ith Conference so close, we thought students might be interested to know what judges are looking for. We spoke with three long-time Conference judges —community volunteer Chris Foster, EAST facilitator Brittany Berry and high school principal David Campbell —about what they’re looking for during judging and why they volunteer a day of their year to help judge students’ presentations. Talking to judges can naturally be a nerve-wracking experience. What advice would you give to students who are presenting to judges at Conference? Foster: As cliché as it sounds, just be themselves and enjoy the experience. I’m sure the process can be a little intimidating and nerves are to be expected, but if a student looks me in the eye and you can see their enthusiasm about the subject, it absolutely goes a long way. Berry: I think the biggest piece of advice is to know that the judges are genuinely excited to be visiting with students to learn about their EAST program and all their hard work. Focus on sharing your passion for your project and EAST. 14
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It isn’t so important to have a perfectly memorized presentation as it is to be personable and interactive. Campbell: I would also tell students to be themselves. Students who are selected to be part of an EAST Conference team know their “stuff.” Relax and have a conversation with the judges. I would advise against a canned message. With that said, students should prepare and have their facts ready and be ready to answer questions. Professionalism, content, body language — all these things are important parts of a presentation. But do you weigh one more heavily than others? What aspect of a presentation makes the biggest impression on you as a judge? What are you looking for? Foster: It is a combination of all three factors mentioned above but I would definitely say body language does make a huge impact. I can automatically tell when a student believes in their project. Some of the best presentations that I have seen all have this in common. You can tell that they have “bought into” the EAST program and are seeing positive results in their community and school.
Berry: Content, of course, is important. The judges are there to hear about the great work your program is doing. However, the judges do want to see engaging and professional body language. It is important for you to be genuine and show enthusiasm. For me, the best impressions come when you walk away from a booth impressed by how much the kids simply love EAST and used their projects to prove it. It is those presentations that really stick with you. Campbell: I agree, all three are valuable. If I had to select one, I would say content is the most valuable. A great project speaks for itself. If the research is there and if the project relates to the goal, the judges will see the connection. Students need to look professional and have proper soft skills, but if the content is weak, it will show. What’s the hardest part about being a judge at Conference? Foster: Giving the constructive feedback and hoping that the schools realize that we are trying to be helpful and giving information that will benefit them in the future. We