How to win a blue ribbon from Tony Dahlman: The importance of summaries

My sister and I have both had the opportunity to judge 4-H demonstrations at the Minnesota State Fair, so after a round of judging we often like to talk about the ribbon placings of our groups. Almost jokingly I will tell her about how a demonstrator was weak in a couple areas but “they had a summary poster”. “So you gave him a blue?” she will reply.

I have long considered 4-H demonstrations to be the start of my public speaking career. From the age of 8 to 19 I would put together a demonstration on some aspect of the food and nutrition project for the Wright County Fair in Howard Lake, MN and later in my 4-H tenure, the Minnesota State Fair in Falcon Heights, MN.

My mother, whose training in 4-H demonstrations is completely responsible for my success, ingrained in me from the beginning the importance of the summary poster. It generally was just a simple piece of poster board with three words (usually some combination of fun, nutritious, historical, and cost-effective) at the beginning of the conclusion. I didn’t realize at the time how important the summary poster is.

So why do I give so much credit to the summary poster in demonstrations that I judge?

  • A summary poster means you actually have a conclusion. Even though most of us have been rigorously drilled on the structure of introduction, body, conclusion, it is amazing how many demonstrations and speeches in general that miss either the intro or the conclusion.
  • A summary poster means you actually had points. It is very easy, especially when you are talking about or demonstrating a 4-H project, to just ramble on for many minutes. A summary poster shows that the demonstration was divided into a few easy to remember points that are easier for the audience to remember.
  • A summary poster generally indicates enough diversity in the presentation to indicate their was real learning. One of the important parts of a 4-H demonstration is that it shows what the member has learned in their 4-H project. Because of the summary I can see very clearly what areas they have been able to learn in their project.

Even if we rarely give presentations with poster board visual aids any more, the summary poster is a good reminder of how important it is to review your information during the conclusion of your speech. And if you want to earn a blue or purple from me, I strongly recommend that a summary poster be a part of a part of your presentation.

Image credit: Feasting on Art, 2011

Question: At what age did you start public speaking?

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One comment on “How to win a blue ribbon from Tony Dahlman: The importance of summaries
  1. […] is the first day of the Minnesota State Fair, and as I have mentioned previously, one of my favorite aspects of the fair is that I get to help judge 4-H […]

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