University of Maryland Extension

Maryland 4-H Public Speaking Showcase

PDF Info Guide - Read Me

What is the Maryland 4-H Public Speaking Showcase?

The COVID-19 pandemic might have cancelled programs but 4-H has not stopped. 4-H youth are still actively learning, creating, cultivating, and doing. Maryland 4-H is embracing the online virtual world by using video submissions to collect and enhance the opportunity for youth to participate in a statewide public speaking experience. 

 Highlighting their public speaking and communication skills, youth can feature their projects, community service efforts, and hobbies/interests; share their 4-H and personal stories; promote 4-H; advocate for causes, and so much more. 

 Public speaking helps members to organize and present ideas, opinions and information, in a logical and persuasive manner. It is an individual development experience engaging creativity, talents, knowledge, skills, mastery, and capabilities. Youth are building confidence in self-expression and taking responsibility for the most important skill of adult life - communication.

Parents assistance in this process will most likely be required and we appreciate all the efforts that will be made. 

Although this 4-H Showcase will not identify "winners", the primary objective is to develop strong communication skills in each 4-H member. 


All Maryland 4-Hers currently enrolled in a county/city program in 4HOnline are eligible and encouraged to participate.

Participating in a local county/city contest in 2020 (or previous years) is NOT required to participate in this showcase.


 (as of January 1, 2020):

  • Cloverbud (ages 5-7)
  • Junior (ages 8-10)
  • Intermediate (ages 11-13)
  • Senior (ages 14-18)

Categories & Time Limit


A Prepared Speech is a speech on any topic chosen by the 4-H member. Choose a topic that interests you; consider things like 4-H projects, hobbies, passions, school, community service, etc. Be creative and have fun. 


Interpretations are memorized oral interpretations or a selection of narrative in language of speaker’s choice. Interpretations consist of four categories:

  • DRAMATIC - Serious selection of narrative or dramatic literature. Monologues are acceptable.
  • MIME - Use your body to create an interpretation.
  • POETRY - Recite and interpret a poem from memory.
  • HUMOROUS - Humorous selection of narrative or literature. Cuttings may be taken from published plays/prose.


A Demonstration is a presentation where the member shows step by step how to do or make something. Some examples include: how to groom a rabbit for show, how to make a corsage, how to make balloon animals, etc. The contestant would prepare and provide/show all the supplies needed for their “how-to” demonstration. Demonstrations generally lead to a finished product (i.e. a groomed rabbit, finished corsage, balloon animal in the shape of a dog, etc.) . 


An Illustrated Talk is telling how by using visuals. You may use computer generated charts, flip charts, posters, pictures, models, cut outs, slides, chalkboards, and real objects. There is not a finished product. The key to an illustrated talk is you learn by telling; the audience learns by watching and listening. 

 An illustrated talk is similar to a demonstration except that:

  • You are not actually making something
  • You have no real finished product
  • Your visuals show what you are explaining


Public Service Announcements (PSA) are videos created to raise awareness and change public attitudes and behavior toward an issue. 4-H members who have a passion for a specific topic or cause can use this category to share their concerns. When creating a PSA it is important to include factual information to accompany any personal opinions and beliefs. 

Keep it brief. Get to the point quickly. Show how and why the issue is important to the people in your community. Underscore that the actions suggested in the PSAs are easy to take, and can advance the health and wellbeing of the community or topic concern.

PSAs can also include more than just the 4-H member; including family members into your video will be welcomed.  If you choose to include members outside of your family like club leaders or fellow members, please make sure you are doing it in a safe way. Videos can always be shared and combined using video editing software.


Get the word out about 4-H! Youth will have an opportunity to make it fun, be creative, silly and most importantly tell the audience about 4-H. It can be about their club, county or state 4-H Program. This commercial should be geared toward an audience who may not know much about 4-H.  Consider giving them facts, highlight opportunities, tell them about the best parts of 4-H, and why they should be a part of 4-H.  

Commercials can also include more than just the 4-H member; including family members into your video will be welcomed.  If you choose to include members outside of your family like club leaders or fellow members, please make sure you are doing it in a safe way. Videos can always be shared and combined using video editing software.


Spark your creativity and imagination by reciting the 4-H Pledge in a unique and creative way. Examples could include reciting it in another language, signing the pledge using American Sign Language, making it into a song, etc. 


