Farm Progress

FFA Corner: Here’s my story of how FFA helped me develop public speaking skills.

November 28, 2018

3 Min Read
SPEAK UP! Savannah Bordner honed her speaking skills until she won the FFA state public speaking contest and competed at the national level. She attended Carroll@Flora High School.

By Savannah Bordner

In the fifth grade, I ran to be student council president. The election process required all candidates to give a speech on stage in front of the entire fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classes, and I was terrified.

As I walked up to the microphone, holding my speech, I could see that every eye in that room was on me. I vividly remember watching the paper shake from nerves as I read my speech in front of over 100 people. If you would have told fifth-grade Savannah about the opportunities public speaking in FFA would afford her, she would have thought you were crazy.

But as a freshman in FFA, I decided I was going to conquer my fears of public speaking. I signed up to compete in the career development event Freshman Prepared Public Speaking, and I was determined to do well. After much consideration and collaboration with my dad, I decided on my speech topic: “Drones in Agriculture.”

I looked for every way possible to make this speech amazing. I researched the topic and asked for advice from a couple of my mentors. The best advice I ever received was to find a way to talk to experts on the subject and go the extra mile to include their words somewhere in my speech.

I took this advice to heart, and while I was researching, I came across an article that talked about a professor at Purdue University and his research on how we can use drones as farmers and agriculturalists. I ended up setting up an interview with him, where he gave me a wealth of information which gave my speech credibility. In the end, my work paid off, and I placed fourth in the state for Freshman Prepared Public Speaking.

For the next two years, I struggled to find a topic that could top my speech freshman year, and as my senior year rolled around, I set my sights on the ultimate goal: winning state in Prepared Public Speaking.

I soon decided that I would write my speech, titled “Agroterrorism,” about what the risks and implications would be if a terrorist were to attack the agricultural industry. My ag teacher and I were able to set up a phone interview with the veterinarian for the FBI, which was incredible. After enduring six FBI agents revising my speech, reciting it countless times, and making it to the state competition, I finally accomplished my goal and was named state winner in Prepared Public Speaking.

The icing on the cake was that I then got the chance to compete at the national level. As I sat in the holding room waiting to compete at National FFA Convention this past October, I couldn’t help but be thankful. Thankful for my family, mentors and FFA advisors for pushing me to reach my full potential. Thankful for the connections public speaking allowed me to make.

But most of all I am thankful for the memorable journey along the way, and that FFA taught me confidence and the ability to speak in front of people. That, more than any plaque, was the true prize I received for competing.

Bordner is Indiana FFA’s 2018-19 northern region vice president.

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