The Speech Contest is all about creating a speech that answers one of the questions below, using research and persuasive delivery to support your argument. There are many different ways to develop a good speech, from drawing on your personal experiences to researching specific examples, but they are all tied together by an emphasis on using evidence to support everything you say.
There are no shortcuts to this — good research, good writing, and support from your teachers and fellow students are the only ways to craft a strong speech, but there are approaches and tools that will make this process easier.
Here, you can find some resources and tools that you can use to help prepare your speech. To develop a great one, you will have to branch out from these resources to answer questions in your own unique way, but this should provide a starting point. Just select the stage of the process you are currently at and get to work!
1. PICK A TOPIC
This year, elementary and middle school students will be asked to answer the question, “If you were the Mayor of Yonkers, what would be your top priority in office, and why?”
High school students will speak on what the role of the courts should be by answering one of the two questions below.
PROTECTING RIGHTS IN SCHOOLS
What should the role of the courts be to protect your rights in school?
PROTECTING SAFETY IN THE COMMUNITY
What should the role of the courts be to protect the safety of everyone in the community?
Picking a topic might seem like the easiest part of this process, but that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Consider not only what is interesting to you, but also what you have to say about a topic and what you already know about a subject. In general, think about the questions on the right when picking a topic.
- DOES THIS INTEREST ME?
Researching something that you have interest in will make the topic engaging.
- DO I HAVE AN ARGUMENT?
A good speech will make a strong argument; do you have strong feelings about the question one way or another?
- WHAT DO I ALREADY KNOW ABOUT THIS?
Do you already have any experience or knowledge of the topic? If not, don’t be afraid to do some early research to see if you’re actually interested in the topic.
There are many ways to research a question: starting broadly and narrowing down to look at specific questions; following the course of one argument before exploring another; or starting with a specific idea and studying the other ideas that come from that. Overall, it’s up to you to pursue what makes the most sense.
What we want to encourage you to do is to take advantage of all the resources available. Our Resources page is the perfect starting point for crafting your speech, but there is so much more out there. Consider the additional resources below, but don’t forget to look elsewhere.
Your teachers may be able to work with you to develop your speech. Ask them for general ideas or to review the work you’ve done so far and offer advice.
The library at your school is a great resource, both for the books there and the help the librarians can provide! Don’t be afraid to ask them for help with research, helping students is the best part of their jobs.
Academic journals have a huge number of articles on these topics. Ask your librarian what databases your school has, and how you can access them.
Newspapers don’t just report today’s news. Their archives can go back decades and provide a look at what people were writing and thinking in the past.
CASES & LAWS
Opinions by judges and new laws relate to many of these concepts. Looking at these writings can give insight into exactly why these laws were changed.
And don’t forget yourself! If you have a personal experience you want to share, don’t be afraid to use it to inform your other sources.
3. PREPARE YOUR SPEECH
Preparing a speech for the Society Speech Competition is much like any other speech or essay you’ve created before. But this is a persuasive speech, which entails a slightly different approach. Relying on solid evidence, making your point clearly, and citing your sources are all important factors. But this is a persuasive speech, and that entails a slightly different approach than you might be used to. So here are some tips on how to develop a great speech for the contest!
- BE CONCISE
The people who review these speeches are attorneys, and legal reasoning emphasizes being able to make an argument quickly and effectively. So give your evidence, say why it is important, and what you think and move on. Remember, the max length of the speech is seven minutes. That might seem long but it can run out quickly when you’re discussing a lot of sources!
- BE CLEAR
Don’t forget to include a strong introduction and conclusion in your speech. These sections will help frame your argument and make what you’re saying that much more clear to our reviewers.
- USE & CITE YOUR SOURCES
It is one thing to read a source and use that knowledge to support your argument. It is another to cite that source directly to prove you are using it. Be sure to keep track of your sources and reference them in your speech. Our reviewers look for evidence that supports your argument so be sure to make that clear!
- STICK TO YOUR STYLE
Everyone has their own style, and don’t be afraid to use it. You can reference your notes, but make sure you are not simply reading your speech. Let your personality and personal experiences shine.
- USE QUOTES
Sometimes using a quote is far more effective than paraphrasing ideas in your speech. Just make sure to cite the quotation and clearly indicate that it is one!
- STICK TO YOUR ARGUMENT
With broad topics, it can be easy to try to discuss many different things in your speech. Stay focused on answering the question you have selected. This will be easier to do and result in a more convincing speech.
- DON’T PLAGIARIZE!
We probably don’t have to tell you, but don’t copy or borrow from any of your sources without citing them! Plagiarism is strictly forbidden and will result in the immediate removal of your speech from consideration for any prizes without notification. Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional, so check with us, your teacher, or a librarian if you are unsure. Better safe than sorry!
4. PRACTICE YOUR SPEECH
Now that you have completed your research refined your speech, you should practice it! Judges will pay attention to your delivery, your gestures, and your expressions. Practice your speech in the mirror or make a test recording to watch your delivery. Remember, you can record your speech as many times as you’d like and upload the best one!
If you’d like help developing your speech and learning more about public speaking, a live virtual information session will be held on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at 6:30 PM on Zoom—details coming soon! Attendance is optional. Can’t make it? No problem, the session will be recorded and made available online for anyone unable to attend.
If you’d like help recording your speech, members of the Yonkers Rotary Club will be available to work with you at the Yonkers Riverfront Library after school starting March 20 until the deadline on March 31. Schedule your recording here!