Public Speaking

Foundational Skills for Public Speaking

This workshop is for students new to public speaking – including students from around the world – and provides a solid foundation for communication in academic and career contexts, as well as potential participation in our event-specific workshops in subsequent summers. This experiential immersion in meaningful speaking practice is unlike any traditional classroom course!

By the end of their experience, students will be equipped with the tools they need to be effective future leaders, armed with skills to responsibly develop arguments, sway audiences, manage communication apprehension, research current topics, reach resistant audiences, and develop debate strategies for in-person and online audiences.

Level: Beginner

This is a beginner program; most participants are students entering the 9th or 10th grade, or older students who want to improve speaking skills and confidence.

Summer 2020 Sessions

Session One: Sunday June 28, 2020 through Friday July 10, 2020

Session Two: Sunday July 12, 2020 through Friday July 24, 2020


Online: $999

Commuter: $2,199

Resident: $3,299

During the first week, Students will learn the foundational elements of crafting outstanding persuasive speeches applying an area of study of their own choosing. Students will select a contemporary topic with a level of controversy and produce public policy and personal advocacy speeches. Students will learn how to craft appeals for organizational change, exercise creative strategies for audience engagement, and respond to question and answer sessions. Students will present their final speeches in Harvard Yard before a public audience. 

For the second week, students may choose one of three different options depending on their interests: Communicating in S.T.E.M, Introduction to Argumentation and Debate, and Talking Tech: Social Media Communication.



About Program


Our curriculum is designed as a hands-on exploration to cultivate confident public speakers as they develop presentation skills grounded in an understanding of rhetoric and argumentation in the a twenty-first century public sphere.

Sample Schedule

9:00am – Introduction to rhetoric and public speaking
10:30am – Exercise: students give their speeches of self introduction
12:00pm – Lunch
1:00pm – Communication apprehension – why it happens and techniques for managing ‘stage fright’
2:00pm – Topic Development and organization
3:30pm – Research in Speaking
5:00pm – Dinner
7:00pm – Evening lab meeting (small groups) – students read about their topic area and prepare a brief of key arguments.

Student Testimonial

Our students love how much they learn in two weeks!

Posted by Harvard Debate Council Summer Workshops on Thursday, January 28, 2016


Faculty Testimonial

Our staff loves to work with our international students!

Posted by Harvard Debate Council Summer Workshops on Thursday, January 14, 2016


Three Choices

Week 2 Options

Communicating in S.T.E.M.

One of the biggest challenges facing students and experts alike in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (S.T.E.M.) is the difficulty of presenting complex issues to a public audience. Individuals who want to excel in S.T.E.M fields must be more than intelligent and well-researched; they must also be able to engage and connect with a variety of audiences. The Communicating in S.T.E.M. 1-week program is designed to give fledgling public intellectuals a much-needed advantage in the field of communication.

Supported by Harvard University’s commitment to public engagement, backed by the Harvard Debate Council’s excellence in argumentation, and facilitated by the program’s 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Communicating in S.T.E.M. takes even the most novice speaker and transforms them into a competent presenter capable of navigating across audiences.

The program takes place across three phases.

During the first phase, students evaluate presentations from a variety of fields to learn the parameters of effective, engaging presentations. Topics covered include thematic coherence, translation, using analogies, supporting evidence, delivery, and visual design.

During the second phase, students will create and revise their own presentation, transforming the knowledge they learned in phase one to a transferable skill set. Students may work with their own data sets or use a data set provided for them in their area of interest. During this phase, students receive one-on-one attention and video-based feedback to enhance their learning and build their confidence.

During the final phase, students will present their work in a camp-wide poster session. Every student receives a final video of their performance and assessment that they may use for portfolio building, applications, or continuing education.


Introduction to Argumentation and Debate

This workshop will introduce students to the fundamentals of argumentation as well as the three formats of competitive debating commonly practiced in American high schools. Over the course of the week, students will gain experience constructing both oral and written arguments and participate in several competitive debates. The session will culminate with a small tournament on the final day. Students will practice with a few different debate topics, primarily about current events and political developments, but with a few timeless topics as well. Tips and strategies for research will be incorporated into the workshop, though we will provide introductory materials for most of the topics so students can begin practicing right away.


The session will be directed by Dr. Tripp Rebrovick, the Coach of Debate at Harvard University. Dr. Rebrovick has nearly two decades of experience teaching argumentation and debate to students of all experience and age levels. His student reviews consistently praise his ability to break down complicated subjects into pieces everyone can understand, his commitment to his students’ intellectual development, and the enthusiasm he brings every day to the classroom.

