inform and a keen sense of humour goes a long way!
Finally, and this is the most important thing, my final piece of advice is that you should remember that it’s there to be enjoyed. It’s a chance to show off how clever you are, how original your thinking is, and then to prove that your ideas can withstand the cross-examination of a panel of experts.
It is a fantastic experience and one of which you can be justifiably proud regardless of how far you get. Remember, ‘I could have’ didn’t even enter the arena!
And, if none of that convinces you…there’s plenty of free food after the event and the chance to win a goodly sum of money for a charity of your choice! So what’s not to like??