I’ve been reading a lot lately… as in I just read a fantasy trilogy that is 2,000+ pages in just over a week.  (Yes, I’m insane.)  It’s easy to get lost in a world that exists only in your head.  You just turn the page and turn the page and turn the page until… well, until there are no more pages.

Books have been very important to me as I’ve adjusted to my new job.  They’ve given me the chance to step out of my position and into someone else’s shoes.  You see, I’m so tired of feeling physical stress coursing through my body.  I’m tired of not knowing what my duties are because I’m only half trained and have no supervisor.  I’m tired of dreading Monday.  I’m tired of being pessimistic and crabby.  These things aren’t ME.

Adjusting to changes takes time.  I’m on my way, but not quite there yet.  Hey–at least I’m no longer bursting into tears over my breakfast cereal.

One of the best pieces of career advice I’ve ever received was from one of my professors while studying abroad.  She was a quirky little Irish lady with spring-like brown curls and I adored her class.  One day, while in her office getting help on a paper, she said: “It’s okay to not know what you want to do.  The important thing is finding out what you DON’T want to do and go from there.”  (For her, the number one thing to avoid were jobs that required hair nets.)

With this in mind, my new job is very illuminating.  In addition to all the professional skills I’m developing, I’m learning a lot about what I don’t want in a job.  I don’t want to be in an office alone–I need a job where other people are involved.  I don’t want to work in a Chamber of Commerce.  I don’t want to own a business.  I don’t want to do anything that involves finances.  I want a job where I report to a boss, receive proper training, and am given clear expectations.  I want a job with structure–with a checklist of tasks and responsibilities, with a set start and end time.

My mom is starting to ride me about figuring out what to do next.  Which doesn’t do much for my stress load.  I genuinely want to move on.  But I feel like I’m not free to do that until we find a new Executive Director… which could take some time.

So I lose myself in the pages of books.  I spend my evenings in someone else’s mind.  I breathe in, breathe out, and wait for the day I’m adjusted enough that I no longer need to escape.

I’ll get there someday.

23 insights into judging speech

Speech kids, listen up.

I was on the Speech team all four years of high school.  Now that I’m graduated and well into my college years, part of me has held onto my Speech kid background.  How?  I moved from a competitor to a judge.  Instead of being the person talking to walls, I’m the lady with the folder that everyone fears.  When I enter the room, the chatter immediately hushes and the air brims with awkwardness.  As I scribble on critique sheets, I can almost hear the speaker’s thoughts: “Oh gosh, she’s writing.  Why is she writing?  She hates it.  She’s going to give me a terrible score.  Oh gosh.  Why did I think this was a good idea?”

Frankly, I love judging.  It’s all the perks of high school speech with more down time, no stress, and (best of all) FREE HOMEMADE FOOD.  Not to mention the fact that I get paid to do what I love.

Speech judges don a particular mindset when walking into rounds.  Consider this a glimpse of that mindset: a sneak-peek into what’s going on in our minds as we scribble away on your critique sheets.  Keep what I say in mind next time you’re at a speech meet–you never know when it could help!

So… here we go.

  1. Judges want to like you.
  2. Negative critiques do not mean your speech was bad!  It just means there’s room for improvement.
  3. We want you to improve!  We want to see you push your performance to be the very possible best!
  4. First impressions are everything.  Within the first minute of your speech, we pretty much already have you placed.  So make a good first impression.
  5. Speak with energy!  Be bold and confident–if you look like you are excited about what you are speaking about, we will be too!
  6. Don’t hold your script in front of your face.
  7. If you’re in a performance category, utilize characters.  Please.
  8. In addition to the above, make your characters as over-the-top as you can.  There’s nothing worse than flat characters.  Make them dynamic!  Even if it’s uncomfortable and you look ridiculous, GO BIG!
  9. If you’re in Prose, stop being in Prose.
  10. If you really have your heart set on being in Prose, please pick something innovative.  If I have to sit through another selection from The Lovely Bones or A Child Called It, I’m going to punch someone in the face.  (Okay, I’m  hyperbolizing a bit.  But still.  Do something original.)
  11. Also, Prose kids–that weird calm, soothing tone you all adapt during narrative portions of your speech?  Don’t do it.  You all sound exactly the same and it makes it hard to tell you all apart.
  12. Negative critiques do not mean we hate you.  They mean that we want you to improve!  We are trying to be helpful!
  13. If you’re in Great Speeches, PLEASE use a rhetorical method more original than Aristotle’s stylistic proofs.  I’m sick of hearing about ethos, pathos, and logos.
  14. Other cool rhetorical methods include Bitzer’s Rhetorical Situation, Metaphorical, Feminist, etc.  Do your research.  There’s so many cool ones to choose from!  (And no, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is NOT a rhetorical model.  So don’t use it.)
  15. Also, while on the subject of rhetorical models… please use them correctly!
  16. If you’re in Info, don’t do your speech on a disease.  It’s so boring.  And, please, don’t explain at the end that a family member suffers from said disease.  Yes, this sounds awful.  But it doesn’t further the informativeness of your speech and just makes it cheesy.
  17. If you’re going to pick a stupid, unoriginal topic in Info, be creative about it.  I once saw a girl do a speech on flowers and she talked about how they were used in ancient cultures and it was super interesting!
  18. Poetry kids–for goodness sake, pick something good.  None of this sappy contemporary nonsense.  Let’s see some Tennyson!  Bring out the Whitman!
  19. If you’re in Creative, make sure your script is well written AND well-performed.  You can do an amazing performance, but if the script sucks, you’re screwed.  And vice versa–if your script is amazing, but you can’t pull it off, you’re not going to do well.  Balance is key.
  20. Please, please, please DO NOT TALK BETWEEN SPEECHES.  Or eat.  Or text.  Or make weird noises.  Or do anything that isn’t sitting quietly and patiently.  Between speeches, we judges are trying to gather our thoughts and give last-minute comments.  Don’t be distracting.  It’s really annoying.
  21. Don’t sass the judge–especially when their back is turned.  Contrary to what you may think, we CAN hear you and we hold the power.  We can (and might) dock your score for rudeness.
  22. If we rip your piece to shreds on your critique sheet, it’s only because we care about you and want to push you to be the very best!
  23. Speech is fun.  SO HAVE FUN!

Also, if you think awards ceremonies are boring now… wait until you become a judge.  They’re ten times worse.