How to Win a Speech Contest? (Even if You're not a Pro!)

Updated: Jan 4

Somewhere back, when I was in 2nd grade, I participated in an enunciation competition where fellow students had to speak on road safety because it was 31st August, Road Safety day. My mother had arranged me well with the speech and fixed my mistakes. All I had to do back then was to go and say out what I had memorized by heart. And so, when we entered the venue, I looked around only to find countless other nominee and surprisingly all of them elder to me. Some were stumbling through their papers and some were murmuring with their eyes closed.

I could see a girl mouthing brief prayers softly after revising each Para of her speech and there was this spectacled boy who was bubbling with so much of enthusiasm that his body language spoke louder than his tongue. A half an hour later, the competition began with the introduction of the jury and boy, I was shocked to hear my name being called out as the very first contestant! Later, I understood that the competition had been queued according to their age and I hence happened to be the first one. The time limit was three minutes. I beheld at my mom and she gave a thin nod that meant ‘all the best’. And then I started. At two and a half minutes there was an informing bell that there were thirty more seconds to go. And then the next one found fifteen minutes before the time limit got over. Somehow, I manipulated to start well and end well, not knowing what the elocution thing was all about.

To be frank, it appeared all mechanical to me. Whatever I did that date was to mug up the speech, go on the stage and squeal it out!

Needless to say, my eloquence had not enkindled the slightest interest in any of the audience. If there were one thing, anything to be applauded about what I spoke then it was the trickle and the content of the speech (and for that, I owed those credits to my mother). There was no hitch and there was no fumbling. My mother told me candidly that I resembled a newsreader. But I understood what he meant. And I myself knew, I was not up to the mark and that the citizens had somewhere failed to understand what I said. Something was missing. And I discovered about the missing element in my speech when I sat down to watch the other contestants in action.

Yes, that was not only my first experience in open saying but also my first lesson on how to speak. It was not just about the speech, but it was everything that happened along with it, the text of the speech, the tone of the voice, the body language, the facial expressions, the eye movements and most importantly, the knack of making the audience understand what the speech is all about.

Although I received the third position, I figured out, that there was a lot, an actual lot to be improved at my end. With years, such competitions helped me get better and better with speaking on stage and that possible also helped me host events and give speeches in functions and events in school days. I may not be the best when it comes to public speaking, but I definitely have the experience to share some ready tips with my readers.

Here allow me to piece a few tips for students who might be interested in public speaking/ elocution/debate/ extempore etc ….. And yes, these tips I have gathered from my own experience and also a great deal of observation.

#1. Choose the topic

When a choice of topics is given, do not take it or reject it on impulse. accept your time. scrape through the catalogue and I would suggest, go through the topics as various times as possible. After this exercise, you may feel comfortable with one or two. The reason, why I recommend to go through the text carefully is, some topics may appear drab but when prepared may become very exciting and similarly, some may appeal to you at the first sight, but may not give that effect after speech preparation. And in case, you are cooperating in a debate, analyze the pros and cons of your topic thoroughly.

Related: 5 Most Effective Ways to Always Win a Debate

Decide the sideline you want to really advocate for, before making your pick final. However, in an extempore, where contestants are supposed to speak on the spot, you need more preparation beforehand. You better be well versed with topics involving new affairs and general knowledge. If an abstract topic is given, you should rather feel happy as places your creativity in action and is a check on how well you can speak on a confusing subject. For that, you should make a distinction from fellow competitors, by paying emphasis on the vocab part.

#2. Fetch the right content for your topic

For discourse and elocution, once you have taken the topic, the next stage is preparing the content. For that, first, you want to spy and gather the germane content and assimilate it. In the olden days, there was no Internet and even if it were there, most did not have access to it. So, they presumed senior on books, magazines, Manorama publication and viewpoints of elders. But the recent source is fortunate enough to have an ever helping companion – Google which gives you loads and tonnes of information. So now that you have the excerpt in a fresh form, all you have to do is arrange the content as per your choice. Skip in mind, when there is too plenty of information, you might lose your care and end up putting too much of information (some of which might turn out to be irrelevant) in your speech. So fill accurate to understand your pick well when meeting the content. Preparing the content for your topic. The next note in the to-do list is to group and make the content. Google offers you a torrent of information. But, you must prepare your eloquence according to the audience. For instance, if you are a student, your populace will want simple and lucid content. And when we talk about content, it should be informative, emphasizing, factual and yet simple. If your text is highly instructive from the statistical perspective and is conveyed in a high vocab language, you sure will disappoint your audience. After all, what you say has to be understood too. Isn’t it? So make the content as simplistic and lucid as possible. For every speech you make, there will be three parts:

Orientation: This is where you begin your audience on the topic. Simple and well-researched, this part should be flawless. orientation interprets the way your speech will end as. So it is critical that the commencing is always the best. One can include relevant quotes, a short story or a candid description of some events (relevant to the topic) to arouse the interest in the audience to keep them hooked to your speech. This is where you initiate your populace to the topic.

