The Communication Studies Speech Competition, formerly named IUPUI’s Speech Night Competition, is a prestigious event that has occurred annually since the 1970s. This competition provides Fundamentals of Speech Communication (COMM R-110) students the opportunity to experience the best principles of oral communication and persuasion in action, highlighting the importance of speaking well and judging wisely. These competitions take place at the end of every fall and spring semester, giving students in R-110 the opportunity to compete with the skills they have gained from their course. This competition has been held in IUPUI’s classrooms, Lecture Halls, Campus Center, and Hine Hall Theatre, as well as the Madame Walker Theatre, the Scottish Rite Cathedral, and the Murat Theatre/Old National Centre.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21, the event transitioned to an online platform and was streamed virtually so students could participate safely. Videos of past competitions are available on the Communication Studies Speech Competition playlist.
There are many sections of R110, totaling hundreds of students. Students representing their sections in the Speech Competition must go through three rigorous stages to narrow down students to the event’s winner and finalists.
Communication faculty have proudly watched students who participated in the Speech Competition become leaders in business, academics, industry, media, government, and more. They demonstrate expertise in effective oral communication. Many past winners have shared stories of their experiences and of the impact it had on their lives. They have gone on to serve in numerous roles, such as nurses with incredible communication skills; pharmaceutical representatives who help communicate with surgeons to give medications during surgeries; pastors and priests of large churches; IUPUI Commencement Speakers; leaders in corporations; and much more. One speech night winner won the competition, taught R110 six years later, and had students win first place two years in a row! Another winner even met the love of his life in his speech course. The Communication Studies Speech Competition t has left a lasting impression on the winners’ lives, giving them speaking skills they continued to utilize as they progressed in their lives. Their stories continue to inspire students today.
Communication Studies Speech Competition, formerly known as Speech Night contains the best of the best, and the speeches over the years have proven this. Many social dilemmas have threatened Americans since the 1970s, and Speech Competition speeches touch upon many of these topics. The speeches are delivered with Monroe’s Motivated Sequence in a Question of Policy persuasive speech. As brought into R110 from a Purdue researcher, the Monroe’s strategy focuses on identifying a need, satisfaction of it, visualization of the benefits from that plan, and an action step for the audience. This organizational pattern has allowed speakers to address many important issues.
Over the years, there have also been a variety of forms of entertainment at the competition while votes are tallied. IUPUI’s own dance troops and acapella groups have performed for the audience; professors have provided such entertainment as comedy routines or skits. There have also been videos made by the Speaker’s Lab, such as an Office parody video shown during the intermission.
The first competition was in the fall of 1971, and was directed by Dr. Bruce Wagener, one of the founding members and the first chair of what became the Department of Communication Studies. He gave much to the department, including spearheading the Speech Night competition when he directed the Fundamentals of Speech Communication course. Though he is no longer with us, a scholarship, the Burns/Wagener Communication Studies Scholarship, is offered to students who continue to pursue communication courses after R110. This scholarship recognizes an outstanding student majoring in Communication Studies and enrolled in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.
Over the years, many leaders who shaped R110 worked to continue the tradition. Those from various leadership roles – including Jennifer Cochrane, Kate Thedwall, Mike Polites, Stephen LeBeau, Jan DeWester, Jaime Hamilton, Desirae Masterson, Angela Sisson, Ian Sheeler, and Steven Overbey – followed in Dr. Wagener’s footsteps, teaching R110 courses themselves and keeping this competition on its feet. They kept the history intact and allowed this competition to stay alive and well for over 100 competitions.
The Speaker’s Lab also serves a key role in the formation of speech competition event. Student mentors have offered support in various ways, including aiding students in R110 courses, reviewing competition outlines, and shepherding contestants, attendees, and dignitaries engaged in the competition. Mentors have shouldered many responsibilities in support of R110 leadership, ensuring everything runs smoothly for the many involved in this prestigious event.