Learning to speak in public is one of the best life skills that we can help our youth develop. Alumni of the 4-H program often point to public speaking as one of the most useful things they learned in 4-H, leading to success in their future careers. In the public presentation program, youth learn to organize their ideas, to share emotions and creativity, and to communicate clearly. 

 

Interested in participating?

The next public presentation contest will be in 2023. Be sure to attend your 4-H Club Meetings and subscribe to the Clover Connections Newsletter to get details when they are available. 
A teenager holds a paper and speaks to a audience.

 

Prepared Speeches

Contestants and Eligibility

  1. This is an individual contest.
  2. Contestants must be enrolled in 4-H.

Contest Rules

  1. Contestants can prepare a speech on any topic relative to today’s youth, but they must relate it to 4-H in some way.
  2. Contestants may not use any costumes, posters, visual aids, or props for their presentations.
  3. Contestants are not allowed to present any items to the judges.
  4. Each speech will be timed. Juniors should be between 3-5 minutes, Intermediate 4-6 and Seniors 6-8 minutes in duration. Two points will be deducted for each 30 seconds over or under the time limit. Participants will be given a 30-second warning before the end of the time period.
  5. Contestants may use notes. However, excessive use of notes may be counted against the contestant. This will be at the discretion of the judges.
  6. A public address system will not be used, but a podium will be provided.
  7. During the competition the contestants may introduce themselves by name, club and speech topic.
  8. Contestants should cite their major reference materials at the end of their speech. This time will not be counted in the allotted time.
  9. Only the judge may ask questions of the contestant. Question time will not be counted in the allotted time. Contestants should repeat the question, then answer it.
  10. Contestant order will be determined by a random drawing.
  11. Judging will be done by adult judges.
  12. Ties will be broken by the judges.
  13. Judges will use the Colorado State Speech Contest Prepared Speech Score Sheet.

Impromptu Speeches

Contestants and Eligibility

  1. This is an individual contest.
  2. Contestants must be enrolled in 4-H.

Contest Rules

  1. Contestant will select a topic for his/her speech by randomly drawing three questions from a pool of questions. They will select one question and return the others. A maximum of one minute will be allowed for this process. Questions will be relative to today’s youth and may include current events, 4-H, and/or social issues.
  2. Questions will be at the discretion of the superintendent. Only the superintendent will know the questions prior to the contest. No two contestants will speak on the same topic.
  3. Contestants may not use any costumes, posters, visual aids, or props for their presentations.
  4. Contestants are not allowed to present any items to the judges.
  5. Contestants will be allowed 10 minutes to organize their thoughts before beginning their presentation. Time will begin when they select their question.
  6. Each speech will be timed and must be between 3-5 minutes in duration. Two points will be deducted for each 30 seconds over or under the time limit. Participants will be given a 30 second warning before end of time period.
  7. Contestants will be allowed to organize their thoughts on a 5x7 blank note card. However, excessive use of notes may be counted against the contestant. This will be at the discretion of the judges.
  8. A public address system will not be used, but a podium will be provided.
  9. Contestant order will be determined by a random drawing.
  10. Ties will be broken by the judges.
  11. Judges will use the Colorado State 4-H Impromptu Score Sheet.

Demonstrations & Illustrated Talks

Contestants and Eligibility

  1. These are individual or team contests.
  2. Contestants must be enrolled in 4-H.

Contest Rules

  1. The only public presentation division that allows teams is Demonstration & Illustrated talk. A team shall consist of two 4-H members. Both team members may be from the same age division. If they are not, they must compete in the division of the oldest member.
  2. Each Demonstration and Illustrated Talk will be timed and are limited to 10 minutes.
  3. Visual aids, props, etc. are allowed and will be provided by the individual or team. General equipment and supplies such as tables and chairs, will be furnished when requested in advance of the contest. Special equipment and/or supplies will depend upon availability and must be requested in advance.

