Public Speaking

Per Harvard's policy, all in-person students are required to be fully vaccinated. Students will also be integrated into Harvard's regular testing system upon arrival. Detailed information will be posted closer to arrival.

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.

Session One Sample Schedule (Online)

Session Two Sample Schedule (In Person)

Summer 2023 Sessions

Online: Session One -- June 25-July 7
In-Person: Session Two -- July 9-July 21

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.


Resident: $3,849
Commuter: $2,749
Online: $1,349

Why Choose Harvard?

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

"[My daughter] absolutely enjoyed the camp and has grown tremendously from the collaborative environment online. She has always had interest in entrepreneurship and has created a website and Instagram that promotes women in technology… She is interviewing a series of women within this field and will be launching it on her site within the next couple of months."
Parent of a Public Speaking Program Student

Week 2 Options

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.


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.


During this fun yet intensive program, students will create a multifaceted STEM communication campaign around an issue of their choice. Even students who are just learning about STEM will be guided to pick an approachable topic of interest to help them learn the fundamentals of communicating about complex topics. The campaign consists of four projects:
crafting expert bios: short expertise statements that communicate why you are the expert the world needs. Learn to balance multiple appeals to credibility and empower yourself as a young leader. Everyone, no matter how young or inexperienced, has expertise; learn to find and communicate yours.
media pitch: write a short pitch for the popular press around an issue of concern. Build on what you learned in the expert bio to establish your credibility and expertise while writing a compelling 500-word piece to communicate your STEM-based argument to a public audience. Although actually sending the pitches is not required, you will finish the program with a pitch-ready story that you can submit to your local paper or an online publication.
TEDxHDCSW: join our mock TEDx session right from your own living room! Create your very own TEDx Talk complete with audio-visuals, delivery training, and a compelling mix of ideas and evidence. Share your presentations with peers and knowledgeable professionals to gain feedback and support. Although actually submitting your speech for consideration at a TEDx is not required, you will finish the program with a submission-ready TEDx that you can submit for consideration at a local TEDx event.
#selfies4stem: no public communication would be complete in the 21st century without an accompanying digital media campaign! Based on the successful #scientistswhoselfie and #ilooklikeanengineer, #selfies4stem is an original hashtag created for students at the HDCSW. Use your expert bio, media pitch, and TEDx to create audio and video clips and promotional materials for your social media campaign. Learn hashtag optimization and basic principles of visual design, as well as how to leverage social media to create more public support for STEM issues and your own credibility as an expert. Students are not required to share their work publicly–they may create media-ready materials or private accounts for the class–but are also welcome to strut their STEM stuff on their already existing social media.

This program is for students who plan to compete in competitive public speaking events, including platform and limited preparation speaking. This program offers foundational skills and practice in preparation for local, state, or national competition. Original Oratory, Informative Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, and Extemporaneous Speaking are centered to prepare students to compete on their own school teams. Students will engage in research, writing, and practicing events to prepare a speech for a contest as well as how to utilize those skills in other performance events offered in various competition organizations. By the end of the program, students will be equipped with one NSDA event – either Original Oratory or Informative Speaking – ready for the following academic year.


This  is a one-week program that introduces students to the speeches used in criminal litigation–  Opening Statement,  Closing Argument, and counsels’ argument before Sentencing. Students will experience what it is like to play the roles of Prosecutor and Defense Attorney by writing and delivering arguments for each side. On the final day, students will compete in a judged tournament. While the workshop offers an immersive simulated legal experience, it also develops skills applicable to various professions such as journalism,  academia, politics, and business. This law-driven workshop is ideal for students interested in mock trials, curious about the law, or who want to connect with their audience through storytelling and presentation.  

Students will receive a case file that contains a collection of typical documents used in criminal prosecutions. First, they will learn how to spot the strengths and weaknesses in the case. Next, they will craft arguments that use visual imagery and storytelling techniques to spotlight their strongest arguments and present compelling counterarguments. Finally, drawing on Harvard Debate Councils’ experience developing highly skilled orators, this week incorporates exercises in acting and improvisation to give even the most novice speaker confidence and freedom.  


Lee Pierce, PhD

STEM Curriculum Coordinator

Dr. Lee M Pierce (they/she) is an Assistant Professor of Rhetorical Communication at SUNY Geneseo and has taught thousands of students about public speaking, politics, and culture. Lee’s research has appeared in top academic journals, winning several awards from the National Communication Association. Lee has worked for over a decade to empower young people to use their voice, teaching STEM Communication to underrepresented students through the McNair Scholars Program and supporting at-risk youth through the NYS Sheriff’s Institute. Lee is a Safe Zone Trainer through the OUT Alliance of Rochester, NY, a #blacklivesmatter ally, and an advocate for neurodivergent and high needs learners.

