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Published by Archana Shaktawat
Coaching and Judging Youth Public Speaking
Competitions
Coaching and Judging Youth Public Speaking
Competitions

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Published by: Archana Shaktawat on Sep 07, 2010
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AEC341
Coaching and Judging Youth Public SpeakingCompetitions
1
Marshall H. Breeze and Rick D. Rudd
2
1. This document is AEC341, one of a series of the Agricultural Education and Communication Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Instituteof Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date April 1999. Revised May 2001. Reviewed June 2003. Visit the EDISWeb Site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.2. Marshall H. Breeze, Associate Professor, and Rick D. Rudd, Assistant Professor, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and AgriculturalSciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information andother services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex,sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service,University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. LarryArrington, Dean
Congratulations
Help in developing effective public speakingskills is one of the most valuable benefits youngpeople can derive from participation in 4-H, FFA andother youth groups. The adult volunteers who serveas coaches and judges for local, regional, state andnational competitive public speaking programs canhave a lasting impact on the participants. The factthat you're looking at this publication means thatyou're either a young person setting out to improveyour public speaking skills or a leader, teacher orparent helping in this important work. Either way,you're to be congratulated for deciding to make adifference!In working with young, relatively inexperiencedspeakers, there is an understandable tendency tofocus primarily on development of dramaticpresentation delivery skills. It is apparent in somecontests that competitors put less effort intopreparation of significant presentation content. Thechallenge for coaches, teachers, and judges is to findthe correct balance between
communication
and
 performance
. Because these young people areforming public speaking habits that can last them alifetime, it is important that their competitivespeaking experience help them become effectivecommunicators.The authors of this publication have many yearsof experience judging 4-H, FFA, and other youth andadult public speaking competitions. We also haveexperience in oral communication instruction at thehigh school and/or university level. In general,students with a background in speech competition dovery well in oral communication classes. A few,however, still focus too much on what they
think 
 contest judges look for in speech delivery and notenough on presenting a substantial message for areal-life communication setting. For these speakers,competitive experience becomes a disadvantage. Itleaves them with poor communication habits whichthey must work hard to recognize and overcome.Thus,
the quality of coaching and judging
by adultvolunteers and youth organization staff makes a bigdifference in the educational value of public speakingcompetition programs.
 
Coaching and Judging Youth Public Speaking Competitions2
The ideas offered here have three purposes.First, they can help public speaking contestantssuccessfully prepare and deliver effectivepresentations. Second, they will guide parents,teachers, and other volunteers in helping novicespeakers prepare competitive presentations. Third,the information provides an objective basis for judging or assessing a presentation in terms of howeffective it would be when delivered for an audience.The material is drawn from two principlesources. We have consulted many well-respectedpublic speaking textbooks we use as primary orsecondary references for our courses. Also, we'vesummarized comments from our follow-up critiquesat public speaking competitions. This information isconsistent with accepted practice for public speakersand specifically relevant to the problems youngspeakers commonly have in competition. Thecomments are in two broad categories:
Preparation
Topic and PurposeAudience AnalysisContentStructureDeveloping the IntroductionDeveloping a Strong Conclusion
Delivery
Notes vs. MemorizationWordingMovementGestureVocal DeliveryInteraction with AudienceSpeakers shouldn't feel that they have to score atthe top on each item discussed here to be competitive; judges shouldn't expect each speaker to excel inevery aspect. Every speaker and presentation hasdifferent strengths. The idea is to help eachparticipant develop and deliver the best possiblepresentation, given his or her individual skills,abilities, and style.
Preparation
This phase of the work involves clear thinkingand decision-making about:• the topic of the presentation,• the "real world" purpose of the presentation,• the "real world" audience for the presentation,and• the information needed to get the job done.
Topic and Purpose-
Obviously, the immediatepurpose for the competitive speaker is to have awinning presentation. Everyone knows that the onlypeople who hear most competitive presentations are judges, friends, relatives, and other competitors. Butthe purpose of public speaking competition is to helpparticipants develop skills for communicating aboutreal issues to real audiences. Contest judges shouldlook for evidence that the competition speech wouldactually be effective in persuading or informing a realaudience.In searching for good topics, we tell our studentsto look for the
overlap
of their knowledge andinterests with the interests and information needs of the audience. For example, a speaker could plan toinform an audience of citrus growers about theadvantages of low-volume irrigation systems. Or, thespeaker could plan to persuade an audience of community leaders of the importance of agricultureto the local economy.As competition judges, we have not seen thatspeakers with "big concept" topics such as family,environment, the American Way, etc. have anadvantage over speakers with technical topics such aslow-volume irrigation, aquaculture, wildlife habitatsand so on. Also, presentations on general topics aremore difficult to prepare and present thanpresentations on narrower topics. Instead of "Leadership" as a topic, we might suggest"Developing Leadership Skills through
 
