Future Business Leaders of America is an organization designed to enhance business skills in students seeking careers in business fields and as business professionals. FBLA offers a variety of activities supporting this goal, including rigorous competitions that measure core competencies in competitors. Public Speaking (I and II) may be considered among the most intimidating competition opportunities, but there are a few tips and tricks competitors may consider building into their presentations.

FBLA Public Speaking Basics

An organized plan is the best plan, and the mark of a truly effective businessperson. Before jumping into presentation preparation mode, gather some information that will make creating a strong presentation less intimidating. An FBLA Public Speaking 1 competitor is a ninth- or 10th-grader and should present a speech between three-and-a-half and four minutes long. A Public Speaking II competitor is in 11th or 12th grade and has a four-and-a-half-to-five minute speech time limit. Speakers can use note cards, but visual aids are prohibited.

Selecting a Topic

Do a little research before choosing a topic. Judges usually favor speech topics that address a current issue because that demonstrates a fundamental understanding of business and shows that you follow your intended area of interest. Make every effort to learn everything you can about this topic; you may be called on to elaborate or defend your viewpoint at some point, and you don't want to be caught unprepared.

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Putting Pen to Paper

As you go through your research, take note of interesting facts and powerful quotes, and be sure to incorporate them into your speech. These tidbits can make or break the quality of content. Write out your speech as you would a research paper with an introduction. First, introduce your topic with something that demands attention, such as a story or impressive facts. Next, identify yourself and the FBLA chapter you represent. Move into three or four supporting paragraphs, and finish with a compelling conclusion. Use strong descriptive terms when possible. Don't be afraid to show off your business vocabulary comprehension, but make sure the points you are presenting aren't lost in the language. When you've finished, make several copies and hunt down a few proofreaders. Your FBLA adviser, a parent and your English teacher are all good support sources!

Practice Makes Perfect

When your speech is prepared, read it aloud a few times to make sure you've written your ideas the way you want to present them. Next, identify your best delivery strategy. If you aren't comfortable with attempting to memorize your entire speech, at least commit to memorizing the introduction and conclusion. These two segments have the information that will stick with the judges when it comes to scoring. Make brief notes on your prompt cards instead of writing whole sentences, and number their order in case you drop one. Ask different people to be your audience, and ask for their feedback after you've made your speech for them. Make sure to ask them to use a stopwatch so you can monitor your timing. It's also a good idea to practice your speech in the clothing you plan to wear so that you'll know what to expect out of your sweater!

Speech! Speech!

Even the most practiced public speakers feel the butterflies when it's time to approach a podium, so don't psych yourself out. Take a few deep breaths and remember that you are well prepared. When it's time to begin, be sure to maintain eye contact with your judges as much as possible. Build in a little low-key choreography to up your chances of making a good impression; take a few steps, pause for emphasis, use hand gestures accordingly and relay the feeling of your statements with your facial expressions. Most of all, enjoy your impressive opportunity, have fun and pat yourself on the back for your hard work and bravery. You've earned it!

About the Author

Erin O. Smith works with a nonprofit organization to promote leadership development and skill-building in children and teens. Her professional background includes child care and development, building program curricula and event planning. Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and communications.