It was before a Thursday morning class when I heard from a friend that there was going to be a speech competition on campus. Not really knowing what I was getting into but remembering how much I had loved debate from Model United Nations in high school, I asked my friend for the organizer’s contact info anyway.
After a few short texts and emails, I was signed up to give my speech. The contest was called “Stand Up, Speak Out,” and it was sponsored by the communications department at Marist. Any Marist student could participate. First, second and third place winners would get cash prizes…and what college student doesn’t want that? All I had to do was show up on a Tuesday afternoon in the Dyson Ulrich room, dressed professionally and ready to give a 6-minute speech on some political topic.
On the day of the competition, prior to the first round, I practiced my speech over and over again. It was so nerve-wracking and exciting to be able to do some public speaking again. When it was time, I hurried over to the room in Dyson where I was to give my speech. I found myself standing in a small conference room. I was at a podium with my notes in front of three judges. I read the speech too quickly because I was so nervous. All of the judges were watching me intently and taking notes. When I was finished the judges were all very nice. They congratulated me and told me to go to the Nelly Goletti Theater later that day. I was so anxious the rest of the day!
When I got to the theater, there were many students in the auditorium. Several event organizers told us that we could pick up sheets from the stage which would give us feedback about our speeches from the first round. They also announced the names of six finalists—and I was one of them! I was really excited, again, but nervous. I would have to give my speech again that night.
I grabbed my feedback sheets and headed outside the theater. I talked to a few of my friends who did the competition and we enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, sandwiches and drinks. I also looked at my feedback sheets, which were very helpful. Not only did the judges score me, they gave me advice on how to improve my speaking skills. I had never had the opportunity to get personal feedback on my speaking before, so this was wonderful. Already I had gotten so much out of the contest—free food and some extremely helpful public speaking tips.
I had to give my speech again at the final round. When it was time, everyone went back into the theater. Except now, there were a TON of people! Other students, faculty, and most of the participants, including, of course, the six finalists. The auditorium seemed pretty full, and we were being filmed. I was so excited about being able to give my speech again, but in front of all these strangers—including new judges, who were local lawyers, and business leaders—that would be a completely new experience.
I sat in the front row with the other finalists. There were six of us, and suddenly, we all became friends. Only at Marist, I thought. We were all competing against each other—and for cash—but we ended up all being friendly, talking and joking about our experiences. We each took turns giving our speeches in front of the audience. When it was my turn, I was sure I would trip going onstage. I read my speech and tried to ignore the many faces looking into mine from all over the theater, or the camera in the back of the auditorium. When I was done, people clapped enthusiastically. As I sat down, I felt pretty good about how I did, even though a few of the other contestants’ speeches were much better than mine.
There was a long delay before the winners were announced. Speeches were given by event organizers talking about the fact that this was the first debate competition like this here at Marist, and that there would hopefully be many more. They all said that we had done a fantastic job.
The winners were finally announced…and I got second place! I’d get a check for $150 in the mail, and I was handed a plaque onstage and introduced to the head of the debate team. I was congratulated by people and told I could join the debate team at Marist.
If you like to debate, you can find some great opportunities at Marist. They’re starting up a travelling debate team, which will compete with other schools. They’ve been offering scholarships to prospective students. There’s also a non-competitive team that has been working with at-risk inner-city middle-schoolers on their debate skills.
I learned so much about Marist from this experience. People are so friendly and willing to work with you and give you new opportunities here. There are so many chances to do what you’re interested in on campus, definitely more than I ever could have imagined!
– Claire Mooney
Interested in more opportunities for public speaking at Marist?
Join Marist College Toastmasters! Check out their twitter for more information: http://www.twitter.com/MC_Toastmasters
OR send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org