The Chairman's Presentation - Use of Rhetoric

Hey CD,

I’ve worked on my team’s Chairman’s Submission for the past two years, and I just wanted to share an albeit opinionated list of simple** suggestions** or recommendations (not hard-and-fast rules) regarding the Presentation which have been gleaned from mentors, parents, and other students I’ve come to know.

All of the following suggestions are based off of this one assumption: From an English teacher standpoint, the basis of the whole Chairman’s Submission is forming a cogent argument designed to persuade your audience. Therefore, one should skillfully employ rhetoric in all aspects of their Submission, especially in the Presentation.

The Probably-Should-Do’s:

  • Repetition: By repeating a key phrase in a manner not heavy-handed, the phrase gains power in meaning.
  • Personal Story: The Executive Summaries are for numbers, the Essay is for detailed account of your past few seasons, and the Presentation is the personal expose of what you want the judges to remember. Make the speakers tie a story into the outreach initiatives you mention.
  • **Varied Speaking Order: **Persons A through C introduce the topic, and then give input on each talking point thereafter to give the Presentation a conversational feel. (i.e. A speaks, then B, back to A, then C adds detail, then B wraps up and transitions to the next topic)
  • Metaphor: When there’s a solid and truthfully meaningful metaphor, it makes the judges go “Ah, I get it.” (i.e. Mentoring a team is like teaching your kid or your little cousin how to ride a bike or tie their shoes. You get to inform them of something beautiful or educational that they are totally gonna benefit from later on)

The Probably-Shouldn’t-Do’s:

  • Apophasis: a fancy word which means “saying something by stating that you will not mention it”. Personally, it comes off as sort of weird or awkward when you tell someone you’re not going to mention something and then proceed to do so in the same breath.
  • Pushing the Metaphor/Theme: Themes are like thesis statements for your Presentation and they set the tone for the rest of the conversation with the judges, but typically, themes do break down at a certain point, so don’t act out a play or perform a skit which takes up half your Presentation time. The judges want to hear what cool outreach stuffs you’ve done, so just tell them!
  • Making Your Minced Words Heard: It’s absolutely normal to mispronounce a word or forget what you’re saying, but the judges don’t have the script memorized. Whatever you tell them is not going to be noticed as incorrect or misspoken, so continue speaking and don’t inform the others in the room that you said “initiative” poorly.
  • Casual v. Uptight: Don’t be 100% lax or 100% legalistic because being casual and professional are not mutually exclusive. If you’ve failed to prepare, then that’s too casual and bad for your image. If you’ve memorized exactly when to breathe and when to pronounce every single word, then you sound like you left your personality at the pit when you walked in the room. In short, be comfortable, but don’t overstay your welcome.

My hope is that this will be able to help anyone who’s going through the Presentation practicing right now on their own team, so good luck to anyone reading!

A musical joke to add to this discussion…
A violinist walking down the street in New York stopped a stranger and asked “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The stranger replied “Practice, practice, practice!”
Words to live by for Chairman’s presenters.

When practicing and speaking, slow down to half-speed or three-quarter-speed. Yes, it is awkward for you (the speaker), but this makes your speech clear for the listener instead of one long word.

Thanks for posting these points. They are well thought out and very helpful. It is easy to get caught up in the minutiae when writing the essay, etc. I really appreciate how you delineated what level of information should be communicated where.

Yes! I can speak to this as an FLL judge. We know you have a lot to say and a limited time to share it. But if you speak to fast our mind doesn’t really have time to process the information you are trying to give us… we are just trying to decipher the words that you are speaking.

A retired coach at my high school would always speak at a cadence which was slow enough for you to want to listen. He shared to my class that it was important to treat the words you say with the same level of importance as the words you enjoy listening.

Plus, speaking slow makes awkward phrasing either more apparent (which allows you to cut out what is unnecessary) or less noticeable (which gives you the room to correctly enunciate).

I completely agree on the metaphor/theme front. Personally, I try to steer my Chairman’s team away from an over-arching theme, as it usually just gets distracting for judges. If you have enough content, let it speak for itself. I definitely agree with the repetition of key-phrases. Our Essay really pushed our collaborative efforts for sustainability, and that’s something we carried into our presentation as well, with each speaker subtly slipping it in.

As for the presentation speaking order, I think it may be one of those aspects of the presentation that work well for some teams and not so much for others. For the last two years, we had the allotted 7 minutes split up for our 3 different speakers. Person A spoke about an array of topics for about 2:15, Person B for about 2:15, and Person 3 does their bit and wraps it up with a strong, impactful conclusion. I would also urge every team to NOT script their presentation. You should be able to convey your genuine passion for what your team has done, and too often, that is lost in translation.