In a competition, each student will give a prepared speech that is between 3:30 and 4:00 minutes long to a panel of two or three judges. Don't be worried just because you may have never done this before - neither have any of the other students! Preparation and practice are the key.
You get to speak about any subject in the whole world that you want - what a great opportunity! The trick is to pick a topic that fits three criteria:
1. You must be truly interested in the topic, even passionate about it. You live with your speech for quite a few months; if you find it boring, so will the judges!
2. You should already know a lot about the topic or be willing to learn about it. Who wants to hear a speech in which the speaker doesn't know what they are talking about?
3. The topic must interest the judges as well as you. Judges are adults. You are a high school student. If you are going to talk about something that they probably don't appreciate or know about, you have to win them over. Also, don't pick an intentionally controversial topic that will offend anyone with a different point of view. Religion, politics, and divisive social issues are minefields which are very difficult to navigate successfully - you may have a good speech and you could still receive a bad score from an unappreciative judge.
While your speech will first take shape as a written document on paper, you must not think of it simply as an essay that you have memorized. Instead you must always consider how it will be "performed" and you have a great deal of freedom in this regard. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for having a unique message (i.e. a thesis statement) delivered by means of a captivating opening, clear supporting ideas, and a good closing.
After you finish your prepared speech, you give an impromptu speech. You will be presented with a paper with three "prompts". Be "prompt" about choosing which one you will use because in 60 seconds you have to begin! After you have chosen your prompt, if you wish you can spend the rest of the 60 seconds writing a note or two down about what you will talk about. The impromptu speech lasts 1:30 to 2:00 minutes.
Three sample prompts for an impromptu speech:
1. Do you think we will ever confirm significant life outside our solar system, and why do you think it is important to some to look for it?
2. Which I-phone/Smart Phone application do you feel is the most popular among your high school peers? Explain why.
3. A triathlon consists of swimming, running and biking. If you were to create your own triathlon, which three sports would you choose to make up this event?