This November will be the first in four years that I will not be frantically prepping to compete at a speech meet. No more having to worry about matching with my partner, no more having to check five times to make sure I have my book, and no more standing in a huge mob checking to see if I made finals (okay, so maybe this one isn't a total upset). As the high school speech season rapidly approaches, I started thinking about what I was feeling and the thoughts that were running through my mind when I was preparing for my first speech meet. Honestly, I was absolutely terrified. I had never performed in front of anyone before, so I had absolutely no idea what to think. I would like to pass along my speech team alumnus wisdom to any student that is new to the speech world this year.
Dear New Speechie,
First, yes, you will learn to call yourself a "speechie." There's no need to question it, just embrace it. I know how scared you are. You're worried that people will make fun of you or laugh if you mess up. Let me tell you something: no one actually cares. Okay, that's a slight lie. The only way someone will care is they may feel a little better about their own performance. However, no one is going to make fun of you. All of the people in that room have either been in your dress shoes or currently are, and they know what you're feeling. Even the judges have more than likely been in your position, because most of them are past competitors themselves. Perform to the best of your ability. If you miss or mess up a line, no one is going to know. The audience doesn't have your piece right in front of them, so there's no possible way that they will know you were supposed to say, "September," instead of, "December." Don't sweat your mistakes. Even if you do forget, you can skip to the next part of your speech that you do know. It's better to perform a shortened piece than to sit down in the middle of your performance because you had a memory slip (yes, this has actually happened in one of my rounds).
I also want to let you know that competing in speech is unlike any other thing you've ever experienced. Even if you do have former performance experience, you don't truly understand a speech meet until you've competed in one. My freshman year, I thought I would be performing on a stage in front of an audience. The truth? Speech is actually performing in a high school classroom in front of twenty people at most (unless you're performing in varsity HDA, HI, or OC finals...yikes).
Please remember that you may not make finals, but that's okay. Speech is the most inconsistent activity I've ever been a part of. For example, my junior year, I only made it to finals in poetry twice, and that was because they were small meets. However, right before post-season, I worked my butt off trying to perfect my event, and I ended up tying for first place at sectionals and going to state. If you don't make it to finals, use that time to go watch the people in your event that did make finals and see what they're doing that you're not. Then when you're practicing that week, use your failure as motivation to work harder and make your piece the best it can be. There's nothing better than making it to finals and showing everyone just how amazing you can be. You can only do well if you're willing to work hard.
So, first year speechie, I hope you took something away from this letter. I want you to know that speech can be so stressful but so worth it in the end. I would do anything to put on my pant suit and perform at a speech competition just one more time, so don't take these times for granted. Work hard and don't sweat the small things, and you will be guaranteed success in whatever event you're doing. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone! You have the potential to accomplish great things.