Interpretive Reading

Contestants and Eligibility

  1. This is an individual contest.
  2. Contestants must be enrolled in 4-H.

Contest Rules

  1. Members deliver a rendition of a piece of pre-written material. The pre-written material should be a selection from a book, poem, story, etc., and should be 4-H appropriate. This area is not intended for presentation of original material written by the presenter. Members may choose which selection or multiple portions of a text to present, but may not change the content. Content should be cohesive and transition smoothly from one portion to the next.
  2. During the beginning of the reading, the speaker should introduce their piece and explain the significance of the material.
  3. Costumes and small props can be used but they need to be simple and minimal, not detracting from the strength of the presenter. Everyone will be expected to provide their own equipment. General equipment and supplies such as tables and chairs will be furnished when requested in advance of competition.
  4. Each Interpretive Reading will be timed. Senior readings must be between 6-8 minutes in duration. Intermediate readings must be between 4-6 minutes in duration. Junior readings must be between 3-5 minutes in duration. Two points will be deducted for each 30 second over or under the time limit. Participants will be given a 30 second warning before end of the time period.

You can view a PDF of this document here.

Learning to speak in public is one of the best life skills that we can help our youth develop. Alumni of the 4-H program often point to public speaking as one of the most useful things they learned in 4-H, leading to success in their future careers. In the public presentation program, youth learn to organize their ideas, to share emotions and creativity, and to communicate clearly. Additionally, they develop subject matter expertise and gain self-confidence. The 4-H Public Presentation program is designed to provide a safe, age-appropriate environment for 4-H members to develop communication skills. By participating in a variety of presentation types, members will be able to find comfortable starting points, as well as new challenges. By progressing through the public presentation program, youth will become well-rounded presenters. While the Colorado 4-H Policies do not require members to compete in public presentations, each member is, at a minimum, required to do a 4-H public presentation. However, all members, especially those who wish to receive feedback and improve their skills, are encouraged to participate in a competitive event. Members can compete at the county, state and, in some cases, the national level, earning recognition for their achievements! The Colorado 4-H Public Presentation program currently offers four competitive divisions: Demonstration & Illustrated Talk, Prepared (Formal) Speech, Impromptu Speech, and Interpretive Reading. Members are encouraged to review the expectations and requirements for each of the divisions and choose the area(s) in which they would like to participate. Each of the competitive divisions will have three classes: Juniors (4-H age 8-10), Intermediates (4-H age 11-13), and Seniors (4-H age 14-18.) There will be no events for Cloverbuds (4-H age 5-7) at the state contest, but counties are encouraged to provide these opportunities at the local level.

 

Public Presentation Categories*

Demonstration & Illustrated Talk

The presenter shows and explains how to do or make something in a demonstration (make a fruit salad, care for a pet, how to juggle, do basic dance steps, build a kite, etc.) or uses visual aids to tell about a topic in an illustrated talk. Appropriate equipment, models or illustrations, posters, PowerPoint slides, and visuals are used as needed to explain information being conveyed or to show the steps in the process being demonstrated. It is sometimes necessary to show a larger scale replica of something that is too small for the audience to see. A finished product is often shown. Team demonstrations and illustrated talks are allowed (two members on a team) and should reflect a topic requiring teamwork as well as effective balancing of verbal communications and hands-on action. For example, teammates should have an equal amount of speaking time.

Prepared (Formal) Speech

The presenter aims to persuade, motivate or inform the audience without the use of visuals. In this category, the presenter chooses and researches a topic of choice related to today’s youth. Depending on the topic chosen, the presenter chooses a format (persuasive, motivational or informative) that best suits what is to be conveyed to the audience. For example, if the topic is cyber bullying, the presenter can choose to inform the audience about this topic, persuade the audience of their convictions, or motivate the audience to take a more active role in making current changes in this area. A speech is written in the presenter’s own words, however, poetry, quotations, humor, or imagery may be incorporated to command attention or emphasize a point.

Impromptu Speech

The presenter aims to persuade, motivate or inform the audience, without the use of visuals, in an unrehearsed setting. In this category, the presenter is given three topics to choose from and ten minutes to develop a speech on the topic they chose. Because the speech is not prepared in advance, members learn to organize their ideas and respond to a topic in a more spontaneous way. Members are encouraged to incorporate stories, quotes, and real life examples in their speeches.

