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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Talking your way up to the finals

Without the comfort of a keyboard and the convenience of nonverbal interactions, the thought of public speaking can be intimidating for many.

However, the Communication Studies Department expects to have more than 50 of its students competing for cash prizes in Pierce’s annual speech tournament on May 19.

Communication Studies professor and organizer of the event Michelle Silver said that there are going to be two first, second and third place winners because the competition is split into two categories: informative speeches and persuasive speeches.  

She said that the first place winners will each receive $200, the second place winners will receive $100 and third place winners will receive $75.

According to Communication Studies Department Chair Barbara Anderson, any student currently enrolled in the department’s public speaking class is eligible to participate in the tournament.

She said this event differs from some of the events hosted by other departments.

“In many other departments, students are learning from professionals in the field,” Anderson said. “But for this event, students are learning from other students’ work.”

Silver said that the first round of the competition starts at 12:30 p.m. Students competing will present their speeches to professors from the department, but none of the students will present to their current professor.

She said that the judges of the competition look for students who demonstrate understanding of the elements of speech that they learned in class.

“It provides an excellent opportunity for students to showcase the oratory skills they learned in the public speaking course,” Silver said. “They will be judged on their delivery, organization, content and speaking style.”

According to Silver, after students have gone through the first round, the top five from each category will move on to the final round in The Great Hall, where they will present their speeches to three judges, their family, friends and other students.

Silver said that the judges for the final round are CSUN’s executive director of speech and debate John Kephart, former Pierce student and speech and debate coach Michelle Brownlee and Pierce College communication studies professor Jennifer Rosenberg.

Silver also said that in the past, many guests have attended the tournament.

“Hundreds of people come to watch,” Silver said. “We’ve had around 300 people attend in the past.”

One of Anderson’s public speaking students Ben Braunstein is competing in the persuasive category at the tournament with a speech about the importance of shop skills. He said in a phone interview that this is his first speech competition.

“I decided to compete because I’m a teacher by profession, and I enjoy the subject that I’m speaking about,” Braunstein said.

He also said that he looks forward to explaining his passion to the judges and to other students, but he’s nervous because contestants aren’t allowed to use technology in their presentations as visual aides.

“I use PowerPoint a lot, so it makes me a little nervous that we’re not allowed to use it in our speeches,” Braunstein said. “It’s a great resource for speeches, but I have to come up with something else.”

According to Anderson, the no-tech rule was established to encourage students to get creative with their presentations.

Anderson also said that the department is grateful that the ASO will provide the funds for the tournament and that they recognize its importance outside of the classroom.

“Speeches are the vehicle of social change,” Anderson said. “It’s much more than just a field of study.”


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