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By: Louis Torrez,Travis Opiela, and Lindsey White
July 14, 2011

The shuffling of papers and squeaking of chairs quieted as the public speakers entered the room one by one. Each time, for a single fearful moment the room tensed, waiting for the speaker to begin. In a single second after each beginning, the room relaxed as each FFA member spoke confidently and purposefully before the judges and the audience.

Speaking Development Event finalists competed on Tuesday in Extemporaneous Speaking, Senior Prepared Public Speaking, Junior Prepared Public Speaking, Soil and Water Stewardship Speaking and Spanish Creed. 

Spanish Creed Speaking was proposed by the 2009-2010 State Officer team and was approved in January 2010. Serving as an invitational contest at the state convention for its second year, Spanish Creed Speaking ties in an important FFA tradition with current Texas culture.

“We're making history,” Los Fresnos FFA member Rebeca Rodriguez said. “Spanish Creed Speaking has encouraged me to try something new relating to my ethnicity.”

“Spanish Creed Speaking brought out the true passion in me. It influenced my goal to major in communications,” Alisia Peña, a Cameron Yoe FFA member, said. “It's one of the best experiences one can take advantage of.”

The Soil and Water Stewardship Public Speaking contest is open to high school agricultural science students interested in conservation. The contest encourages students to broaden their interest and understanding of conservation and how human influence relates to conservation and the environment. 

“I've always been interested in conservation,” Burleson FFA member Cheyenne Hammons said. “Before this, I didn't know much about forest conservation. This contest allowed me to learn something new about something I'm interested in.”

“I want to find a way to relate public speaking to being a veterinarian,” Hammons said. Her speech was centered around the ancient proverb, “If a tree falls in a forest, will it make a sound?”. Hammons focused on “humans needing to be the voice” of the trees.

“You learn a lot about soil and water in this contest,” Anna Bailey, a Madisonville FFA member, said. Bailey's speech focused on preservation and replenishing of trees.

Participants in Senior and Junior Prepared Public Speaking events present a six-to-eight minute informative speech in front of an audience and a panel of four judges. Following their speech, participants answer a series of questions relevant to their speech topic. Participants are judged on their speaking ability, speech content and presentation. 

“My brother was in FFA and I like to talk,” San Augustine FFA member Callie Hinly said, following her finals speech. Hinly chose her public speaking event because “you can choose a topic you really care about.” Hinly participated in Senior Prepared Public Speaking with an informative speech over social media impacting agriculture. 

“I’m interested in ag communications,” Hinly said. “Before I did this contest, I had no idea what ag communications was.” For Hinly, the influence of prepared public speaking doesn’t stop here at the state convention.

Paige Bowling, a  Junior Public Prepared speaker for the Axill FFA chapter, noted that public speaking builds courage and improves speaking skills in your day to day life. Bowling also stated the best thing one can do when public speaking is try your hardest, love what you are talking about and stay calm.

In Extemporaneous Speaking, speakers have 30 minutes to prepare a speech with the information they are given before the start of the contest. Speakers then have six-to-eight minutes to present their speech. Extemporaneous topics vary but are generally based on current events and issues.

Leah Long, an FFA member from Jayton-Girard, stated the “longer the speech the better, but you want to shoot for around six-to-six-and-a-half minutes." Long remarked that extemporaneous speaking is a good life skill because it helps with job interviews and builds confidence.