We are not able to have our typical Extemporaneous category this year; however we would still love to give our 4-Hers the chance to speak freely. We would love to hear their answer to the following question,  “What Does 4-H Mean to You?”. Once again we are promoting creativity and the ability to speak from the heart. 


All categories will have the same time frame, to allow for the most flexibility and opportunity for creativity. We have chosen to have a three minute maximum on all submissions. This does not mean each submission needs to be 3 minutes long, instead anywhere between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. 

How to Participate

  • Choose up to two categories per 4-H member
  • Each video(s) will be uploaded in a google form specific to the 4-H member’s age division using a separate registration link
  • Video file types that can be uploaded can include MPEG4 and Mov files (if you don't know what kind your cell phone or computer takes, it's ok. Most likely it will be compatible)
  • Once you submit a video you will receive a confirmation email. This email will also contain a link to the submission, which will allow you to edit if needed. Keep this email handy.

Submission Deadline October 16th

 Links to Register





Video Creating Tips


We understand that everyone will be using a different device to capture their videos. We encourage you to practice with that device prior to taping the official submission.  Get to know your device and feel comfortable with what it can do.  Devices to consider are laptops, cell phones, iPads, tablets, digital cameras, and more. 


If you have never downloaded any photos or videos from your device before it may seem intimidating, but you can do it. The easiest suggestion is to look on YouTube for help, it has many tutorials with step-by-step instructions and visuals to get the job done.  


This year gives 4-H members the opportunity to be creative in a whole new way for public speaking using video. We know that speaking in front of a camera/device is very different than in front of a live audience. We want our 4-Hers to embrace it, be bold, think outside the box, have fun, laugh, and feel confident. 


Please introduce yourself. Tell the audience your name, what county/city 4-H program you are involved with and the title of your presentation. This is not the typical process for our public speaking contest, but with video we will not have a host introducing each speaker, so it is important that it is included as part of your presentation.  


Dress for the theme of your presentation. If your video is featuring one of your projects, wear something that is appropriate and complimentary for your project area (i.e. livestock project - wearing boots/closed-toed shoes; shooting sports - wearing your safety gear, etc.).

We encourage you to wear a 4-H t-shirt or other item featuring the 4-H clover. 


When recording a person or yourself, identifying camera placement is key because ultimately it determines what your camera will capture and at what angles. If recording close ups of people/yourself, consider having your camera raised at eye level or slightly higher, this will then avoid the dreaded “up the nose” view we sometimes see. It also allows the presenter to connect with the camera. Don’t forget to look at the lens and make eye contact; the audience wants to feel connected and they do it through your eyes. This is usually most important when the camera is close to you; the farther away the camera is the less noticeable this becomes.


If you have a tripod, this is a great tool to consider using to stabilize the camera so it does not shake. Shaking videos can be distracting. If you don’t have a tripod, consider propping your device up on a table, book shelf, or making your own tripod. 


Each camera/device has the ability to focus on the subject on the screen. Sometimes this is easily done by actually touching on the subject on the screen and allowing the device to focus on what you identified. Many devices automatically focus for you and this will not be a worry. Blurry subjects make for videos that are hard to watch and may be distracting from the important parts of the presentation. 


Lighting is important for videos as it sets the mood and illuminates the speakers. 

When indoors, avoid sitting in front of a window or a light source since this can cause silhouetting of the subject. However, natural light from windows and doors when sitting at a short distance from them can add great additional light.  Lights that are directly overhead can cause dark shadows under eyes. 

Try using lighting that is head and shoulder height and slightly at an angle, to the left or right, not directly in front of you. If sitting at a table consider putting a lamp on the table with you. Experimenting with lighting can be fun and is definitely helpful when trying to capture the video you really want. 

When outside, try to avoid full sun because it causes hard shadows on faces and often makes people squint. If you only have full sun to work with, try to find shade under trees or by buildings. An overcast or cloudy day is great for videotaping as it gives the best lighting. 

If you are taking video at night, get creative with your lighting but make sure your presenter is still visible and clear. 


For this showcase, clearly capturing the speeches and conversations is very important.  If we can not properly hear the presentation we will not be able to feature it in the showcase. We would like to share a few recommendations to consider when working with sound and background noises.

Placing the speaker close enough to the camera/device so it can clearly pick up their voice; standing too far away can make this more difficult. Using a microphone is always an option. 

