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LI middle school speech competition mixes stress, creativity

Think public speaking is stressful? Try doing it

Think public speaking is stressful? Try doing it without knowing the topic beforehand, in front of a judge. Credit: Kidsday illustration / Tresha Karnati

On Feb. 8, 2017, my school hosted the first Long Island speech competition for middle school students. Middle schoolers from Syosset and our school, including myself, spoke in categories of extemporaneous speech, regarding foreign and domestic policy, and oral interpretation, or expressive prose and poetry.

This event presented a wonderful experience to gain knowledge before entering speech and debate in high school, as we performed in front of judges with a possibility of qualifying for state competition. Several of my peers and I who competed in the extemporaneous category were caught in an especially nerve-wracking position; this definitely prepared us for higher levels of stress in the future.

We entered unaware, not knowing that our speech topics would be chosen shortly before performing in front of a judge. The other school had been prepared for this format and had brought outlines of each question given, whereas we had prepared only two topics each. Just a few minutes before the competition began, this dilemma sparked our creativity, and we immediately began communicating and creating speech outlines on given topics ranging from why Obamacare is or is not good for American society, to why Iran should or should not be trusted in another treaty.

Once we had chosen our topics, individual work began, which was made much easier by moral support and the preparations we had made together. After we spoke, our anxiety ebbed as three of us, including myself, were named finalists in the competition.

Although we did not do as well as we could have under normal circumstances, I have learned a tremendous amount from being in this speech league thus far, and I look forward to practicing and performing better in the future.

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