FFA members participating in public speaking, from left, Delaney Clark, Molly Kiefer, Cami Blevins and Jackie Stratton.

Public speaking can be a task that few want to try. It has been said that speaking in public is the “number one fear above even death.” Once mastered, public speaking will pay dividends in life. It can be the key to success when running a company, getting your dream job, running for public office, generating change or just simply voicing your opinion about something you are passionate about.

FFA offers many platforms for one to practice their public speaking skills. What better way to do this than in the form of a competition? Four Shelby FFA members went against the grain and faced their fears at the Glacier District Leadership Development Event competition held at the STEM Career Center at CMR High School in Great Falls. Students from Choteau, Great Falls, Simms, Conrad, CJI, Fairfield, Valier and Cascade were all in attendance. 

The categories the kids had to pick from included: Extemporaneous, Prepared Public Speaking, reciting the FFA Creed and Parliamentary Procedure. 

Jackie Stratton and Delaney Clark chose to compete in the prepared category. Jackie wrote a speech titled “How Technology Has Changed Farming.” The topic is cutting edge and addressed how farmers have been able to incorporate technology into their farming practices to increase production and efficiency. 

Delaney’s speech was titled “Sheep in Montana – A Wild and Woolly History.” This speech encompassed a thorough chronological and comprehensive history of the sheep industry, something she is passionate about. 

Two other FFA members chose the extemporaneous route. Molly Kiefer and Cami Blevins were given random topics about agriculture to pick from. The students then chose the topic that most interests them or the one that they may know the most about. They were then given thirty minutes to prepare their speech in an isolated room. After preparing, they had five to seven minutes to present their speech and then answer questions about their research. Extemporaneous speaking is the purest form of public speaking. This category allows you to draw from your current knowledge and/or learn quickly about the subject and present the information in the form of a speech. 

After the morning’s competition, the results were shared. In the prepared category, Jackie placed sixth and Delaney placed fifth. In the extemporaneous category, Cami placed fifth and Molly placed sixth.

 “This was the first time competing for most of our members. They were paired against kids that were much older and more experienced. With the odds stacked against them, the still did very well,” praised FFA advisor Mr. Thad White. “Regardless of the final placings, I feel the kids were successful simply by making the decision to compete. Public speaking is something that very few adults, let alone students, feel comfortable with. It is quite possibly the most important skill we can offer for our students to become successful in life.”

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