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Photo courtesy of Whitney Shaw. College of the Desert public speaking students participate in first virtual speech tournament. Students presented their speeches to communication faculty on Dec. 4, 2020 all online.

Students participate in college’s first virtual speech tournament

December 14, 2020

On Dec. 4, 2020, the College of the Desert Department of Communication Studies hosted its first-ever virtual speech tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions. Seventeen students from introductory public speaking courses presented informative speeches to several communication studies faculty.

We have a speech tournament on campus every semester. Unfortunately, we did not have a tournament for the spring 2020 semester because of the transition to distance learning.

— Whitney Shaw, associate professor of communication and tournament director

The speech tournament is an event that happens every semester at COD since 2015. Usually, students compete in the communication building on the Palm Desert campus. It is an event that the students look forward to every year.

Whitney Shaw, an associate professor of communication and tournament director said, “The college speech tournament is usually an all-day event with a pizza lunch provided for students. The tournament is usually something that we look forward to every semester, seeing our students buzzing in the hallways with excitement on the tournament day.”

After missing the tournament last spring, Shaw said they were excited to offer this event virtually for their students. “It just shows that we can still connect with our students outside of the classroom, even during this time of distance learning,” said Shaw.

There were three winners of the competition. Analise Torres won $150 for first place. Jasmine Castaneda received $100 for second place, and the third-place winner Grace Germaine was given $75. There were three finalists, including Nicole Renteria, Sergiu Rue-Ionita and Octavio Leyva, who all received $50 each.

Torres a communication major, said, “I have never done this before, I was very nervous, but this nervousness was a little more intense because of the competition aspect of it. I was excited to share my speech, but I was excited as well to listen to other speeches.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many places have been shut down, including all College of the Desert’s campuses. Most classes, meetings, interviews and any activities that involve speaking to someone are through a Zoom meeting. The tournament was held similarly, all virtual.

“We have a speech tournament on campus every semester. Unfortunately, we did not have a tournament for the spring 2020 semester because of the transition to distance learning,” said Shaw.

With the risk of a connection disruption, or any online technical failures, the tournament went on. Shaw found a tournament software from, a program that collegiate forensics teams use for their virtual tournaments this year.

The tournament was held in an online format with the software 8×8. “The hardest step was learning how to operate this new software,” said Shaw, “and how it would function for our specific tournament. We are so happy that the software made this tournament run smoothly and helped us connect our students to such an amazing opportunity to get a glimpse into what it is like to participate on a collegiate forensics team.”

A panel of three judges determined the winners and finalists of this competition. Torres said, “All my classes this semester are communication courses which have allowed me to incorporate what I have learned in preparation for the tournament.” Being a communication major might have given her the advantage she needed to surpass her competitors.

The requirements needed for this event were an informative speech that was about 5-10 minutes in length, a presentation with three or more sources with citations that aim to teach the audience about a particular topic.

For any student that may be interested in competing next year, Shaw said, “The communication studies department makes this tournament available to all our introductory public speaking courses towards the end of every semester. We post all of the information about the tournament on”

If students want to know more about how to enter the tournament for spring, visit

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