My good friend and Georgia Baptist Bible Drill and Speakers, Inc. team member, Karen North, recently wrote this article including 5 steps for helping students develop a speech for our Student Speakers Competition. Karen has worked with Student Speakers on the church, associational, and state level and is the mother of 4 Student Speakers State Winners.
“Who, me? Give a speech?” “I could never get up in front of people.” “I’m just a teenager – no one will listen to me.” Those may be some of the first thoughts that cross your mind when someone mentions Students Speakers Competition. If they are, you’re in good company. In Exodus 4:10, Moses told the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Paul addressed the issue of whether a young person could be an effective witness when he told Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity,” 1 Timothy 4:12. Just as Moses and Timothy went on to do great things for the Lord when they spoke up, Student Speakers Competition can be a way you as a young person can be a positive influence on others by sharing your story and how God has worked in your life.
“So, I’ve decided to try Speakers Competition. What now?” While the thought of writing, memorizing, and presenting a speech can be daunting, the best way to approach it is to take one step at a time: pray, plan, prepare, practice, and present.
First, pray about what God would have you to share – just as when you read God’s Word or do any work for the Lord, you should start out by praying about Speakers Competition. Ask the Lord to guide you as you select a topic, organize your thoughts, write, and present your speech. Seek His guidance and ask Him to bring to mind things in your life where He has worked that might be an encouragement or serve as a lesson to those who will hear your speech.
Next, plan your speech. One of the simplest formulas for writing a paper/speech is “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” Try to find a good story or experience to open with to grab the audience’s attention, give them a topic sentence that shares the important point you’d like them to learn, then develop that point in the main part of the speech. Wrap up your speech by summarizing what you have shared and close with a sentence that challenges them to think and maybe follow through on what you have shared. Organize your thoughts in a logical sequence to help the reader/audience to grasp the point you are trying to get across and help them retain what you have shared. Try to make it personal by using your experiences as examples.
Use resources to help guide your writing. The best resource to start with is the Georgia Student Speakers Guide which can be downloaded at https://bibledrillandspeakers.com/student-speakers-competition/. This guide not only has information about the levels of competition, but it has valuable information about writing your speech, delivering your speech, and understanding what the judges are looking for in your written speech as well as your delivery. Suggested topics can also be found on the webpage. Also, gather a variety of resources that pertain to your chosen topic. Using sources in addition to the Bible is a good idea. Try to find a good story or experience to open with to grab the audience’s attention.
Prepare your speech by writing, revising, and having others proofread and make suggestions. Rarely is the first draft ever sufficient. Enlist the help of several adults to read and critique your speech. Suggestions of people to ask to review your speech are your pastor, English teacher, one of the senior adults in the church, or a Sunday School teacher. Having a variety of people to read your speech helps get input from a wider audience with differing viewpoints. Once you have a final draft, read it aloud to make sure sentences which may flow well on paper also flow well off your tongue.
Practice, practice, practice! Work not only on memorizing your speech, but on internalizing it – making it your own. Practice natural movements, looking at all areas of the audience, using meaningful hand gestures, and appropriate speed and tone of voice as well as appropriate pauses. Practice in front of a mirror. Have someone video you and then review the video to see what ways you can improve. Ask to be able to present the speech in different classes in your church, such as Sunday School classes, youth meetings, etc. See if there are opportunities to speak at neighboring churches. The more you practice, the more natural your speaking becomes.
Present your speech with confidence, knowing that you are sharing God’s story in your life. No matter the outcome of the competition, you have given voice to the message God gave you share. As the Student Speakers Guide says, “It’s about making a greater difference in the world, both now and for the rest of your life.”