Rostrum Victoria conducted its first state-wide online speaking competition on Friday 23 October 2020. It is fair to say this would not have happened without the pandemic-induced lockdowns in Victoria. However, the competition was such a great success, it is now set to be repeated in future years.
The standard of the competition was exceptional, and equal to any Jo Davis state speaking competition. Each of the six contestants had to qualify for the event with excellent online speeches in leadup competitions. The speaking time was 8 minutes.
The six contestants were Dale Stevens (Club 3), Margie Potter (Club 6), Lena Staroshchuk (Club 45), Melody Yu (Club 68), John Ter Bogt (Club 5) and Vasish Vasireddy (Club 70). Vasish won after a fantastic speech on Artificial Intelligence.
Attendance of around 50 members indicated good interest.
The adjudicators used the same criteria and scoring for impact, skills and purpose as used in the annual Jo Davis competition, with one important addition the skills section including the effective use of on-line technology.
Being the first ever state-wide online competition, it is worthwhile to reflect on what worked well, and what could be improved.
The “mechanics” of the competition generally worked well, partly because the chairman, timekeeper and adjudicators had experience with previous online competitions. The adjudicators utilised two devices with separate Zoom accounts so they could retire to consider their verdict.
The adjudicators also had a common distinctive white background with a Rostrum logo which made it easy for the chairman to see the adjudicators signal their readiness to hear the next speaker in such a large audience. The timekeeper used both a bell and yellow/red backgrounds at the timing points.
The speaking time was 8 minutes. Longer speaking times are more of a challenge online because audience engagement is harder to maintain. It is recommended that 6 or 8 minutes be considered for future competitions. Ten minutes is considered too long for an online competition, especially when we encourage less experienced speakers to participate.
The key thing that can be improved is to enforce a waiting room and muting for late-arriving attendees. The chairman also must have the ability to share screen for example to display certificates to the competitors and audience.
The ability to hear warning and final acoustic bells is an avenue for future research.
The feedback from the audience of approximately 50 members was very positive. In the post pandemic world, there will clearly be a need to continue to help Rostrum members improve online speaking skills. We look forward to more online competitions in 2021, and beyond.