My First Speech Experience

As the morning neared 9:30 AM, I knelt in front of my laptop screen in nervous anticipation. I clicked the link to join “Round One,” put my nerves aside, and smiled at the other faces on the screen as my name was called to perform. Slowly, I stood and began speaking. I can only assume that the other contestants felt the same anxiety that I did.

The Novice Speech Tournament is the first Speech and Debate competition of the year specifically for first-time competitors, and this year’s event took place on October 24. Speech Team Co-Captain Anna Sheehan ‘21, a seasoned speech leader, summed up her Novice experience: “I remember leaving the tournament even more excited to do speech because I had seen some great pieces and was eager to improve.” 

After experiencing Novice myself, I completely agree! Two Montrosians – Josie Marcucci ‘25 and myself – competed while Anna Sheehan ‘21 and Lucy Stefani ‘21 participated as judges. Although it took place online, the Montrose Speech Team did its best to follow the normal format: At 8 AM, we met in our virtual team room for warmups to help invigorate ourselves before the big day. Next, we attended a webinar for some announcements. Then, we were off to compete. In each of the three rounds, competitors had a chance to perform. In between rounds, we met as a team in our “room.” 

The restlessness I felt that morning went away as soon as I finished my first performance. It was nowhere near as daunting as I had anticipated. In fact, it was exhilarating. I loved watching all of the amazing performers from other schools, too. I can’t wait to do it again, especially once tournaments are back in person.

Anna and Lucy told me about their experience on the judging side of things. Anna said: “It is really hard to judge people. You have a big responsibility to be fair, honest and kind, especially to first-time speechies.” The judges gave specific, constructive pointers to everyone they watched to help each speechie improve their future performances. Judges also helped lead each round and kept the online aspect organized.  While she was still able to judge well and give great advice, Lucy said: “Making eye contact with your audience rather than a laptop camera makes it a much more personal experience.”

If  the other competitors felt the same nerves as I did, they didn’t show it.  I can only hope that I didn’t either.  The day concluded with an inspiring presentation of three champions’ pieces. Their examples, along with the feedback from the other judges, will be encouraging for me and for all of the other novices as we look forward to future competitions.

Lucy DeMeo ‘24, Contributing Writer