by Callie Henly
Pacing back and forth, mumbling words under your breath, and even sweaty palms is my reality as I await my turn to present my speech at the San Antonio Agricultural Public Speaking Contest to that intimidating panel of judges. While some people may be frightened by 103 students expressively speaking to a wall in order to prepare, I find it exhilarating! Being in those top spots at the most prestigious public speaking contest in Texas isn’t something that’s done overnight, and most often the first year competitor isn’t the “winner”.
In order to compete in the San Antonio Agricultural Public Speaking Contest you must have a 6-8 minute speech on a topic relating to agriculture. You will then be placed in a certain division based on your speech topic. The divisions include: Animal Science, Plant Science, Natural Resources, Agribusiness, Agricultural Policy, and Agriscience. There is first a preliminary round and then the top two individuals from each division will go on to compete in the final round.
As agriculture is so broad, it is very challenging to limit your selection to one piece of information. However, once you finally decide which direction to take, research, research, and more research is the next step on the road to success! Explore that subject until you can talk about it in your sleep! Finally, it’s time to write the speech. The only way to get going is to jump right in, so write one sentence, take a deep breath, and keep on going! The speech manuscript must follow APA style, so edit it until it’s perfect!
I feel extremely fortunate to have so many adults to assist me in achieving the “ideal” speech. I highly recommend sending the speech to an AG teacher, county extension agent, or a other local agriculturists and consumers and ask them to send feedback on changes they would make to the speech, and questions they would ask if they were a judge. I can say this has helped me tremendously in my question and answer sessions during contests, as well as my overall presentation as many of these esteemed individuals also offered me pointers on speaking in general.
Although many students set a goal to win at San Antonio in order to receive that $10,000 scholarship, there are speaking contests all year long in different areas of the Lonestar state. In October, The State Fair of Texas, and in March, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Public Speaking Contests are two examples.I recommend competing in all three of the contests I have mentioned, as they will definitely be huge preparation for your district FFA or 4-H contests. Walking across the stage at the Texas FFA Convention and receiving a banner for being in the top 10 senior prepared public speakers in the state is pretty exciting and well, I felt pretty important receiving an award in front of 10,000 other students like me!
It may seem like a lot of work, and it is, but the rewards and fun outcomes make the long hours of studying and practicing worth it! I must say, the Texas Junior Simmental/Simbrah Association State Futurity and the American Junior Simmental Association Junior Nationals put me on the road to public speaking. Had it not been for my parents forcing me to go into sales talk with tears streaming down my face, I’d still be that shy, timid little girl. Sales talk, public speaking, judging/oral reasons, cattlemen’s quiz, skill-a-thon, and the sweetheart contest, as well as serving on the junior board of directors for the TJSSA has not only allowed me to make friendships that will last a lifetime, but it also placed me on the career path I plan to take. I highly recommend the public speaking contests to any junior and would be happy to help anyone! You can contact me at 936-275-6050 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks and Gig em’!