Talking Tech: Social Media Communication

Student engagement with overlapping technologies now accumulates over 50 hours per day, with some equivalency hours exceeding 100 or more. Every. Day. This program provides students an opportunity to measure, assess, and fully explore their technology consumption, with social media and cellphones at the forefront of our analysis. Students will learn about the psychological, physiological, and interpersonal effects of social media; study media theory; analyze the political, sociological, and legal implications of social media footprints; and discuss hot-button issues such as loss of privacy rights, “fake news,” presidential rhetoric, cyberbullying, and cancel culture. A special unit on propaganda and conspiracy will also be included in the curriculum as we compare movements pre-and-post social media distribution. The capstone experience consists of the creation of a social media campaign for a non-profit organization. Students will present their campaigns in collaborative pairs / small groups using presentation technologies such as PowerPoint, Prezi, and Zoom.

A college professor for over two decades, Deano Pape conducts presentations across the country on the topics of communicating with technology, effects of cellphones, social media criticism, interpersonal communication, and persuasion and mass media. Recent courses include fake news, diversity and power in film criticism, public speaking in society, and conspiracy rhetoric. Dr. Pape served as assistant professor of communication and director of forensics at Ripon College before assuming his current positions as membership specialist for the National Speech & Debate Association and teaching specialist and assistant director of speech and debate for Simpson College. One of Deano’s presentations was accepted at a TEDx event in Wisconsin and can be viewed online here.

Key Skills

Learning Objectives


Argument Construction

Utilize research strategies to collect evidence and craft arguments

Speech Writing

Develop speech content to meet the expectations of the rhetorical situation


Critically engage arguments in a debate format


Analyze and adapt to various audiences


Effectively deliver their arguments to live and mediated audiences
Our Excellent Faculty


Deano Pape

Deano Pape

Curriculum Director

Deano Pape is Assistant Director of Speech & Debate, Co-Director of Ethics Bowl, and Instructor in the Department of Multimedia Communication at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, Simpson is consistently ranked among the top 10 colleges and universities in the country for combined speech and debate at Pi Kappa Delta Nationals, including 2nd place in Debate Sweepstakes at the 2017 National Tournament. Deano also serves as Membership Specialist for the National Speech & Debate Association where he works with speech and debate coaches, district leaders, and directors of new speech and debate programs. Deano brings to Harvard Debate Council over 25 years of experience coaching, teaching, and administering special academic programs that foster speech, debate, and communication skills development, working with students and coaches from a wide range of backgrounds and experience levels. Deano attended Central College (bachelor of arts program, communication/theatre) and Central Missouri St. University (master of arts program, speech communication). Deano has also worked with Harvard Debate Council’s Public Forum, Congressional Debate, and International Debate programs in prior summers.
Lee Pierce, Ph.D.

Lee Pierce, Ph.D.


School Affiliation: Georgia State University
Title: Instructor
Years: First Year (formerly 7 years at the University of Georgia)
Debate experience: Advisor to the Loud N Clear Public Forums 2010-2012 at the University of Georgia
Coaching: 5 years as an Instructor for the Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIPS) Public Speaking, Advocacy, and Leadership Institute
Other relevant info
: PhD in Communication Studies from the University of Georgia, 2015. MA from State University of New York College at Brockport, 2008.
J. Scott Baker, Ph.D.

J. Scott Baker, Ph.D.


Affiliation: Univ. of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L) – Asst. Professor, Department of Education Studies
Years: 2 at UW-L; Total 20 years of teaching experience at secondary/ post-secondary levels.
Debate experience: Competed in public speaking and literary interpretive events in high school and in college.
Teaching: High school English, debate, and speech teacher for 18 years in urban settings outside of Houston (Cypress Creek HS, Cypress Ridge HS, Jersey Village HS) and Ft. Worth, Texas (Haltom HS), coaching local, state, and national winners. In 2014, he coached the NIETOC national champion in Oratory.
Honors/accomplishments: Earned Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, and holds teaching licenses in both Texas and Wisconsin in English and Speech Communication (grades 6-12). Dr. Baker’s current research focuses on arts-based undergraduate advocacy for social justice issues, speech & debate education, and Poetic Inquiry.  Dr. Baker was recognized by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in 2017 with its highest single honor for Speech, Debate & Theatre education, and has earned his Third Diamond with the National Speech & Debate Association.
Ray Celeste Tanner

Ray Celeste Tanner


Affiliation: University of Mary Washington, VA
Title: Speaking Center & Quality Enhancement Plan Assistant
Years: Student 4, Staff 1
Debate experience: 3 years of high school; 3 years at HDC workshops
Other relevant info: Consultant at the UMW Speaking Center, UMW Orientation Leader

Register for 2020

Applications are due by May 15, 2020.