By Ashley Small
Kim Palmer is no speech amateur, but there she stood, heart racing, speech in hand and legs shaking. She worried the audience of competitors would see her heels teetering on the tile floor. Oct. 1 had a bumpy start.
When the forensics team reached South Dakota State University that morning it was told it could not do its warm-ups inside the school. Instead, the team stood outside in the frigid air, gearing up for the day.
The same cold that penetrated her body outside crept through her now as she stood in front of the classroom. The familiar nervousness she had felt during her first high school tournament returned to plague her body. Thoughts raced through her mind.
"How did they get me to do this," Palmer wondered.
Her legs shook vigorously and she felt her script tremble in her hand. Palmer was giving her first tournament speech of her college career, and it certainly would not be her last. Little did she know, she would soon qualify for nationals.
Although Palmer is only a freshman at Concordia, she has already qualified for nationals in forensics by placing in a final round in her first three tournaments for her after dinner speech.
These three placings add up to less than eight and, therefore, qualify her for nationals, according to Todd Holm, assistant director of forensics.
Palmer is one of three forensics members to qualify for nationals so far this year, according to Sarah Schwartz, fellow forensics member. The forensics coaches are not the only ones to acknowledge Palmer's achievements.
"It is obvious that she is a very talented individual," Schwartz said. "Freshmen don't typically do so well, so early."
Palmer brings enthusiasm, energy, a desire for success and a sense of camaraderie to the forensics team, Holm said.
Palmer said she found her first college tournament daunting. She had three to four solid weeks of preparation. She used her script in the first round, due to nerves but decided to go without it in the second.
"I knew I did as well as I could have," she said.
An after dinner speech is a humorous speech on a serious subject. Palmer decided on tax reform. She may have gone into the competition with reservations, but the audience reassured her with laughter.
"I was surprised people thought I was funny. It felt really good," Palmer said.
She did serious public speaking for Fairmont Minnesota High School but never thought of herself as funny. She had initial reservations when her coaches suggested doing an after dinner speech.
After the first tournament, Palmer felt like her first place victory could have been a fluke, but after receiving first place at her second tournament held Oct. 8 and 9 at Minnesota State University Moorhead, she was reassured about her speaking ability.
"In college forensics you aren't supposed to get really emotional," Palmer said, "but it was hard to keep the look of shock off my face. It was one of the best parts of my year so far."
More schools participated in her second competition, and she found reaching the final round more challenging. After she made it to the final round, she felt more at ease.
"I had a really friendly audience," she said. "It just clicked."
At the third tournament held on Oct. 16 at Minnesota State University Mankato, Palmer placed second.
She does not place so high only because of her natural ability. She also spends a lot of time working on her speeches.
Each week Palmer spends between 20 to 30 hours practicing and preparing her speeches. This time is spent in coaching appointments, researching, working in the squad room and doing memory work.
"I do something for speech everyday," she said. "I love the coaches. I like working with them a lot."
"I am very happy that her dedication and hard work has resulted in the affirmation of that work ethic," Holm said.
Palmer also enjoys spending time with the other students on the forensics team.
"After spending so much time together, they really become your social group," Palmer said.
The forensics members spend a lot of time together working on speeches at school as well as traveling for tournaments.
Palmer has had years of practice and dedication. Palmer participated in speech for four years and went to state three times for Fairmont. She says that the structure of college speech tournaments are similar to that of high school, but college tournaments have a higher level of competition. Even with a background of speech competition, Palmer found differences in college judges.
"They are more direct," Palmer said.
Palmer likes how college forensics judges give constructive criticism and tell the speaker exactly why they were ranked the way they were.
According to Palmer, one is judged more on how well the speech is written and the content of the speech than one was in high school. She says that although she respects high school judges, they would be more likely to give a high score to someone who performed well, even if his or her speech was not well-written.
Palmer had learned about the possibility for speech scholarships at Concordia and decided to compete. She was looking at Concordia because of the strong speech program established here. She really liked that the administration supported the team and allowed them to travel. After meeting the speech team and the coaches, Palmer decided that she would come to the school even if she did not receive the scholarship. She found visiting a valuable experience.
"It solidified why I wanted to go here," said Palmer.
She did receive the scholarship and in order to maintain it she must compete in four tournaments a semester. This is not a problem, since she is an active forensics member.
Palmer does not only compete with her after dinner speech. She also does impromptu, where she has seven minutes to prepare and give a speech.
"It has been one of my biggest risks," she said because it was not something she had done before.
She began to compete in communication analysis, where one takes a persuasive work and analyzes it. She also plans to compete in persuasion next semester. She is not afraid to try new things and step outside of her comfort zone, according to Holm. According to Schwartz, Palmer is down to earth.
"With all that going for her, she could be an arrogant person but she's very modest," Schwartz said. "You know that she works very hard, and she doesn't have to say it."