Speech season goes virtual


This year speech teams all across Minnesota are faced with a new challenge, online speech meets.

The Minnesota High School League decided in November to switch all things speech related (coaching, meets, activities etc.) to a virtual format.

Students are using platforms such as Zoom and SpeechWire, and most students are familiar with Zoom already but only students that have competed at bigger meets or national meets have used SpeechWire before this season.

The virtual meets have many pros and cons many people wish they could get back to seeing people, especially the head coach,

“Seeing the students perform live, interacting with both students and other coaches – virtually everything!,” Cotter head coach Amy French said.

The national team at Cotter had their first meet last Friday and it went pretty well.

“The first meet ran very smoothly.  We had a number of students break to semi-finals nationally – so that was amazing.  And those who did not – were close and had great feedback – so it was a success from that standpoint as well.  Of course there were some minor technology bumps – but nothing detrimental.  We learned a lot about the importance of camera position, and background, which we are now passing along to our speakers.” Coach French said.

“I think the season will go well for our speakers.  We are ahead of the curve regarding technology and understanding issues – and our team has a lot of talent returning, and a ton of new talent who joined this year.  Given the use of zoom since the pandemic – students are fairly comfortable on line already,” French added.

This  virtual performance method is new to many people and works differently with each meet.

“I think virtually this is an advantage to large meets – which gives more students access to better judging.  I don’t believe the smaller meets are at a disadvantage, but now we can access more quality judging across the State at larger meets – without the travel.”French said.

Grace Miller, one of the Cotter Speech team’s senior captains, attended her first meet as a senior.

“My first meet went well! The online experience is very different than in person, but I’m thankful for the opportunity. Speech getting canceled last year was a tough blow, and it feels good to be back. This being my last season is bitter sweet. I’ll miss competing, but I’m excited to take the skills speech has given me into the next chapter of my life,” Miller said.

From a speaker’s standpoint I agree that the virtual meets give more advantage at the bigger meets. It should go just the same with smaller meets, but at the smaller meets there are more younger speakers and older judges so it may cause issues for them.

There are some advantages to virtual meets from the speakers point of view. The virtual meets are better in some ways. They are better because team members don’t have to get up as early in the morning and travel to where the meet is. Even though there is some good in it there are way more negative outcomes, we don’t get to see our friends or other speakers and we don’t get to experience the meet environment.

There may be some hope on the horizon.

“It’s exciting to see vaccinations starting to happen this week.  I truly have no idea what will happen – and I’m planning for both ways of presentation.  This virtual mode also teaches important speech considerations students will learn, but I definitely miss in person…and am hopeful it will return sooner than later…but time will tell,”  Coach French said.