Interpretive Reading

The presenter, with the use of vocal inflection and body language as communication tools, delivers a rendition of a piece of pre-written material. The pre-written material should be a selection from a book, poem, story, etc. and should be 4-H appropriate. This creative communication area bridges the gap between message delivery and the performing arts. Costumes and small props can be used, but they need to be simple and minimal, not detracting from the strength of the presenter. This area is not intended for presentation of original material written by the presenter.

*Public Presentation categories adapted from Cornell Cooperative Extension (2008) “4-H Public Presentations: State Level Guidelines and Evaluator’s Guide”

Format for Public Presentations

All types of presentations share the same three-part format: an introduction, body, and conclusion or summary. The content and presentation techniques used in each part differ somewhat for each type of presentation.

Introduction of the Presenter (by Room Host)

At the state level, presenters in all categories will be introduced by the room host by name, county, and title.

Introduction of the Presentation (by Presenter)

The presenter will begin his/her presentation by introducing the topic in a manner that creatively catches the attention of the audience while stimulating their curiosity and motivating them to think about the subject to be presented. Use of the title can be a part of this introduction. 4 For Interpretive Reading, the presenter should identify the source of the creative piece and its author and may allude to, explain, or challenge the audience to discover the message it conveys prior to beginning. In addition, the presenter’s reason for choosing this particular piece should be included because it lends to a better understanding of the piece being presented. These introductions should not attempt to interpret the piece for the audience, be too lengthy, or overshadow the content of the recitation or dramatic interpretation.

Body 

This is the main part of the presentation. In a Demonstration, a technique or steps of a process are shown. In an Illustrated Talk, Prepared Speech or Impromptu Speech, the main points are identified and explained. In an Interpretive Reading presentation, the creative piece is performed.

Conclusion or Summary

The presenter emphasizes or re-emphasizes the message of the presentation. In a Demonstration, the most important steps are summarized. In an Illustrated Talk, Prepared Speech, or Impromptu Speech, the presenter concisely recaps the message of the presentation or draws conclusions. In an Interpretive Reading presentation, the nature of the conclusion depends on the type of creative piece and how it was introduced. It may be emphasized through a simple comment, a brief analysis, or an expressive body movement (i.e., lowering one’s head, stepping to one side, creating a noticeable pause, etc.). Please note that this part of the presentation is called a summary in a Demonstration and Illustrated Talk. It is called a conclusion in Prepared Speech and Impromptu Speech. This is due to the fact that one type of presentation actually calls for a summary of the material presented and the other types require the presenter to bring the talk to a conclusion.

Questions

Contestants will be asked questions by judges at the conclusion of their presentation in the Demonstration & Illustrated Talk contest. Question time will not be counted in the allotted time. Contestants should repeat the question and then answer it. There will not be questions asked at the end of a Prepared Speech, Impromptu Speech, or Interpretive Reading by either the judges or audience.

State Competition Rules

Age Divisions

Contest Divisions & Classes

Division: Demonstration & Illustrated Talk
  • Individual Demonstration/Illustrated Talk Junior
  • Individual Demonstration/Illustrated Talk Intermediate
  • Individual Demonstration/Illustrated Talk Senior
  • Team Demonstration/Illustrated Talk Junior
  • Team Demonstration/Illustrated Talk Intermediate
  • Team Demonstration/Illustrated Talk Senior
Division: Impromptu Speech
  • Impromptu Speech Junior
  • Impromptu Speech Intermediate
  • Impromptu Speech Senior
Division: Prepared Speech
  • Prepared Speech Junior
  • Prepared Speech Intermediate
  • Prepared Speech Senior
Division: Interpretive Reading
  • Interpretive Reading Junior
  • Interpretive Reading Intermediate
  • Interpretive Reading Senior