When outside, obvious sounds can interfere, such as cars, dogs barking, and people talking. Wind can also be a culprit and cause unwanted noise; try to avoid a windy day or make sure your recording device is out of the wind. 

When inside, TVs, household appliances, phone ringing, and people can also cause unwanted background noises. If possible do your best to find a quiet location and remind those in the house a video is being recorded. 

If you intended to use the sounds around you to add to your video, make sure that the voice of the presenter is able to be heard over those sounds.

If you are unable to control your background noises and it causes too many distractions it may be time to reconsider your location. Hearing the presentation is the most important part.


Each device has a built in microphone but not all are the same. For example, if you are using a laptop you may need to sit closer to it to capture sound than you would using your cellphone. The only way to know is to try it out. They also make microphones built into headphones/headsets and microphones you can plug into devices. These are not required, but you may have one around the house already.


Speaking in front of a camera with no real audience is very different than what our 4-Hers were used to doing during competitions. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable, but with practice it will become more natural. Consider having family members in the background, stuffed animals or even pets for practice audiences. Nerves are natural under any pressure; don’t forget to take a breath, shake out the jitters and keep going even when errors occur. The best part about the process is that it can always be recorded again.


A good background can really help your videos, however not all of us have the ability to use the backgrounds we may want right now. If inside be aware of what is around you that may distract your viewer from looking at you and noticing what is around you. If possible sit in front of a plain wall or set up a little area that will be comfortable to present in.  When outside think about the buildings, cars, and shrubbery. The background can play an important role in your video so take advantage of using it when you can. Remember videotaping from slightly farther away helps to make sure the camera can pick up the presenter's voice. 


Props can be used for any categories. Props can include live animals, equipment, materials, posters, costumes, and other visual aids. Props should add to the presentation, not distract from it so consider the function and appropriateness of them. Be creative and have fun with your props/visual aids!


Practice recording then play it back to make sure the video has been captured the way you want it. This may work on the first try or it may take you 10 times. 

If after the 10th time the speech is struggling or the scene is just not working the way you imagined, it may be time to call it a day and try again on a new day. 

Even professional actors have off days and get nervous. Take needed breaks and make sure this process is fun. Laugh over mistakes and save them for the bloopers videos. 


The file name needs to include the 4-H member's name. Example: Chris Clover V1 (for the first video) and Chris Clover V2 (for the second video).


You are welcome to use editing software but it is not necessary. However, if you are comfortable with it then go ahead and add the bells and whistles, text, and special effects. We can’t wait to see what you will create. Just a hint, most Windows based systems have a “movie maker or video editor” installed already. Apples/Macs have “iMovie”, so this would be free software already available to you. YouTube has great tutorials on how to find  and use this kind of software. 

Windows Video Editor Software (Windows 10)

iMovie is a video editing software application developed by Apple Inc. for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS devices.


Background music can be a nice addition to any video as long as the presenter can still be heard and it is used appropriately. Copyrighted music is NOT allowed to be included in videos, so adding your favorite hit song will most likely be banned when submitted to YouTube. Choose the music wisely. One way to assure the music will be approved is to use the YouTube Audio Library, this music is already approved and free to use. 


We have worked to make this process as easy as possible using a google form to collect your information. Only video files can be uploaded. For example, MP4 or Mov files. 

As a reminder all videos should be no longer than 3 minutes long. Therefore, when uploading a video to the submission form it may take a few minutes but this will depend on the length and size of the file you are uploading.


Videos will be featured on the Maryland 4-H website,  YouTube Channel, and Facebook page. An official announcement will come out once all submissions are completed and uploaded. A 4-H Public Speaking Showcase video compilation will be created and shared. 

 Videos will become the property of Maryland 4-H and will be used for educational and promotional purposes. 

 Thank you!!

This showcase will take a lot of work by the 4-H member and in some cases their family. We would like to express a special thank you to all those who assist in holding the camera, the technical aspects, listen to the presentation for the 50th time, wash the 4-H shirt,  offer encouragement,  and give that big hug when its all finished and done. Our program is only as strong as our members and supporters and we know we have the best in the country.

Questions & Technical Assistance

 Navonne Owen, Caroline County 4-H Educator, at

 Amy Rhodes, Wicomico County 4-H Educator, at

We look forward to the amazing ideas, bursts of creativity, and unbound imaginations that will be featured in these videos!!

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