Updated: April 5, 2024
By Rachel Bayer , Sara Arnold , Sheryl Bennett , and Chris Rein

FS-1135  |  2020

Public Speaking-Making a Great Speech

Are you terrified of public speaking? Public speaking is one of the top fears of adults in the United States. It is also one of the best life skills you can gain during your time in 4-H. Participating in our public speaking contest is a great way to practice this skill and be recognized for your hard work.

You can compete in four public speaking categories in Maryland 4-H:

  • Prepared speeches
  • Radio spots
  • Extemporaneous speeches
  • Interpretation

You may choose to compete in one, two, three, or all four categories.

For each category, a county can have a champion and reserve champion for the junior, intermediate, and senior categories. County champions are eligible to compete in the Maryland 4-H State Public Speaking Contest held on Maryland Day (the last Saturday in April) each year in College Park, MD.

County champions can only compete in one category at the state competition. If the champion is not able to compete in a given category, the reserve champion is eligible to compete.

Once an individual has won a category at the state level, they can no longer compete in that same age division category at the state level again.

The following pages contain an overview of the various public speaking categories and requirements, worksheets to help you prepare for each presentation type, and a public speaking tips page.

You can also find the scoresheets and public speaking contest rules at the end of this document.

Speech Category Description Speech Length Can Judges Ask Questions? Can Use Notes? Can Use Props/ Costumes?
Prepared A speech that should be prepared and practiced prior to the contest on a specific topic. Juniors: 3 to 5 minutes

Intermediates and Seniors: 4 to 6 minutes
Yes Yes, as many as needed.

Give copy of script to judges at the end of the presentation.
Radio Spots This speech is meant to “sell” 4-H and must be an original creation that can contain music or sound effects played during your presentation. 30 seconds No Can read directly from script.

Give copy of script to judges at end of presentation.
Extemporaneous A speech that is prepared on the day of the competition based on topic chosen from three options. Junior and Intermediates: 2 to 3 minutes (30 minutes to prepare)

Seniors: 3 to 5 minutes (15 minutes to prepare)
Yes Up to both sides of two 5 x 8 notecards. No
Interpretation This is a performance from a play, poem, or books excerpt (no television shows, movies, or unpublished sources) and may be in a different language. Junior: 1.5 to 3 minutes

Intermediate: 2 to 4 minutes

Senior: 3 to 5 minutes
Yes No. The performance must be memorized.

Give copy of script to judges at end of presentation.

No visual aids like PowerPoint presentation.

Public Speaking Worksheet: Prepared Speeches

Topic: Should be something that interests you or a current hot topic.

My topic Is:__________________________

Example Topics

  • Who is your role model?
  • Why do people try to change each other?
  • What is one of your favorite 4 H memories?
  • If you were in the Olympics what event would you compete in and why
  • The best vacation in the world is…..

Speech Layout: The speech should have an introduction, body and conclusion.

Introduction: Introduces the topic, main points, and should be attention getting.

Attention getter: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

State the topic: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Preview main points: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Body: This makes up the bulk of your speech and should include two to four major points to support your topic.

Major point (with supporting facts): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Major point (with supporting facts): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Major point (with supporting facts): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Major point (with supporting facts): ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Conclusion: Should signal the close of the speech, reinforce main points, and have a strong ending.

Closing statement: _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Finish Strong!

Strong endings can be a brief story, example, or a quote. You can also encourage the audience to take action on what you discussed. You may also want to thank t he judges and audience for their time.

Adapted from: 4-H Public Speaking Handbook. (2003) The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved from: https://extension.psu.edu/programs/4-h/members/projects-resources/communicationarts/general/4HPubSpeakersHB.pdf/view

Public Speaking Worksheet: Radio Spots


What is your theme and attention getter? How are you “selling” 4-H?_______________________________________________________________________

Create Interest:

Why should the audience be interested in 4-H?________________________________________________________________________________________

Develop Desire:

Now that they are interested in 4-H, how will you create desire, or intention to act?____________________________________________________________


What action should they take?_____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sound Effects or Music:

What and when – in the opening, closing, or during? How will you play it?___________________________________________________________________


Adapted from: Thomspons, S., Stockall, S., and Scharf, S. (n.d.), How to Prepare a 4-H Public Service Announcement. University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Retrieved from: https://4h.unl.edu/documents/PSA.pdf

Public Speaking Worksheet: Preparing for Extemporaneous

While you cannot prepare in advance for your extemporaneous speech, below are some suggestions for how to approach writing your speech once you have selected a topic. Remember, the foundation of any good speech is having an introduction, main body with major points that are supported with details, and a strong conclusion. See the prepared speeches worksheet for more details on how to prepare a speech.

Extemporaneous Speech Preparation Suggestions:

  • You will select from three topics for your speech. Pick the one that you feel strongest about and on which you have the most to say.
  • Upon selecting your topic, write down the major points you want to make to the judges. Each major point should have two or three supporting statements.
  • Once you have developed three to four major points, develop your introduction and conclusion. For the introduction, come up with one or two catchy points. For the conclusion, quickly recap your major points and come up with a strong ending.
  • You will receive time warnings as you speak. If you notice you only have one minute left but have not finished, you can quickly remove one or more of your remaining major points and move on to your conclusion.

Public Speaking Worksheet: Interpretation


Select a section from a book, poem, play or other published work (remember, no TV or movies).

My selection is:_____________________________
From: _____________________________________
Authored by:______________________________


What props or costumes do you need to ensure a successful performance? Props can include things like hats, costumes, a bouquet of flowers, or any object that is important to your piece that helps tell the story. Remember that props should be items you can easily handle for your performance.

Props I need are: ___________________________________________


Be prepared to introduce yourself as well as the scene or excerpt you are reading and the author. You will need to memorize your performance, both the words and any movements you will do.


My introduction will say:______________________________________

How to Choose?

Make sure your selected scene or excerpt is of the right length for your performance time. You may want to choose a scene that makes sense by itself, has sufficient action and drama, and only has one or two speakers.

Interpretation Speech Suggestions

  • Avoid having too many or big gestures.
  • Break down your performance into chunks to memorize, then put it all together.
  • Practice, practice, practice!
  • Don’t let nervousness make you forget your hard work. Take a deep breath, then begin.
  • If you make a mistake, that’s okay. Just keep moving forward.

Sections: Key points, or chunks of text for memorizing your words:
Chunk 1: ____________________________________________________________________
Chunk 2: ____________________________________________________________________
Chunk 3: ____________________________________________________________________

My movements and gestures will include:___________________________________________________________________________________________

Public Speaking Tips

Adapted from: 4-H Public Speaking Handbook. (2003) The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved from: https://extension.psu.edu/programs/4-h/members projects-resources/communicationarts/general/4HPubSpeakersHB.pdf/view

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