George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason’s speech team talks a winning game

April 13, 2016   /   by Michele McDonald

Mason's Forensics Team placed third in the 2016 American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament held last week. It is the 27th time in the team's 45 years history that it has finished in the top five nationally. Photo courtesy of Peter Pober.

It’s easy to talk up the George Mason University Forensics Team. The wins alone are bragging rights.

At this month’s 2016 American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament, Mason students placed third in the nation as a team, marking the 27th time in the team’s 45-year history that is has finished in the top five nationally.

But there’s more. Mason advanced 35 speeches and performances into the tournament’s elimination rounds, a team record. Mason is one of only two teams in the nation to advance students into elimination rounds for all 11 events.

Nathan Leys, a junior from Iowa who’s a Mason Scholar, won the national championship in Impromptu Speaking. Mason senior, Molly Hoke from West Virginia, was among the 17 national All-Americans awarded in the nation.

Nearly all of the 26-member Mason Forensics Team comes from states other than Virginia. Many join the team without former experience, just desire, ability and drive, said Peter Pober, the team’s director.

“We’re a family,” he said. “There’s generous and genuine support.”

Mason students who aren’t team members can draw upon that support when they’re preparing a presentation for class or simply have to speak in front of people. In “Speech Lab,” Forensics Team members help students draft, revise and present speeches. Students can book time by emailing gmspeech@gmu.edu or by signing up at George Mason Speech Lab - Appointment Scheduling.

In forensics, there are three basic categories of speeches. Limited preparation features “extemporaneous” and “impromptu,” which is an exercise in thinking on your feet. Prose, poetry, and all literature-based performances are part of oral interpretation. All platform speeches such as “persuasive” and “informative” belong to the category of public address.

The far-ranging topical nature of forensics means competitors are always in the know. They need to be up to date on current events because speeches draw upon timely information, Pober said.

Persuasive arguments can change how people think. “There’s a genuine sense of how to make the world a better place,” Pober said.

About one-third of Mason’s speech team members become lawyers but many are scholars, medical doctors and more.

“You name it and they’re doing it,” he said.

Here are Pober’s top five tips for how to give a winning speech:

  • Pick a topic you’re passionate about.
  • Be willing to show heart and moments of vulnerability that make people believe you.
  • Make sure your audience understands why you chose the topic.
  • Revise––know changes must be made.
  • Take criticism from coaches and peers.