UM Competition Helps Students Hone Art of Public Speaking

Annual Speaker's Edge competition set for Jan. 10-11

OXFORD, Miss. – Public speaking may be the No. 1 fear of most people, but University of Mississippi students learn to conquer those fears during Speaker’s Edge, a transformative public speaking competition.

Students in the Master of Business Administration program spend 10 days working with world-class communication coaches, studying the skills of high-impact public speaking. They learn the strengths and weaknesses of their own personal styles and learn to adapt their messages to different audiences and different situations.

The program culminates in a two-day competition, set for Jan. 10-11, 2013, where students present three different presentations before a panel of judges comprised of industry business leaders.

“Speaker’s Edge teaches the value of the spoken word – personally and professionally – and gives students the confidence and ability to enter a greater, global conversation,” said JoAnn Edwards, director of forensics at the university’s Lott Leadership Institute.

Speaker’s Edge has been a hallmark of the MBA curriculum and is in its 10th year, and last year the competition expanded to include students from the Center for Manufacturing Excellence. The CME program brings together the schools of Engineering, Business Administration and Accountancy to provide students with technical skills involved in successful manufacturing along with an understanding of accounting, communication, human resources, leadership, management and marketing.

The intense-yet-fun competition recognizes that communication is a vital part of the business world and includes a six-to-eight minute informative speech showcasing the student’s ability to communicate technically complex information to a non-technical audience; a six-to-eight minute marketplace pitch, in which students share their best business ideas for a product or service with industry leaders; and a limited preparation “ethical dilemma,” for which they have 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech.

The MBA competition is cohosted by the School of Business Administration, Lott Leadership Institute and Extreme Arts and Sciences. The CME competition is co-hosted by CME, the Lott Leadership Institute and Extreme Arts and Sciences.

The MBA students receive three hours of credit, and it is required for graduation.

Just as important as the students who are trying to out-talk their peers are the judges who decide if they’ve done a good job from a competitive perspective. Last year, 60 judges from across the country witnessed the energy of Speaker’s Edge, which gives students an opportunity to network across the industries and become better professionals.

Past judges have included Dottie Berry, vice president for strategy planning and analysis at FedEx Services; Bill Chiles, president and CEO of Bristow Group Inc.; and Bill Andrews, director of marketing communications for Viking Range. Professionals interesting in judging can fill out an online form.