4-H Public Speaking Contest Draws Concerns Amid Decreasing Participation

7 children participated in a 4-H public speaking competition, sparking worries about declining interest in the event.

Concerns Arise as 4-H Public Speaking Contest Sees Decline in Participation

Seven children bravely took the stage last Sunday for a 4-H public speaking competition that some fear is losing its luster. While the event didn't attract a massive audience this season, parents of the participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity it provides to hone communication skills in a rapidly changing world.

The 4-H public speaking contest is no walk in the park. It challenges students to craft and deliver a well-prepared or impromptu speech within a set time frame. The topics are diverse, and competitors can choose between a prepared speech or an extemporaneous one.

The Reader's Guide

This year, the speeches were evaluated by esteemed individuals such as Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler, Cole County EMS Chief Eric Hoy, Jefferson City Police Chief Eric Wilde, and State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter. These judges bring a wealth of experience to the table and understand the importance of effective communication in today's society.

Why Public Speaking Skills Still Matter

In a world dominated by smartphones and social media, face-to-face communication seems to be on the decline, and that's where public speaking competitions like these come into play. Parents like Matt Klumper recognize the significance of equipping their children with essential skills that go beyond texting and emojis.

Klumper's daughter, Emma, admitted feeling nervous before taking the stage. "I'm not scared to do it, I'm scared to mess up," she confessed. Despite her apprehension, Emma dedicated two hours to practicing her speech on the morning of the event.

According to Klumper, today's youth rely heavily on digital communication methods, which may hinder their ability to express themselves effectively in person. He emphasized the importance of fostering face-to-face interactions and improving communication skills among younger generations.

Struggles with Declining Participation

The 4-H public speaking event is facing challenges in attracting new participants. This year, only seven students took part in the competition, a significant drop from the 20 participants four years ago. Of the seven speakers, only two were returning participants, while the rest were new to the event.

Tim Riley, the superintendent of the 4-H public speaking competition, expressed concerns about the decreasing numbers of participants. He highlighted the importance of engaging new generations and ensuring that essential life skills are passed down through programs like 4-H.

Riley also mentioned that the organization is actively seeking volunteers to support its initiatives. With a shifting focus towards project-specific activities and declining community club participation, there is a growing need for dedicated individuals to guide and mentor young participants.

The Future of Public Speaking in 4-H

Despite the challenges faced by the 4-H public speaking program, there are efforts underway to revitalize and expand its reach. Riley envisions attracting more homeschool students to the organization and hiring a specialized instructor to enhance communication skills among participants.

Additional funding from agricultural extension services could further bolster these efforts. This year saw increased state funding for agricultural extension services, including 4-H programs, signaling a commitment to supporting valuable initiatives like public speaking competitions.

As the landscape of communication continues to evolve, programs like 4-H play a crucial role in equipping young individuals with the necessary skills to succeed in various aspects of life. Public speaking may be considered a lost art by some, but its impact on personal and professional development cannot be underestimated.