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Public Speaking

More than $15,000 in cash prizes are awarded each year in the Hamilton Public Speaking Competition.

2021 Winners

2021 Winners Announcement

The McKinney Prize

Class of 2021

Aurora Cai, “Do Not Let Your Uniqueness Mute You”

Class of 2022

Abbie Wolff, “Mark Zuckerberg Wants You to Keep Scrolling: The Real Value of Your Screen Time”

Class of 2023/2024

Eric Moss,  “The .1%”

The Clark Prize

Lily Delle-Levine, “Time for Change: Social Media as Social Action”

The Warren E. Wright Prize 

Jay Menner, “Who Was Alexander Hamilton?"

Rules/Guidelines for the 2021 competition

  • All presentations will take place via Zoom and will be recorded.
  • Preliminary rounds will be recorded without judges present; speakers will present to a small number of fellow competitors, who may be competing for different prizes.
  • Final rounds will be recorded with the judges present on the Zoom call.
  • Final rounds will be advertised and open to the campus and public.
  • Students may be on campus or remote as long as they are enrolled in Hamilton College classes for the current semester.

Preparing to be Recorded

You will not be judged on the quality of your video itself. However, you should take some steps to ensure that you are presenting yourself well and reducing potential distractions. As with all speaking, practice, practice, practice! Try recording yourself practicing in the same set-up you hope to use, so you can make tweaks before your preliminary round.

  • You should use as neutral of a background as possible. No background items should be visible that could be construed as a prop.
  • You may not use props, PowerPoint, or other aids, including in the form of clothing. 
  • You should take care to reduce background noise as well as potential interference with the recording from fans or other moving objects. Don’t forget to hang a sign on your door asking not to be disturbed.
  • Shirts with stripes or busy designs may be distracting on the camera. When in doubt, simple designs or solid colors are preferable. Please do not wear a baseball cap or other brimmed hat as they create shadows.
  • Cameras should be positioned so that the audience can see from approximately your navel to the top of your head. Your head should be in the top third of the screen. The camera itself should be positioned at approximately your eye level so that you are not distorted and the audience isn’t looking up your nose. You may need to stack some books to raise your laptop up to a better height. You can find more examples of framing a video here.
  • Keep in mind that gestures may be less visible than in person and so you should take care to gesture such that the audience can see.
  • Look into the camera, not at the screen. Looking into the camera will create the appearance that you are looking at your audience.
  • You may choose to be seated (as long as the camera is still capturing enough of you) though standing tends to be better for the voice. If you are seated, be aware of inadvertent movement from rolling/spinning chairs.
  • If you have an external microphone, use it. Either way, make sure you check your input volume before you record, including checking it from wherever you plan to stand or sit. 
  • You should be well lit so the quality of your video is not degraded. At minimum, make sure you do not have a significant light source behind you (e.g., your back to a window which makes you into just a silhouette). If you can put a light above and behind your web camera, it will cast light on your face without introducing substantial shadows and be a useful supplement to overhead lighting. 
  • You will be introduced to the judges (whether in preliminary or final round) so unless it is a part of the content of the speech, you do not need to introduce yourself.
  • For the preliminary round, you are expected to be present and on camera for the duration of your session so you can serve as an audience member for the other speakers. You will not actually appear in the recording other than during your speaking time. 
  • In the event of a technical glitch (e.g., wifi cutting out), you will be permitted to start over once.


Contact Information

Amy Gaffney

Oral Communication Center Director
Kirner-Johnson 222
315-859-4401 oralcomm@hamilton.edu


Feb 8 – May 18

S 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.

M 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

T 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

W 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

T 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

F 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

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