4-H kids compete in public speaking

4-H, Chilliwack Fair, British Columbia 4-H communications finals

The topic for this year’s 4-H public speaking provincial finals is top secret.

Pat Tonn, manager of youth development with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, a partner of the B.C. Provincial 4-H Council, knows but she was not taking any chances.

“I can’t tell you in case it leaks out,” she said to the enquiring reporter. “These kids have no idea what the topic is.”

But come Saturday the vault will be opened and the topic on the table.

Nine competitors from 4-H clubs all over B.C. will be competing in the provincial 4-H communications finals at the Chilliwack Fair.

The competitors, between the ages of 14 and 20, are the top-tiered public speakers in 4-H clubs across B.C., beating out their cohorts in club, district and regional competitions.

But what exactly does public speaking have to do with 4-H, a youth-development organization largely based on agriculture.

“Public speaking is part of the youth development and leadership building component of the program,” said Tonn. “If they’re able to tell people about agriculture or about the project they’re raising, then they’re gaining their own expertise and are also able to teach others.”

Speakers are given a topic related to agriculture awareness 45 minutes prior to presenting. The topic is common to all speakers, and they must use knowledge gained previously through the program in delivering their one- to four-minute impromptu speech.

It’s a great opportunity for speakers to think on their feet and to show off their public speaking skills, said Tonn. It’s also a great spectator’s event as well.

“The people watching, they’re going to gain information they may not have known prior,” said Tonn. “It’s just like going to a cooking show and watching a chef. You’re watching something that’s interesting and good to know.”

The public speaking competition runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The Communications Final also includes how-to demonstrations performed by teams of two. The eight- to 10-minute tutorials use public speaking and organizational skills as well as props. Teams are judged on workmanship, presentation and overall impression.

The top three from both competitions will be recognized at a 4-H banquet on Saturday night at the University of the Fraser Valley.