General Contest Rules

  1. Junior contestants are 8-10 years of age. Intermediate contestants are 11-13 years of age. Senior contestants must have passed their 14th birthday and not have reached the age of 19 as of December 31 of the previous year.
  2. Each county is limited to three entries per class. Counties are encouraged to use the Danish system at their county-level contests and have judges rank their top three blue ribbon winners in each class to select the State contest entrants.
  3. Presentations can be on any topic relative to today’s youth and/or their 4-H project. Topics and content must be 4-H appropriate. We ask that all presenters be sensitive to the diverse audience that attends the fair and state conference. All materials to be presented are subject to review and approval by the superintendent. Materials which include foul language, racial or religious overtones, or other topics/subjects deemed 6 inappropriate by the superintendents will not be allowed. The judges will make the final determination.
  4. The only public presentation division that allows teams is Demonstration & Illustrated Talk. A team shall consist of two 4-H members. Both team members may be from the same age division. If they are not, they must compete in the age division of the oldest member.
  5. Time limits are event specific. See the rules for the specific division for more details
  6. Contestants should cite their major reference materials. In Prepared Speech, this is done within the speech. In Demonstration & Illustrated Talk, this may be done within the speech, but a works cited list must be presented at the end of the speech (this will not count toward their allotted time). In Interpretive Reading, the author and title of the selection should be included at the beginning of the presentation. Impromptu Speeches may or may not make references to specific material, but if they do, credit should be given within the speech for quotes or facts as necessary.
  7. Contestants will be asked questions by judges at the conclusion of their presentation in the Demonstration & Illustrated Talk division. They will not be asked questions at the end of a Prepared Speech, Impromptu Speech, or Interpretive Reading. Question time will not be counted in the allotted time. Contestants should repeat the question and then answer it.
  8. Contestants may use notes but are encouraged to speak from memory. Excessive use of notes may be counted against the contestant. This will be at the discretion of the judges.
  9. A microphone may be provided for optional use by each presenter during the contest.
  10. Each individual and team will be expected to provide their own visual aids, props or special equipment. Special equipment and/or supplies may be requested in advance (several days before the contest), however, equipment will depend on availability. Advanced requests must be made for special needs by contacting Connie Cecil at: Connie.Cecil@colostate.edu. Early arrival on contest day is suggested for setting up special equipment. The Demonstration & Illustrated Talk contest will provide a table, projector, screen, and easel. A laptop will be present for presenters to use with the projector. Participants should bring their presentation on a flash drive. Participants are also encouraged to bring their own computer to present with (along with any special adaptors) as a backup. Please note when registering if you’ll need to use the projector.
  11. Members are discouraged from using a podium. A podium may be available for optional use by each presenter in the Prepared and Impromptu contests. Podiums will not be available for Demonstration & Illustrated Talk or Interpretive Reading divisions.
  12. Contestants must contact the superintendents at the time of registration, or when informational emails are sent out, to notify them if they are competing in another event that may conflict with the public presentations contests. Attempts will be made to make accommodations within reason, and with advance notification. A tentative contestant order will be published by superintendents in advance of the contest.
  13. Adult judges will use the Colorado Public Presentation score sheets for the specific division/class. Ties will be broken by the judges.
  14. Presentations in each class will be ranked one to ten. A champion and reserve champion (Junior, Intermediate, Senior) will be awarded in each class. There will be no Grand/Overall champions. There will be no Danish system ribbons (blue, red, white) awarded at the state level.
  15. Awards will be given at the conclusion of each division/event at the discretion of the superintendent.
Time limits for events
Time Limits Junior Intermediate Senior
Demonstration & Illustrated Talk 4-6 min 6-8 min 8-10min
Prepared Speech 3-5 min 4-6 min

6-8 min

Impromptu Speech 2-4 min 3-5 min 3-5 min
Interpretive Reading 3-5 min 4-6 min 6-8 min

Prepared (Formal) Speech Rules

  1. Speech topics must be related to today’s youth and be 4-H appropriate.
  2. Contestants may not use any costumes, posters, visual aids, or props for their presentations.
  3. Contestants are not allowed to present any items to the judges.
  4. Each Prepared Speech will be timed. Senior speeches must be between 6-8 minutes in duration. Intermediate speeches must be between 4-6 minutes in duration. Junior speeches must be between 3-5 minutes in duration. Two points will be deducted for each 30 seconds over or under the time limit. Participants will be given a 30-second warning before the end of the time period.
  5. Special Awards: The top state senior Prepared Speech presenter will receive a partially funded trip to compete at the Western National Roundup. Winners of the Prepared Speech contest must meet participation requirements for this event.
  6. Senior members who previously received a trip to compete at the Western National Roundup in Prepared Speech are not eligible to enter the state Prepared Speech contest again. They are encouraged to enter other public presentation divisions.

