Speech and Interview Information


Speech Scoresheet Adobe Acrobat Reader Required

Description of the Event:

Students are asked to present a prepared speech of three and half to four minutes long and perform a minute and a half to two minute impromptu speech.

Prepared Speech Information

Instruction to Students

(This information may be presented at an orientation meeting, or provided in written form prior to the contest.)

You will report to your assigned Speech room where you will stay for approximately eight minutes. Upon arrival in the room, tell the judges your name and ID number and give them adequate time to register this information on their evaluation forms.

At the signal from the timekeeper to begin, you will present the 4-minute prepared speech.

Rules and guidelines to keep in mind are:

1.     You may use note cards.

2.     The speech may not be read.

3.     You must deliver the speech from a standing position without a lectern.

4.     The speech must be your original work and may have only been used this year.

5.     No props may be used in your presentation.

6.     Your school should not be identified in any manner, informal conversation, speech 
        content, apparel or insignia (corsages, ribbons, buttons, etc.).

7.     Your speech must be no less than 3-1/2 nor more than 4 minutes in length.

To assist you in compliance with this rule, the following timing procedure will be followed:

The timer will say Begin.

After you have spoken three minutes, the timer will show a card with one. That, of course, is the time you have remaining. When you have spoken another 30 seconds, the timekeeper will hold up a card indicating 1/2. (At this point, you will have reached the minimum time limit of your speech.) When you have spoken four minutes, the timekeeper will hold up the 0 card, but will not say STOP.  If your speech is shorter than 3-1/2 minutes or longer than 4 minutes, you will receive a 70 point penalty from your total score.

Impromptu Speaking

The judging chairperson will hand you a card that contains three topics. Upon receipt of the card, you will be given one minute prior to the speech for mental preparation of one of the topics. On a signal from the timekeeper, you will begin speaking for a period of two minutes.

The timing procedure you can expect is this:

When you receive the topic card, the timekeeper will say Begin. When you have used your one-minute deliberation period, the timekeeper will say Stop; then immediately the timekeeper will signal you to begin speaking by saying Begin. After one minute, the timer will hold up the 1 card. After 1-1/2 minutes, you will see the 1/2 card, and at the end of 2 minutes, you will see the 0 card. The timer will not say Stop when you have used your 2 minutes.

Pace yourself carefully in delivering the impromptu speech. If your speech is shorter than 1-1/2 minutes or longer than 2 minutes, you will receive a 30 point penalty from your total score.

Rules and guidelines for the Impromptu speech are:

1.     The speech must be given while standing.

2.     Notes may be used on 3x5 cards only.

3.     The speech should last between 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.

Total for impromptu speaking is 300 points.

At the conclusion of your impromptu speech, you will leave the speech room and return to your team's assigned meeting area.

Timing is an important factor in your speech score. You will be penalized 10 points (or 100 from your total score) if your prepared speech is over or under time.

Total points for the prepared speech is 700.

 Impromptu Criteria

The students will be scored on their ability to do the following:

1.     Organize ideas in a clear and logical pattern that is appropriate for the speaker's
        purpose and is convincing to the audience.

2.     Express ideas using effective vocabulary and the structures of the English language   
        appropriate to formal usage.

3.     Present a physical image that aids the audience in the acceptance of the spoken

4.     Use pitch, volume, and flexibility to establish and maintain maximum attention.

In addition, the speech will be judged on the following:

a.     Ideas, originality of thought, and sense of value.

b.     Overall impression.

 Impromptu Prompts Used at the 2009 Maine Academic Decathlon State Competition.

 How to Judge a Speech


Speech Development is the way the speaker puts ideas together so the audience can understand them. The speech is structured around a purpose, and this structure must include an opening, body and conclusion. A good speech immediately engages the audience's attention and then moves forward toward a significant conclusion. This development of the speech structure is supported by relevant examples and illustrations, facts and figures, delivered with such smoothness they blend into the framework of the speech to present the audience with a unified whole.

Effectiveness is measured in part by the audience's reception of the speech, but a large part is your subjective judgment of how the speech came across. You should ask yourself such questions as "Was I able to determine the speaker's purpose?" "Did the speech relate directly to that purpose?" "Was the audience's interest held by the speaker?" "Was this subject appropriate for the particular audience?"

Speech Value justifies the act of speaking. The speaker has a responsibility to say something meaningful and original to the audience. The listeners should feel the speaker has made a contribution to their thinking. The ideas should be important ones, although this does not preclude a humorous presentation.


Physical presentation of a speech carries part of the responsibility for effective communication. The speaker's appearance should reinforce the speech, whether profound, sad, humorous, or instructional. Body language should support points through gestures, expressions, and body positioning.

Voice is the sound that carries the message. It should be flexible, moving from one pitch level to another for emphasis, and should have a variety of rate and volume. A good voice can be clearly heard and the words easily understood.

Manner is the indirect revelation of the speaker's real self as the speech is delivered. The speaker should speak with enthusiasm and assurance, showing interest in the audience and confidence in their reactions.


Appropriateness of language refers to the choice of words that relate to the speech purpose and to the particular audience hearing the speech. Language should promote clear understanding of thoughts and should fit the occasion precisely.

