Speech contest focuses on role of social media in personal relationships

 The UConn Communication Society presents Speak Up!, its fifth annual public speaking competition on the positive and negative impacts of social media Mon., Apr. 9, 2018 in the Student Union Theater from 6-8 pm.(Natalija Marosz/The Daily Campus)

The UConn Communication Society presents Speak Up!, its fifth annual public speaking competition on the positive and negative impacts of social media Mon., Apr. 9, 2018 in the Student Union Theater from 6-8 pm.(Natalija Marosz/The Daily Campus)

Five contestants competed Monday night in the UConn Communication Society’s fifth annual public speaking competition, hosted in the Student Union theater. The contestants presented a prepared speech, participated in a question and answer round and finally answered an impromptu speech prompt, all based on this year’s theme of social media.

Eighth semester communications student Christine Martin won the competition, earning herself a fancy trophy as well as scholarship money. Martin took the early stance that quality in our relationships is better than the quantity social media has to offer us in the first round, which asked how social media influences personal relationships.

Contestants fell on both sides of the issue, arguing both for the pros and cons of social media in our lives today, providing not only different perspectives on the issue, but also presenting with different styles of public speaking.

“I think it’s interesting to see the different ways people can be effective speakers,” fourth semester marketing student Haley Reierson said, comparing contestants Sam Huang, a second semester business student and Carl Marvin Louis, an eighth semester communications major. Louis’ style was much more conversational, with more audience interaction, whereas Huang’s was more polished and factual.

The final round was also of particular interest to the audience. For the third and final round the contestants were given a brand new prompt and asked to formulate a four-minute speech during the 10-minute intermission. The topic was how artificial intelligence will affect human relationships in the future, and if it can ever act as a substitute.

Answers varied from a more technical description of how AI works, from Huang, who studies Management Information Systems, to more generalized answers that referenced pop culture stories of robots taking over the world, as from contestant Yoshua Goodman, a fourth semester pre-veterinary pathobiology and animal science student.

“One contestant talked about benefits AI has for medicine,” Reierson said. “It was interesting to hear about AI as being applicable in beneficial ways that aren’t scary or trivial.”

Event organizer and eighth semester communications student Jessica DeVitto also commented on how the third round was really something the audience seemed to respond to, which she attributed in part to the way it connected to a specific major, as Huang demonstrated.

DeVitto also explained how the contestants were selected.

“They sent in a video of a prompt speech, and we filtered through it and picked the five people we think did the best,” DeVitto said. The five contestants, Martin, Huang, Louis, Goodman and fourth semester allied health student Emily Waddington, were selected from a pool of roughly 20 applicants.

Communications Professor Rory McGloin hosted the event along with eighth semester communications and journalism student Grace Gagnon, who introduced contestants and kept things moving. This included hosting a trivia contest to win Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards during the intermission.

The judges of the evening were associate professor in communications Amanda Denes, WFSB-TV anchor and reporter Caitlin Nuclo, and NBC political reporter Max Reiss. They gave contestants feedback directly after their participation in each round and decided the winners: Martin in first, Waddington in second and Huang in third.


Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.