Being a past AJSA junior member and an individual with a vested interest in the Simmental breed, I get asked a lot to judge contests at the regionals/junior nationals. I really enjoy it because not only do I get to go back to an event that heavily shaped who I am as a person, but I also enjoy helping AJSA members and young people in general become the best version of theirselves they can be. So with the junior nationals coming up next week (and boy is it going to be a BIG one), I thought I would take a look at two of my favorite contests out at the junior nationals.
The AJSA program gives a lot to a young person I believe. We help them not only market their Simmental genetics through the show ring, but we host educational contests that allow them to gain personal growth as well. One of my favorite contests is Public Speaking, and a lot of you might run away from that. Heck, even some adults would run away from having to speak in public. Glossophobia or the fear of public speaking is something a lot of Americans feel, and it is usually the first contest anyone would go running from. BUT from a personal growth standpoint, it is the contest that will give you the most you can use in the future because like it or not at some point you will have to speak in front of a group.
One of the areas I think we lack on is preparing our young people and especially first timers on what to do or what kind of format to go by. Due to the age range of participants and the number of first time participants at an event, a young person might go into a regional or junior national not knowing what goes on in these contests. Of course, the AJSA speech contest is extemporaneous speech in which junior members pick a topic, are given an information packet, and prepare a speech in 30 minutes. As you are working on your speech, think about the organization of your thoughts. In your introduction, you should capture the audience’s (or in this case judges) attention with a quote, story, or personal experience. Then follow your attention getter with a summary of what you will be speaking about and state your three main points. The most important thing I can say about the body of the speech is make sure you stay organized in your thoughts and support your body points with facts, personal experience, and data. DON’T forget the conclusion! Your conclusion should be the driving home of your speech. Restate the points from your body and connect to your introduction/attention getter. Many times you see someone just end their speech with “That’s all I have.” A conclusion goes a long way in wrapping up your thoughts in an organized manner.
Here are a few tips for successful speeches from the Toastmasters International that I thought were very helpful, things I like in a speech, and relate to the AJSA Public Speaking Contest.
- Start strong. Begin your speech with a powerful opening that will grab your audience’s attention, such as a startling fact or statistic, an interesting story or a funny joke.
- Be conversational. Avoid reading your speech word for word. Instead, refer to notes or points from an outline to help your speech have a more free-flowing, conversational tone.
- Speak with passion. If you’re truly invested in what you’re saying, you’ll be better able to keep your audience’s attention.
- Eye contact establishes an immediate bond with an audience, especially when a speaker focuses in on individual listeners rather than just gazing over the audience as a whole.
- Control mannerisms. Mannerisms are the nervous expressions a speaker might not be aware of such as putting their hands in their pockets, nodding their head excessively, or using filler words like um and ah too often.
- Move around the stage as topics change and move toward the audience when asking questions, making critical connections, or offering a revelation.
Make sure at the end of junior nationals you pick up your comment pages from the judges so that you can see what they have to say about your speech. You should hopefully find some good tips on things you can work on for next time. Though they might be judges, we also like to help the participant continue to develop and get better with every speech they give. The Public Speaking contest at AJSA events should be an exciting, rewarding, and educational event – not something that is dreaded. So pick a topic, stand up straight, and get over the dreaded glossophobia!