Coaching and Judging Youth Public Speaking Competitions3
Volunteering." Instead of "Youth Employment," wemight suggest "Five Key Employment Skills andHow to Get Them."
 Audience Analysis-
Speakers should alsoperform an "audience analysis." Sometimes thisinvolves gathering new information about anaudience; sometimes it just requires taking account of information they already have as they plan anddevelop a presentation. Common aspects of audienceanalysis include: typical age, gender, groupaffiliations, education, type of employment,knowledge of the topic, attitudes about the speakerand the topic, and personal or professional intereststhat might be relevant to the topic.Occasionally a competitor will give apresentation intended for a "general audience." Thisis usually a problem. A general audience is ananonymous audience: we don't know who they are,what they care about, how they relate to the topic.The speaker has little to go on in deciding what tocover and how to approach the audience; thecompetition judge has little to go on in assessing thelikely effectiveness of the effort. Speakers with realaudiences in mind generally present a clearer message.
Content-
We think content should receivesignificant time and attention during preparation.After all, it's the content that contains the message!Unfortunately, this area of competitive publicspeaking for youth seems to get little emphasis fromcoaches or speakers. Once the topic is selected, thespeaker will identify the main points to be covered.Then begins the "leg work" of assembling facts andstatistics, expert opinions, accepted theories andconcepts, and any other available evidence to supportthe main points and get the central message across tothe audience.Good public speaking presentations also includeexamples, illustrations and supporting stories thatshow how the information presented applies to thelives of the audience members. However, a commonerror we see in competition is overuse of this kind of material. When this happens, the speaker becomes astory teller, spinning an entertaining tale of humorousanecdotes and familiar quotations, but not presentinga substantial message.Everyone knows that entertaining presentationshave their place. Most good speakers can tell a few jokes or give an enjoyable after-dinner speech. Butthe real work of public speaking is to inform orpersuade. The reason we invest so much effort inhelping young people develop public-speaking skillsis to prepare them to participate effectively in publicdiscussion and debate on issues relating toagriculture, natural resource use, food safety,international trade and competition, and the like. Todo this we need to challenge competition speakers topresent real information to their audiences, providenew insights for them, and convince them that themessage rests on solid evidence. Simply
testifying
tothe strength and sincerity of our own beliefs does notguarantee that anyone else will accept them.
Structure-
This component has two aspects.First, there's the structure of the overall presentation.Perhaps the world's oldest maxim guiding publicspeakers is that you have to "tell them what you'regoing to tell them, tell them, and tell them whatyou've told them." This is sometimes called the "Tellthem X 3" approach: introduction, body andconclusion. We offer specific suggestions regardingintroductions and conclusions below. We will startour discussion of structure where we recommend thatspeakers start in developing their presentations, withthe body.The message lies in the body, which usuallyincludes three to five "main points." In the topicexample we mentioned earlier, "DevelopingLeadership Skills through Volunteering," the mainpoints might be:• Importance of volunteers in community services• Basic principles of leadership in a volunteersetting, and• Finding youth volunteer opportunities inspecific communities.As you can see, these main points would supportor explain the main theme of a presentation abouthow young people can develop their leadership skillsthrough volunteer service. Usually, the speaker willspend about the same amount of time on each mainpoint.

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