Two minutes, any topic; students compete in public speaking event at U of U

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SALT LAKE CITY -- More than 200 students at the University of Utah took part in a unique speech competition, and students had two minutes to speak on any topic—with a chance to win thousands of dollars.

The Hinckley Institute of Politics at the U of U hosted the speech competition, and director Kirk Jowers said public speaking is something that is important but often inspires fear.

“The fear of public speaking is the single biggest fear, even more than death or spiders, and yet it's so important for students to be able to communicate in front of big groups,” he said.

U of U student Kirt Manwaring said the scope of the competition is broad.

“You have to give a two minute speech about, really any topic you wanna talk about,” Manwaring said.

Justin Spangler, Student Body President at the U of U, said there were monetary prizes for various categories of the competition.

“$5,000 is the grand prize for just the best speech in the house,” he said. “Then there's a $1,000 prize for five categories: humor, originality, informative, audience favorite, and compelling.”

The topics varied, but Jowers said some students chose to speak on personal topics, including the death of their parents, on-campus rape and others.

“We have students sharing the worst thing that’s ever happened to them,” he said.

Other topics were humorous or informative or political in nature, like talks on global warming or war in Iraq. In the end, six people went home with money--but organizers said everyone went home wiser.

“Learning how to speak succinctly, but also effectively, is so critical,” Manwaring said.