Impromptu Speech Rules

  1. Contestant will select a topic for his/her speech by randomly drawing three questions from a pool of questions. They will select one question and return the others. A maximum of one minute will be allowed for this process. Questions will be relative to today’s youth and may include current events, 4-H, and/or social issues. Examples of the type of questions include:
    • If I were an author, I would write about…
    • One issue facing teenagers today is…
    • If I could describe my personality as a tree, which tree would I be…
    • What has being involved in 4-H taught me?
  2. Speech topics/questions will be prepared by the superintendent. Only the superintendent will know the topics/questions prior to the contest. No two contestants will speak on the same topic.
  3. Contestants may not use any costumes, posters, visual aids, or props for their presentations.
  4. Contestants are not allowed to present any items to the judges.
  5. Contestants will be allowed 10 minutes to organize their thoughts before beginning their presentation. Time will begin when they select their question.
  6. Contestants will be allowed to organize their thoughts on a 5x7 blank note card (supplied). However, excessive use of notes may be counted against the contestant. This will be at the discretion of the judges.
  7. Each Impromptu Speech will be timed. Senior and Intermediate speeches must be between 3-5 minutes in duration. Junior speeches must be between 2-4 minutes in duration. Two points will be deducted for each 30 seconds over or under the time limit. Participants will be given a 30-second warning before end of time period.
  8. Special Awards: The top state senior Impromptu Speech presenter will receive a partially funded trip to compete at the Western National Roundup. Winners of the Impromptu Speech contest must meet participation requirements for this event.
  9. Senior members who previously received a trip to compete at the Western National Roundup in Impromptu Speech are not eligible to enter the state Impromptu Speech contest again. They are encouraged to enter other public presentation divisions.

Interpretive Reading Rules

  1. Members deliver a rendition of a piece of pre-written material. The pre-written material should be a selection from a book, poem, story, etc. and should be 4-H appropriate (see General Rules). This area is not intended for presentation of original material written by the presenter. Members may choose which selection or multiple portions of a text to present, but may not change the content. Content should be cohesive and transition smoothly from one portion to the next.
  2. During the beginning of the speech, speakers should introduce their piece and explain the significance of the material.
  3. Costumes and small props can be used but they need to be simple and minimal, not detracting from the strength of the presenter. Each individual will be expected to provide their own equipment.
  4. Each Interpretive Reading will be timed. Senior readings must be between 6-8 minutes in duration. Intermediate readings must be between 4-6 minutes in duration. Junior readings must be between 3-5 minutes in duration. Two points will be deducted for each 30 seconds over or under the time limit. Participants will be given a 30-second warning before end of time period.
  5. Please note: There is no national level contest for this event and, at this time, delegates are not sent to Western Roundup from the Interpretive Reading category.
     
REFERENCES
  • University of Maryland Extension. Maryland 4-H Public Speaking Guide.
  • Rutgers (2010). 4-H Member Guide: How to Make a 4-H Public Presentation.
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension (2008). 4-H Public Presentations: State Level Guidelines and Evaluator’s Guide.

 

 

Introduction Tips

The introduction is a very important part of your presentation. It is your time to capture the audience’s attention, and familiarize them with your topic. The introduction helps set the tone for the rest of your presentation. To help plan your introduction, you should write a purpose statement about what you want the audience to learn from your speech. You can then use this information to help you plan an appropriate introduction.

There are many ways to start a speech. Here are a few options:

  • Ask your audience a question. This will get the audience to start thinking about your topic.
  • Tell a story. Begin with a personal or fictional story to gain audience interest.
  • Use a starter. Get your audience’s attention by using a louder voice or making a quick move.
  • Use a quote. Select a quote from an author, songwriter, poet, or other individual that relates to your subject.

