The Public Speaking Colloquium provides a spotlight for some of Bryant’s best public speakers to share stories and ideas that are important to them. Now in its ninth year, the Colloquium helps students cultivate their communication talents while gaining insights from mentors and supportive peers.
Communication Lecturer Susan Baran, a founder and longtime coordinator of the Colloquium, believes the skills students develop and practice through the competition will be assets throughout their lives. “One thing we know is critical for both their personal and professional lives is their ability to communicate,” she says. “Employers are struggling to find people who can communicate effectively and the Public Speaking Colloquium can help students enhance that skill.”
“This kind of competition gives our students an edge,” she says. “I’ve had students tell me that, when they went out applying for jobs, one of the first things employers asked them about was the Public Speaking Colloquium.”
"Employers are struggling to find people who can communicate effectively. The Public Speaking Colloquium can help students enhance that skill."
The Colloquium draws around 50 participants each year from both the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Business. In the preliminary round, each competitor writes and delivers a three-minute speech on a topic of their choosing, ranging from personal reflections to meditations on national issues. Six finalists are chosen to deliver a second five-minute presentation before a panel of judges and a packed audience of their peers.
The competition allows students to test their speechwriting and presenting skills in front of a supportive community. Everyone who competes receives constructive criticism from the judges, who have included faculty members, community leaders, professional speakers, and returning alumni. "Even though it’s a competition, the Public Speaking Colloquium is not about judging students, or being critical of them,” says Baran. "It’s about helping them do their best. Every single one of them will walk away with some great pointers, specific to them, that they can take with them into their professional futures."
An empowering competition
José F. Batista ’11, who twice participated in the Colloquium and has returned to campus several times as a judge, is a firm believer in the program’s benefits. "Public speaking is one of the skills that is relevant in every professional background, whether you are employed in academia, business, government, humanities, sports, or elsewhere," he says. "For that reason, it is so important to have a competition like the Colloquium, which empowers students to try something new and become more effective public speakers."
The 2018 colloquium was hosted by Mike Cronin '11, a news anchor and reporter for WMUR-TV in New Hampshire, who also took part in the competition as an undergrad. "Bryant helped to shape and mold me into who I am professionally," the Communication major says. "It doesn’t matter what kind of work you go into, you’re going to be communicating with people. Opportunities to practice speaking in front of a group like this are priceless.”
Elizabeth Oluokun ’18, a Communication and Management double major, took home this year’s top honor with an impassioned speech about how difficult circumstances can leave lasting wounds. She drew from her experiences of homelessness while growing up and called attention to the challenges faced by the 1.36 million high school students and 470,000 college students who are currently homeless in the United States.