Body content: reaching to the main part, core content forms the most crucial part of your speech. Rather it is the mind of your speech which urge make your audience understand what exactly your speech is all about. The numbers, stats, facts, figures, pros/cons are always included in this core content.

Conclusion: When the commencing is intended to be flawless, and your core text is all perfect, all will end well only when your conclusion takes the cake away. Now, when you presume your speech, it should always spin the populace gaping for an answer. Make sure you do not make any heated/irrational/biased/unsolicited statements. The culmination is what you are merely proposing to your audience. Nothing more, Nothing less. Even if it is a debate, do not allow your private opinions/emotions conflict with the motive of your speech. As in debates, you are guessed to take sides, just do it in a way, that the law is left to the audience/jury. You may also like to add some punch lines/quotes and funny sayings as you end your speech. Please remember: Elocution, discourse and any speech to be conveyed in political always has a time limit. So it is essential to filtrate your content and carry more information in the given duration of time in the right language.

#3. Edit and Proofread your speech.

Now, before any examination, we all revise our lessons Don’t we? Why? So that if there are any mistakes, any fault in our preparation, we utilise the revision time window to rectify them. Right? Similarly, when you arrange your speech, go through your excerpt again and again at slightest ten times before you make it final. Your speech should be devoid of grammatical and contextual errors, take care of the commas, semicolon, full-stops and double-quotes. Punctuations are critical and an unfair usage check can damage your speech. Hence, before losing on to the presentation part, make accurate your speech is flawless content-wise and context-wise. So, after a perfect and the last confirmation read, the next step is, how it must be delivered.

#4. Practice for Perfection

Practice makes perfect. And it remains honest for everything, including speaking. So, before delivering a speech, you must practice it. And ask me why. When you carry over a stage, not only does the stage belongs to you for that certain time limit, but so does the jury and the audience. Each act of yours: your expressions, your mind language, your tone, your eyeball movements and your movements, everything adds up to your speech and to deliver perfect, you need to practice, practice hard. And I shall tell you why. Even if your text is faultless but your presentation skills are poor, the result will be disappointing. After all, the step you carry the speech decides how the audience will react. For speeches and debates, know your content, the motive of your speech and the way you want the audience to interpret your speech. Take out an hour from your day’s schedule and stand in front of a mirror and practice. And one very important thing, you must know your speech by heart, by which I don’t exactly mean, ‘you must cram! ’. If you know the context of your speech, you already have it imprinted in your mind! Remember before your final deliverance.

Now that your speech is ready to be delivered, take this one important tip: Don’t ever overexpress. Over responding to anything in a speech can kill the charm. Be yourself. Be easy and you'll see the outcome for yourself. Keep your voice normal. Emphasise only where needed. Extremely loud speeches in debates and political speaking can be annoying because you will be given a mic. So remember that your speech must not only be heard but also comprehended. And, that is the purpose, right? And the most critical suit to do before the speech, happen out fifteen minutes for yourself and only for yourself. Keep practising. Take deep breaths. It helps in calming down your mind and soothing your nerves. Drink a glass of water and take a deep breath. And then, you are certain to earn the credit of your hard work.

Public speaking ain't everyone’s cup of tea. Agreed! But it does show a hefty model in everyone’s life at some time or the other, right from school days, then during college days and then even in work life. After all, what is public speaking? Facing a crowd you do not know and trying to place a point, a view, an opinion. And for people who are so terrified of the stage, I only want to say, ‘People! You must belong to the bravest of the brave to walk on a stage and face a crowd that is not entirely within your control and there, make a mark.'

And if at all, by any place you seem to forget in the middle of your speech, no worries! leave it! It is not the end of the world yet. After all, it is not about winning or losing. It is about the gratification one squeezes at the end of the day, after making the speech. A fulfilment that the audience has understood, which is recognised by a round of applause. Implement these tips and am sure, you will taste success. And that… a person's honour!

Why is that only some people excel in sports, some in music, some in dance, and some in academics, some in art and some in oratory? Well, something to notice about, isn’t it? I believe, the step of unearthing talents is various for each. And to some extent, the prevailing circumstances might play a crucial role in how each personality shapes into. But then public speaking is one of the various talents which is hidden in each but surfaces only in few!

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