Every spring, Communication Studies offers a select group of students the opportunity to take the stage at the Public Speaking Student Showcase. The showcase highlights outstanding students in Fundamentals of Speech, a required course for all Stout students.
“It’s also a celebration of what Communication Studies does and what we offer to our students," explained Professor Richard Schutta, host of the event.
The showcase is judged by a panel selected by Professor Schutta and a planning committee. The panel consists of a Menomonie community member, a campus community member, and someone with a background in communication studies.
This year’s judges were Mayor Randy Knaack, Associate Vice Chancellor Glendali Rodriguez and graduating senior Kylie Anderson.
On April 17, four students stood in front of the judging panel and a large audience at Harvey Hall’s University Theatre.
Four students nominated for the showcase
Students are nominated by Fundamentals of Speech course instructors. This year’s speakers were Stephanie Howell, Jordyn Danielson, Gabrielle Grzona and Elsbeth Bandli.
Howell, nominated by Professor Susan Collie, was surprised to be selected for the showcase.
“It felt really great to be nominated,” Howell said. “I didn't see it coming at all, so it felt really good.”
Danielson was nominated by Jennifer Sansfacon, Assistant Professor of Theatre. She was selected for her friendly, conversational style in her presentations.
“I only had a short introduction speech and Jordyn’s informative speech to base my decision on,” explained Professor Sansfacon. “I saw a lot of improvements from her first to her second speech. I could tell Jordyn was a hard worker who would benefit from this kind of experience and really shine.”
Professor Schutta nominated Grzona and Bandli. He felt they were good representations of the type of speakers Communication Studies wanted to highlight.
“They had the basics: eye contact, the nonverbal and gestures, and interesting topics,” Professor Schutta said. “For me, it is just a situation of ‘I know it when I see and hear it’. Gabrielle and Elsbeth were prepared with their speeches to such a point that was showcase ready.”
How to be “Showcase Ready”
Choosing your topic
Stephanie Howell, an Industrial Design major, wanted to find how to make the emotion of joy a tangible item. She discovered Joyful Design was an unknown realm to many designers, including her professors.
“I think when giving a speech, you should pick a topic you care about,” Howell said. “Because on this platform, people have to listen to you. And educating people about Joyful Design just felt right.”
In her speech “Design of Joy,” Howell offered insight and imagery to answer her question. Joy becomes tangible in design through color, form, and shapes. These concepts affect our emotions and stir memories.
Howell had previous experience in public speaking. She was in Toastmasters and theatre productions in high school. Howell gave her speech with ease. Even though Howell admits she didn’t realize the showcase was a competition until an hour before taking the stage.
Just go for it
When Professor Sansfacon nominated Danielson to be in the showcase, Danielson said she very surprised. She never imagined herself speaking in front of a large audience.
“Are you sure you have the right speech?” Danielson asked Professor Sansfacon.
Danielson, a Human Development and Family Studies major, grew up playing sports. She had never set foot on stage before.
“It was a new scene to be on stage instead of a field!” admitted Danielson. “But I told myself to just go for it.”
Danielson's speech was “The Importance of Intergenerational Relationships.” She emphasized the value of younger people building relationships with elders in their community.
Even in her research, Danielson went beyond her usual methods. She observed an older couple at a local café and built up the courage to approach them, asking for advice on her topic.
“I sat at their table for a little over an hour and a half until closing time,” Danielson said. “We talked about their stories and life advice.”
Danielson followed her own advice from her speech and her attitude to go for it. She was honored to talk with new people and gain a new friendship.
Practice, practice, practice
This is the advice given by Dietetics major Gabrielle Grzona. Grzona focused on how the diet impacts the body in “The DASH Diet.”
Grzona had previous knowledge of the DASH Diet from a former presentation. She expanded on her topic for her speech, digging deeper into her research. Being familiar with her topic helped, but practice attributed to her nomination.
“Since I had practiced my speech many times to give it in class, it made preparing for the showcase much easier,” explained Grzona.
In the week leading up to the event, Grzona practiced her speech two times every night. Never having given a speech in front of an audience before, Grzona admitted she was a little nervous.
“By the time I got up in front of the audience at the actual event, I was able to deliver the speech much more confidently,” Grzona said. “My nerves did not stop me from doing the best I could.”
Try to be you
The final speaker at the showcase was Elsbeth Bandli. Bandli participated in forensics during high school. She learned the best thing to do when speaking in front of an audience is to truly be yourself.
“Knowing the facts and citations for a speech is important,” Bandli said. “Connecting those points through speaking like yourself makes for a great speech.”
Bandli’s speech, “Why is the Mona Lisa so Famous?” focused on the artist Leonardo da Vinci, his popularity and his techniques. And how the press boosted Mona Lisa’s popularity.
“As an Art Education major, part of my role is to teach students about art history and how it applies to their lives,” explained Bandli. “I like to keep in mind how my speech will come across to my intended audience and find how to relate to them.”
Bandli practiced her voice and tone on stage while remaining true to herself. Her comfortable confidence in front of an audience will benefit her in her future teaching career.
After Bandli gave the final speech, Mayor Knaack offered advice to the presenters.
“Pick a chair or pick a person in your audience to focus on,” Knaack said. “Deliver your speech how you’d want to hear it. Also, try to grab something the audience can relate to. Try to find their interests to hold their attention.”
Graduating seniors Kylie Anderson and Kelly Irish were welcomed to the stage. They said their Communication Studies minor gave them critical thinking, public speaking, and interpersonal skills needed to communicate their ideas.
“With the theory and practice it gave me, I feel ready to speak to anyone in the real world after graduation,” Anderson said.
Final results and the future
With the judges’ votes tallied, Professor Schutta announced the showcase winner. The Participation Award was given to Danielson. Howell received third place and Grzona second place. Bandli won first place at the showcase.
“The judges commented on how I positively engaged with the audience,” reflected Bandli. “This really stood out to me because I believe engaging with others is what public speaking is all about.”
Professor Schutta plans to make the Public Speaking Student Showcase a premier campus event. He wants to encourage more student participation and begin a larger marketing campaign.
“I want to start spreading the word around campus sooner and get the event noticed by the community,” Professor Schutta said. “I want to go BIG with this event! I want to continue to get big-name judges to participate. Having the Mayor is incredibly special.”
Future showcases may include a preliminary round of student speakers. Top-voted students would take part in the main event.