Conclusion Tips

The conclusion is your opportunity to review what you presented with the audience. Here are some tips for effective conclusions:

  • Go back over the main points of your speech. Example: “Today I have told you how to ___________, _______________and_________________.”
  • No new material should be introduced at this time.
  • Be brief and give the audience the feeling you are wrapping it up.
  • Think about tying your conclusion to any stories, quotes, or examples you used in your introduction.
  • You can challenge your audience to do something in your conclusion. Example: “I have told you about how I have picked up trash on the highway, collected recycled materials, and worked at our local homeless shelter. I challenge everyone in the audience to get involved in community service to make our community a better place to live.”

General Delivery Tips

Delivery is the way you use your voice and your body to present your speech. It includes things like your facial expression, appearance, voice, eye contact, gestures, and body movement. Here are some tips to help with your general delivery:

  • Volume is how loud or soft your voice is. Be sure to speak at a loud enough volume so that everyone in the room can hear you.
  • Pitch is your voice on a musical level, or simply the highness or lowness of your voice. Vary your pitch throughout the speech to emphasize points and add interest.
  • Rate of speech, or pace, is how fast or how slow you talk. Talking at a moderate or slow pace will help the audience to better understand your presentation. You can slow down and speed up your speech to emphasize various points and phrases. Remember that nerves usually cause speakers to speed up their rate of speech on contest day. Try to combat the urge to speed through your presentation!
  • Avoid using filler words such as “like” “well” “er” “ah” “um” and “you know”.
  • When pronouncing words, be sure you are correct and clear.
  • Remember that when you turn away from the audience during a presentation for whatever reason, you need to make sure you still project your voice forward. When your head is turned away from the audience it can become very difficult to hear you.
  • Gestures are movements of your body, especially your hands and head, which help express meaning. Gestures should be used to add emphasis to important parts of your speech, and should appear natural and not be distracting.
  • Eye contact is an important part of connecting with your audience. Try to make eye contact with the judge, as well as people in all parts of the room.
  • Use of a podium is discouraged. Instead, think about using the space you have to help advance your speech. You can use movement to show the progression of your speech. For example, you can start in the middle for your introduction, then move a few steps to the right for your first point, to the middle for your next point, and so on. Remember not to just pace the room aimlessly. Movement should have purpose and should not take away from your speech.

General Appearance Tips

Your appearance plays an important role in how you seem to the audience. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Wear clothing that is clean, neat, and appropriate for your speech and age.
  • Make sure your clothing and accessories are not distracting. Clothes should generally not have writing on them, and should fit you in such a way that they are not getting in the way of your hands while you present.
  • Style your hair so that it will stay out of your face during your presentation.

Demonstration and Visual Aid Tips

  • If your event permits visual aids, make sure they are simple, clear, and sized appropriately so that everyone in the room can read them.
  • Consider mounting any posters on foam core, or another sturdy material, and consider bringing clips to attach posters to easels, or bringing materials to put behind boards so they don’t fall over.
  • When choosing materials for your demonstrations, remember that if the audience can’t see it you shouldn’t use it. Consider alternate methods for demonstrating detail work, including making larger mock-ups, or using the projector to show detail work through pre-recorded videos 12 or photos. Alternately, try to select demonstration topics that will be easily visible and understood by the audience.
  • Consider bringing a table cloth to help make your workspace look nicer, and to help with cleanup. Make sure the table you are demonstrating on is as close to the judges and audiences as possible in the space.
  • Always think about what you are demonstrating from the judge and audience perspective. If they won’t be able to see or read it, don’t do it.

Overall Tips

  • It’s important to show that both you and your speech have a direction. To do this, define your purpose and keep it in mind throughout your speech.
  • You can use notes for your event, but memorization is encouraged. If you do choose to use notes, use them minimally and unobtrusively.
  • The audience must believe in you and you must believe in yourself. Confidence shows and sells.
  • Remember that mistakes happen. It’s okay to make a mistake. Try not to get flustered, take a deep breath, collect yourself and go right on with your presentation.

 

 


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