Speaker’s Edge Competition Helps Develop Career-Relevant Skills

MBA student Holloway Byrd (left) receives a check from Katherine Anderson as the overall winner of the 2023 Speaker’s Edge competition. Byrd ranked him #1 in both the Ethical Dilemma and Market Pitch categories.Photo by Ashley Magee

OXFORD, Mississippi – Costco as a minimarket, remote work tech, virtual passports and artificial intelligence in the food industry are among the topics covered at the 19th annual Speaker’s Edge competition held at the University of Mississippi.

Business, accounting, and law students tackled a variety of issues at the annual Public Speaking Contest, held January 12-13 at the Jackson Avenue Center. This year’s competition was attended by 85 judges and his 12 consultants. It is co-organized by the University’s Department of Business Administration, Patterson Accounting Department, Trent Lott Leadership Institute, Writing and Rhetoric Department, Outreach and Continuing Education Departments.

Holloway Byrd, an MBA student from Jackson, Tennessee, was declared the overall winner and was awarded a $1,000 check by Katherine Anderson.

“Speaker’s Edge has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my academic career,” Byrd says. “This contest not only gave him the opportunity to hone his speaking skills, but it also showed him that taking risks can pay off big.

“I was very nervous about the final, but I decided to take the chance and do my best, because I knew that if I didn’t try, I would regret it. I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who gave it to me.”

Byrd placed first in both the Ethical Dilemma and Market Pitch categories.

“This year’s Speaker’s Edge competition was outstanding and an exciting opportunity to meet in person,” said Ken Cyree, Dean of the Business School. “However, we also continue to recognize the importance of video communication and allow dialogues and presentations using these formats to continue honing our graduates’ communication skills.

“David McGee’s keynote was spot on in reminding the students that there is room for improvement and the importance of connecting with the audience to get the message across. It’s a competition and I know business, accounting and law students have benefited tremendously from this competition.”

Marketplace pitch winners for the 19th Annual Speaker’s Edge Competition are (left to right) Kendall Lange, MBA student, #6. Andrew Boyd, MBA, 5th. Forrest Smith, Treasurer, 4th. Tanner McCraney, MBA, 3rd place. Faith Adams, Accountant, 2nd. Holloway Bird, MBA, #1.Photo by Ashley Magee

Ole Miss alumni launched Speaker’s Edge in 2004. It is a way to bring together industry professionals, current alumni and students and challenge them to adapt their message to different audiences. Participants spend a week and a half with a volunteer communication coach discovering the strengths and weaknesses of their own presentation style in front of multiple judges.

Mark Wilder, Dean of Accounting at UM, said the competition provides an excellent way for students to improve their oral communication skills.

“This program provides a great opportunity for graduate students from the Paterson School of Accounts, School of Business Administration, and Law School to work together,” said Wilder. who participated.

“Having strong presentation skills is a clear differentiator in the market. The Speaker’s Edge program does an excellent job of improving students’ oral and speaking skills.”

Students competing in the Ethical Dilemmas category presented solutions to workplace challenges. For example, a senior management facilitated an exploit in a software company’s free trial. This year’s winners are:

  • Holloway Bird, 1st place
  • Second law and MBA student from Memphis, Mary Caroline Newman
  • Elizabeth Scott, MBA student from Ridgeland, 3rd

In the Marketplace Pitch category, competitors were asked to address the Sunshine Protection Act, virtual passports on handheld devices, and advances in corporate support for remote employment. This year’s winners are:

  • Bird, 1st place
  • Faith Adams, law student from Atlanta, second
  • Tanner McCraney, an MBA student from Jackson, was third.

In the Team Pitch category, participating students randomly selected companies and evaluated them by applying a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis. The goal was to identify and address points of vulnerability or opportunity and identify how best to present solutions or highlight strengths.

The winner was Papa John’s Pizza, who advocated for vending machines to sell individual pizzas in areas where competitors could not. The dispenser can hold up to 100 pizzas and works like an ATM that can be refilled daily.

Members of the winning team are: Lizzie Ball, an accounting major from Memphis. Adam Lalejini is an Accounting and Data Analytics double major at Diamondhead. McComb accounting student Tori Whittington. His MBA student Baylor Franklin from Lebanon, Tennessee.

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