Speech and Debate Team’s “Speak Week” teaches the importance of public speaking

Shravani Page | Staff Writer

73% of the population suffers from speech anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. To combat this, Mason’s Speech and Debate teams is hosting their own “Speak Week.”

From July 22 to July 26, the Mason High School Speech and Debate Team hosted their annual “Speak Week” camp as to teach kids about the importance of public speaking and raise funds for the team. The team’s annual “Speak Week” event hosted at William Mason High School was created to help kids come out of their comfort zone and increase their public speaking skills. 

From playing a simple game of “two truths and a lie” to “one-word story,” the members of the camp focused on forming connections and becoming comfortable speaking in front of people they’ve never met before. After some ice breakers, the speech portion of the camp settled down to discuss the multiple components of a good speech and discussed its structure. 

Although debate is centered a lot around creating cases and finding different ways to present them, a large part of what they work on is confidence. The entire class is involved in discussions as they think and process through the cases as a whole. Campers were taught how to write their cases, and also present portions of them. They learn how important it is to be confident when speaking and how to properly address their topics. 

As “Speak Week” came to a close with a tournament, the campers got to show off their new skills in front of experienced members, who served as “judges” during the rounds. 

One of the team’s advisors, Tim Young, participated in Speech and Debate while in high school. He discusses the importance of expressing your voice and how the camp can correlate to that. He includes that Speech and Debate helped him make improvements as a public speaker which made a difference in his life.

 “The thing that I love about this camp, is it really pushes you to kind of step outside of your boundaries,” Young said. “You know, giving a speech in front a group of people is kind of natural for me now. So just practice makes perfect. Just keep doing it.

One of the speech teachers, Arjun Narang, talked about his past and how the camp helped him grow.

 “I was a very shy kid,” Narang said. “I definitely say to try stepping out of your comfort zone. Just taking that first step can definitely lead to great things.” 

Senior Shriya Penmetsa, a leader of the club, said many kids today struggle with confidence.

 “They’re really intelligent,” Penmetsa said. “There isn’t a shortage of that, but it’s they come up in front of people, and then everything kind of just goes away,”

She included the idea that the kids have a lot to say and how the camp is designed to work on more than just writing, but also on getting the kids out of their comfort zone.

The team’s Junior Captain and debater, Tony Liu, mentioned the idea of breaking down barriers and how public speaking can be applied to many aspects of life.  

“It’s about communicating a message in a concise manner everyone understands in a way that is interesting and gets your point across,” Liu said. “You’re never stupid for expressing your opinion and expressing your beliefs for being the smartest in the room.” 

Although many individuals do struggle with speech anxiety, these campers learned this is something they can overcome. From debating on global issues to presenting speeches, “Speak Week 2019” was an opportunity for students to grow upon their speaking skills. As Liu said “if you have something to say, think about it. Make sure it’s important and say it because really, I mean, that’s all that matters.”

Photos by Kaelyn Rodrigues.