Correctness of language insures attention will be directed toward what the speaker says, not how it is said. Proper use of grammar and correct pronunciation will show the speaker is the master of the words being used.



Description of the Event:

Students go through a seven minute interview with a panel of judges that mirrors an interview that one goes through for employment.

 Interview Scoresheet Adobe Acrobat Reader Required

 Interview Directions

An interview has two primary functions - to give information and to get information. In the framework of the Decathlon, most of the interviewing process will be devoted to your "getting" information from the students. It is important the interviews are objective, consistently uniform, and all students have the same opportunity to express themselves in this competition.

Remember the students are likely to be a little nervous and apprehensive. Create an atmosphere that is as relaxed and informal as possible. The goal is to provide a setting that is conducive to the students performing to the best of his/her ability.

It is the intent to pattern the interview after the guidelines that apply to an employment interview situation. Employment inquiries must be job related. The intent is to keep the interview process as "contest related" as possible.

The students will be judged on their ability to do the following:

1.     Informally and orally present ideas appropriate to the problems being considered.

2.     Listen to the ideas of others, evaluate them, and adjust their responses accordingly.

3.     Establish and maintain rapport with members of a conversational group through
        voice, gesture, and attitudinal posture.

4.     Use voice, vocabulary, and language structures appropriate to informal oral

Conduct of the Interview

1.     Do no ask any questions regarding race, creed, ethnic groups, national origin or
        ancestry, political beliefs, affiliations, mutual acquaintances, student's school, or 
        any questions that can be construed as same.

2.     Do be alert to help the students relax and talk if you sense any apprehension.

3.     After the student leaves the room, rate the student on the rating sheets you will be 
        provided. It is distracting to the student to rate while he or she is speaking. 
        (You may make notes during the interview for rating the student but keep it to a

4.     Do be an "active" listener. Listen not only to what is being said but observe how it is
        said, i.e., tone of voice, vocabulary, facial expression, gestures, etc.

5.     Avoid controversy in the interview. Arguing, interrupting or displaying authority will
        put the student on the defensive.

6.     Do ask open-ended questions, i.e. questions that cannot be answered by a "yes" or
        "no." Certain words facilitate open-ended responses while others encourage the
        opposite result.

Open Closed
What Is
When Do
How Has
Who Can
Where Will
Which Shall

7.     Seven (7) minutes are allotted for the actual interview. Instructions for timer are on
        Interview Room Assignment sheet.

8.     Do not ask the student the name of his/her school or any information that would
        indicate the school and/or district.

 Sample Topics for Interview Questions

The question(s) asked of the students MUST be based on the topics listed below.

1.     Selecting a college or university.

2.     Selecting a field of study in college or identifying a career employment goal.

3.     Individual and team preparation for the Decathlon. (Includes how the individual 
        and school became interested and/or involved.)

4.     Values that have strongly influenced the student's life.

5.     Most difficult event in the Decathlon.

6.     Most influential person in student's life.

 Sample Open-Ended Questions

Tell me about your involvement in . . . . . . .

What are some of your most memorable experiences as . . . . . . .

How did your involvement in . . . . .influence you?

What skills are necessary to be on the . . . .(sports, Model UN, etc.)?

What factors did you consider in selecting a college?

Why did you select (college or profession)?

What are (were) your responsibilities as . . . . .?

How would you go about choosing a career (college, job, etc.)?

What made you decide to be on the Decathlon team?

Tell me about your experiences in . . . . . . .

Who is or has been the most influential person in your life, and why?

How were you selected for the Academic Decathlon team from your school?

What was the selection process?

As questions beginning with what, why, how, where, tell me, explain, give some examples. Ask questions that will generate a response and help the student talk about himself/herself. Refrain from asking questions that will elicit a single word such as yes, no.

The interview experience should assist students in learning to present themselves in a positive manner when interviewing for a job, scholarship, or any competitive position. It should also give them the experience of learning to listen and respond in an appropriate manner.

The objective of the program is to give students opportunities to develop oral communication skills.

Timer Instructions

In addition to your duties as a Speech Judge, we would appreciate you serving as the Official Timer of the speeches in your room. It might help you to know that the timing of the speeches has traditionally been the most troublesome area in the Decathlon. Your assistance in ensuring precision is greatly appreciated!

1.     Students should arrive precisely at the designated time. If they do not, check with the
        Rotation Official and ask the process be accelerated.

2.     Speeches should begin within 30 seconds of the time the student arrives.

3.     Hold up the flash cards when students have one minute, half of a minute, and 
        0 minutes left for both prepared and impromptu speeches.

4.     Make sure the Chairperson gives the impromptu topics to the student immediately
        after the prepared speech. Begin timing when he/she begins reading. Allow one 
        minute for preparation; then ask the student to begin. Allow two minutes for his/her

5.     The student must be promptly dismissed. If not enough time remains to review your
        scoring, you will have 30 minutes between sessions.

6.     If you get a wrong student, allow him/her to do his/her speech and discuss it with
        your Rotation Official later.  You are in charge on all timing matters.

7.     REMEMBER: If you get off schedule and take too much time, you may be penalizing
        a student in the completion of a written exam.