Conference Speech: An Inside Look at Competitive Speech


Dr. Kersulov, sophomore Luke Smith, senior Reed Lenker, and Mrs. Clayton paused for a picture at the awards ceremony for a speech meet at Elkhorn South High School. The meet occurred on March 6.

Dylan Conover, Staff Writer

For the first time in several weeks, I opened the doors to a familiar place. Though Speech meets are held at a different school every week, the familiar halls of Platteview High School comforted me as I made my way to the library. There are various competitions in Speech, but I found my niche in the event I consider to be the most unique. I glanced at the laptop screen, reviewing the potential topics I may draw. An hour and a half later, I had drawn, written, memorized, and given a seven-minute speech on why Turkey was no longer a necessary ally for the European Union.

Senior Reed Lenker placed first in improv and seventh in poetry at the Elkhorn South High School speech meet.

What Speech event do you participate in, and why do you enjoy competing in it?

My event is extemporaneous, though we call it “extemp” for short. In every other event, the speech is memorized. I like extemp because I don’t know what I am speaking about until I draw, and it’s a personal challenge to argue about a political topic in a cohesive and logical manner.

How, exactly, does your event work?

Because we make our speech on the spot, extempers compete differently than other events. We usually consolidate in the host school’s library, where we review “hot topics,” or current political issues. Contestants speak in a specified order, which is determined randomly, so we wait until it’s our turn. When that time arrives, we draw three topics from an envelope, choose one, and then write a speech about it. I have, depending on the meet, either an hour or 30 minutes to review any given topic before speaking about it for five to seven minutes. An extemp speech requires facts, evidence, and sources, so we use laptops (loaned from the school) to find relevant information to pack into the speech. We then give our speech, which is formatted like a five paragraph essay, and hope for the best!

What is your favorite topic to speak about?

We don’t have much of a choice, but I prefer to speak about international affairs. Most judges know about domestic issues, so they can see through possible logical fallacies or mistakes when quoting. Thus, I stick to international stuff, especially military or Chinese topics.

What skills does participation in speech hone?

It really develops body language, facial expression, public speaking (and speaking in general), pacing, and logical analysis skills. It has enabled me to think fast on my feet, and to commit information to memory quickly. Speech has definitely been a great learning experience.

Do you ever become nervous before or during a speech?

At first, I was really nervous about giving speeches; it seemed so daunting. However, after watching others give speeches and doing it myself, I realized that no one gives a perfect speech- everyone makes mistakes. Eventually, it becomes natural, and the only anxiety I have is the hope of victory.