“I probably should ask for a program.”
This thought went through my mind as I sat in the third row of one of the sections of the conference center at my college, since I had forgotten to pick a program up on my way inside. Here I was, on a rainy Wednesday evening, waiting to watch some of my collegiate peers perform as members of the forensics team. With pencil in hand and notebook in lap, I took in my new surroundings, all the while waiting to find anyone around me from my speech class. Was I invisible? Perhaps so.
After some time, it was time for my discreet, yet jumbled, note-taking to commence.
The first performance I viewed was an Informative Speaking, which was introduced as one with the goal of “being the teacher,” in that a concept is taken and made more accessible. The topic of this speech was of nuclear fusion as a source of energy. Not only was the topic well-explained, with proper citations given, but as someone who recently gave an (amateurish) informative speech, I was able to point out some aspects of the performance itself that made it incredibly effective. For example, it was clear that every movement made by the speaker was purposeful; the gestures were not overdone, but they were polished and demonstrated preparedness. Also, by moving among the audience between every main point, it was not only clear to me that a new idea was about to be presented, but it was also a way in which the entire audience could become connected with the speaker, and thus, the information at hand as well. Lastly, I must add that the use of tone, volume, and eye contact in the performance made the speaker seem very credible and an authority figure on the topic, which helped hold my interest.
Program Oral Interpretation was another event I viewed, which is thematic and combines selections from multiple literary genres. The main theme of this performance was forgiveness, and the way in which the topic could be portrayed with such intensity and preciseness through these different genres was striking. The fact that I knew the performer from high school made me appreciate the event even more; seeing someone I actually know be so expressive was quite inspiring.
The next event that was showcased was Communication Analysis. Once those of us in the audience were made aware that this event is a critical analysis of communication, such as the rhetoric of a movement or even just a single speech, I was immediately excited. I love and am fascinated by rhetoric and adore analyzing anything, in case anyone is not aware, and so it was intriguing to watch such a well-researched performance. The subject of analysis was Wonder Woman becoming (and later being dropped) as an honorary UN ambassador, and specifically, how and why this tenure did not go as well as planned. Again, I was impressed by how well citations were incorporated into the performance, and it truly was fascinating to receive an in-depth analysis of communication. Being able to not only dissect a topic, but also organize it effectively and present it with extensive eye contact and and confidence is definitely not easy, as I have learned, so seeing this performance served as further inspiration for my love of analysis.
The Parliamentary Debate event then began. The debaters were given their topic before the first event was performed, and it was now time for them to defend their respective sides of the debate. Even just when they received their topic of free education in the United States, I was impressed by their composure; I surely would be a bundle of nerves (and would not be able to hide my neuroticism) if given such an important topic to cover in such a short amount of time. Anyway, once the speakers began, the topic was narrowed down to public college in the US, and the affirmative side of the debate was given. The other debater then asked questions for the first speaker to answer, responded to the points originally given, and then presented the other side of the debate. This process repeated multiple times, with appropriate and logical observations and arguments being talked through. Meanwhile, I tried to generate my own points, and imagined what fallacies I would point out if I was able to participate. Regardless of my delusions of my potential, watching these debaters quickly write out ideas and then be able to respond to each other in an organized and articulate way made me realize such abilities are ones I would love to work on.
We were then able to vote for which debater we thought did the most effective job, and it was honestly difficult to decide; both sides of the debate were presented in such a respectable way that it really took some time for me to make a decision. In the end, the debater presenting the arguments against free education in the United States won.
The following event was the Speech to Entertain, which requires the speaker to be clever and entertaining, while also making a point. So, in other words, this is the type of event I wish I could pull off. If only I was someone who had interests that could feasibly be presented in an entertaining way…
Anyway, this speech was about fanfiction, and I was quite captivated by this performance. It is hard to get me to laugh in public, and this speech was able to do so, all the while helping me understand the value of fanfiction, which is a topic that I had previously only been skeptical of. Bravo!
Poetry Interpretation was the subsequent event, and it is one that is a dramatic reading of poetry selections. I had previously been exposed to this type of event at assemblies for the speech team at my high school, so I knew what to expect, but this specific performance about the different forms of protests was amazing. To see an individual be able to quickly and distinctly transition between literary works while showing vulnerability through the infusion of meaning into every line is always something I will appreciate and hope I will be able to achieve in the forms of speaking I do.
The next event was one that I have personally worked to avoid throughout my life, which is Impromptu Speaking. The speaker was presented with a quotation, and then had seven minutes to prepare and present a speech. I am someone who likes to fully prepare for everything I do and take a comfortable amount of time to sort through my thoughts, so even watching this type of speaking made me anxious. I did try my best to put myself in their shoes, though, by wondering how I would interpret “Run, Forrest, run!” and present this analysis of mine. Spoiler alert: it was difficult. Appreciation was definitely given to the speaker from yours truly as a result; it is quite a feat to be able to make a point about a topic within such a brief time frame.
Lastly, the event of Persuasive Speaking took place. As I am currently preparing to give a persuasive speech, it was beneficial for me to pay attention to this performance about why price gouging of drugs needs to decreased and stopped. Throughout the speech, I was able to point out some application of the three Aristotelian Appeals. For example, the emotions of the audience were surely appealed to when a specific story was told as the attention getter, and also when the concluding statement was something along the lines of “people are profiting from our pain.” In addition, I took note of the many credible sources that were orally cited throughout the speech, which prompted the demonstration of the clear logic of the argument, as statistics of the prices of certain drugs were presented.
Not only did I know to internally take note of these effective tactics that persuaded me, but I also literally took notes…during every event. (Yes, I am aware that they are difficult to read; this fact is why my retelling of this night may be inaccurate.)
Then, at approximately 8:50 PM, the showcase ended. After walking around the room for a few minutes, I ducked out and went back to my normal state: listening to a podcast while walking around campus. As I made my way back home, I thought about my potential as a speaker.
Could I do what I saw my fellow students accomplish? Maybe.
Meanwhile, I will figure out how to persuade my classmates in my speech course that it is important for public radio to remain federally funded, while keeping in mind the purposefulness, professionalism, and confidence of those I viewed on that Wednesday night.
Also, I should probably work on just being able to simply ask for a program.
Wish me luck.