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Making the Speech

Copyright 2005 Jumby Bay Studios
Distributed by VAT19
Total runtime: 63 minutes

Most “educational” videos seem to fall within two categories. The first are rather boring lecture based instruction. The instructional videos from the National Forensic League certainly fall into this category. The sound quality is usually awful and the video is very amateurish. Then there are the videos that fall in the Bill Nye the Science Guy category that are more about fun than learning.

Making the Speech finds that rare nice balance. The whole program is a story line where we follow the public speaking inept Stanley Reed who fell off a stage at a speech competition last year and is trying to wow the audience at winter recitation. How much more of an underdog can you rout for in this story? Much like a good speech the DVD starts out with a great attention-getter. Anyone watching this is not going to forget that the Stanley fell off the stage at the beginning of the video is the same guy who turns 180 degrees by the end of the hour thanks to his speech guru, Doug Masters. The opening scene should reel in the often short attention span of the typical high school audience on how to write a prepared speech.
The first thing that hits you is that this DVD feels very professional. The graphics are aesthetically pleasing, but not overwhelmingly gaudy. While the film is very professional it certainly isn't perfect. When I started watching the subtitles were on, which I assume is the default setting, but what was rather unusual was how different the subtitles were compared to the audio.

Unlike so many other videos Making the Speech attempts to take advantage of the DVD format. When you start the video the viewer is given the option of built in quizzes at the end of each section. The interactive element is very unique and novel, but a few questions could have used slightly better distractors. When the viewer selects a correct/wrong response they are given a short little video clip commending their learning or chastising the viewer. A few more answer video clips would be nice, but the feature is pretty neat nevertheless.

One great thing is the video has an actual plot line. Unlike many other instructional videos where the plot is contrived the dialogue in this video is actually believable.
The one important aspect of the video is that it emphasizes research of the topic. Too many people expect for the sky to open up and a speech to come to them through osmosis, but few people who are good public speakers had a great deal of natural ability. I did find the refrain only use “reputable websites” a bit simple, but you could create a another DVD just upon that subject so some vagueness of the term reputable is acceptable.

When the final day arrives for the competition Stanley seems like a new man. No longer is he “balance beam,” but he is confidant about his public speaking ability. We only see a small section of four speeches, a wishy washy speech on peace, another one on bugs, another by Stanley's implied romantic interest Julie on UNICEF, and finally Stanley's speech on protecting the rainforest. We see more of Stanley's speech than the others, but not enough to get a feel for everything he says. Nonetheless one sees enough to see a large contrast with Stanley falling off of a stage last year.

After the speech is over Stanley and Doug Masters sit in studio to recap the main things critical to writing and delivering a successful speech. While Masters emphasized what Stanley did well he gives suggestions for future improvement. I think it is good to recognize at the end that Stanley wasn't perfect, but that he did make a huge improvement. It would be a poor video if it implied that any student could go from incompetent fool falling off of a stage into a complete public speaking genius in only a week.

In addition to the optional built-in quizzes and the main video sequence there are also several segments that are referred to as Doug's Drills which emphasize several tips that weren't mentioned in the main video. I found it great that the viewer receives additional pointers on speaking in addition to the main plot line, which while fairly good for the time period seemed like it could have covered more material on public speaking. The separate “drills” most of which are no more than a minute fill in some of the holes that I think that one would want to mention. I think it would have been better were more of the pointers included in the drills had been included in the main storyline, but I think that such a criticism is a minor critique at best.

While this DVD only examines prepared speaking many of the lessons from prepared speaking can be transferred towards extemporaneous or impromptu speaking which is critical for the audience of this website. While I would like it if there were a additional disc (or optional chapter) to this package that went into how to prepare for impromptu/extemporaneous speaking I think that this DVD certainly is worthy of inclusion in any introduction to public speaking course or an introductory course in competitive forensics. Compared to the many awful instructional videos on public speaking Making the Speech is certainly a notch above the competition.