This past weekend, I had the pleasure of serving as a “celebrity judge” for the 36th annual Laird Lewis Invitational Speech Competition in Charlotte, NC. This large scale forensics tournament featured over 500 students from 44 high schools across 10 states. Contestants entered in one of several categories: Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, Dramatic Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Original Oratory, and so on. The judging pool for the tournament supplies judges for all preliminary and semifinal rounds, but the tournament invited “celebrity judges” to judge for the finals. My event was Radio Speaking.

Radio Speaking is the only event area during which the judges do not see the contestants as they perform. Instead, the speakers sit behind or outside the line of sight of the judges so that we simply hear the radio show. The students participating were excellent. In the final round, contestants drew pre-selected items from a hat: a on-site broadcast location (like a history museum), a breaking news story (like a nearby shooting), and a product endorsement (like laser hair removal). Using these three items, they must prepare a 3 minute radio broadcast on the spot. They must fit everything in, but their time limit (as in radio) is extremely constrained: 2 minutes 55 seconds to 3 minutes 5 seconds was a successful broadcast. Anything else was dead air or overtime and counted as a disqualification.

As a celebrity judge, I tried to give excellent feedback to all the contestants and I labored over how to rank the contestants, but most of all, I was very impressed by the quality of the students and their public speaking abilities. It reminded me of my Model UN days back at Spartan High.

The other celebrity judge for the Radio Speaking event was Jeff Campbell, the morning anchor for WCNC, the Charlotte NBC affiliate. He is perhaps more of a celebrity than I, but I think I signed more autographs for all of my adoring fans

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