I have competed as a speaker in NCFCA for the last four years. I took the first year seriously, coasted through the next two and ended the last year well due to God’s grace, prayer and practice. I did not place at the Regional Championship and am by no means the best speaker. But, I may have made the most progress in the shortest amount of time. Here are three main things I learned:
- Relax your shoulders and arms, tensing up here is one of the primary ways we show nervousness.
- You can drop your hands to your sides when you are not making a point and bring your hands up to emphasize a point. It takes some practice to make it smooth, but it demonstrates confidence.
- Don’t use pointed fingers or closed fists, they are subconsciously associated with aggression.
- Open palms are great, especially for comparisons, they give the judges a sense of connection.
- Sometimes you need to drop a good phrase from your speech because the motion it requires doesn’t fit with your other motions.
- Learn the rules well, then learn how to break them well. (sometimes a specific effect is worth breaking a rule-of-thumb, but double-check with feedback)
What It All Comes Down To
You have to be willing to put in the work, get feedback, improve on that feedback — and pray. God created a universe where we reap what we sow. You only get what you put in. This year, I spoke around a hundred times between all of the practices and performances. I sought out feedback from experienced speakers and applied their feedback to my speech writing and presentation. An experienced speaker challenged me to change only one thing at a time. But, I needed to make a lot of changes. The solution? Practice three times a day. That’s what I did for the next tournament. Approximately twenty-five practices. If you write your speech early, practice every day and adapt on feedback, you will go very far. That is how I was able to go from being a mediocre speaker to being a Regional Champion in three events.
But, practice and feedback is not enough. We cannot speak well in any meaningful way without God’s grace. God’s grace is what brought me through this year and what will bring through the rest of my life. Speaking can and should be a way to show God’s attributes to the world. Pray because God uses prayer. Write because God creates. Speak because He is the word of life. Practice because He calls us to work. Seek excellence so that you can point back to your Creator as the source. Acknowledge your complete dependence on Him in every practice and every performance. Set your exception on Him as your prize, and not on a medal. To paraphrase John Piper: So live, so write, so speak, so serve that the supreme worth of Jesus Christ is seen and savored by more and more people. If you work on your perspective, vocals and body language through prayer and practice, you will learn to bring God glory in speaking well. Whether you win or lose. I’ll end with this, one of my favorite quotes:
“If we set our expectation on persons, places or things, they will disappear and disappoint. But, if we set our expectation on God, He will never disappear or disappoint.”