Lee has been an instructor for the Harvard Debate Council’s Summer Workshop in Public Speaking in Argumentation since 2017. Previously, they were the curriculum coordinator for the Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIPS) Public Speaking, Advocacy, and Leadership Institute. From 2010-2012, Lee also advised the Loud ‘n Clear Public Forum at the University of Georgia.

Committed to banishing banality, one speech at a time, Lee hosts the RhetoricLee Speaking podcast, analyzing culture cliches, political punditry, and whatever was on Netflix at 3am. Lee is also the host for the New Books Network podcast Channels in Language and Media & Communications. Lee’s TEDx Talks analyzing Beyoncé’s”Formation” and Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” are available on YouTube along with a few attempts at stand-up comedy.

Lee received a PhD in Rhetorical Communication from the University of Georgia in 2015 and an MA in Communication from SUNY Brockport in 2008. Their first book, “Syntaxing the Social: Rhetoric, Form, and Feeling in US Political culture” is due out later this year along with a new essay for the journal Women’s Studies in Communication analyzing the film trailer for The Hate U Give. Learn more about Lee at and at Find them on Instagram and Facebook @rhetoricleespeaking and on Twitter @rhetoriclee. #teamrhetoric #ffightthecliche

Deano Pape

Curriculum Coordinator

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.

Scott Baker

J. Scott Baker, Ph.D.

Lab Leader

J. Scott Baker, Ph.D. (he, him) has been an Assistant Professor of Secondary Education in the Department of Teacher Development at St. Cloud State University since 2021. Previously, he taught in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L) from 2015-2021. He earned his 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 has been part of the senior faculty of the Harvard Debate Council Summer Workshops for Public Speaking and Argumentation since 2015.

Dr. Baker’s research focuses on voice and social justice advocacy in education, investigated from a variety of perspectives, namely arts-based inquiry, poetic inquiry, speech & debate education, LGBTIQ+ identities, and undergraduate research.

Dr. Baker previously taught high school English, debate, and speech for 18 years in urban settings in Houston (Cypress Creek HS, Cypress Ridge HS, Jersey Village HS) and Ft. Worth, Texas (Haltom HS), coaching local, state, and national winners. He also competed in high school and college. 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. He regularly helps coordinate and facilitate contests and professional development for the Wisconsin High School Forensic Association, much as he did for the University Interscholastic League and Texas Speech Communication Association, as well as serving as secretary of the Texas Forensic Association. Currently, Dr. Baker serves as an equity officer for numerous speech and debate interscholastic competitions.

Dr. Baker and his husband, Adam J. Jacobi, are members of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ+ equality. They are raising a high school student, and have two adult sons.

Kanza Jafri

Lab Leader

 Kanza Jafri is from Dallas, Texas. Currently, she is doing her Bachelors at the University of North Texas where she is majoring in Consumer Experience Management with a minor in Legal Studies. She has been a part of the Speech & Debate Community since high school where she competed on the Texas Forensics Association and National Speech and Debate Circuit. After graduating high school she has been a consultant and judge for both Hebron High School and Southlake High School’s Speech and Debate team where students that she has worked with have competed and placed in State and National Tournaments. She loves helping students strengthen their public speaking skills and channeling their confidence for them to succeed in tournaments and the real world. Her time with the Harvard Debate Summer Council Workshop includes being a Resident Assistant for students and judging at the Harvard Tournament and at the workshop. Currently, she is working at Texas Academy of Math Science at UNT where she is a Program Advisor for their Speech and Debate Program.

Kay Rollins

Lab Leader

Kay Rollins is an incoming first-year student at Harvard College. She graduated from The Potomac School, where she was a three-time national champion in Extemporanaeous speaking and a one-time national champion in Original Oratory. 


Triniti Krauss

Lab Leader

Triniti Krauss studies Speech and Communication at Simpson College and is a debate coach at Valley School in Iowa, where she has coached for two years. She coaches students in multiple formats. 


Rachel Mangan

Lab Leader

Rachel is a graduate teaching assistant in Human Communication at James Madison University. She has an M.A. in Communication and Advocacy, Health Communication from James Madison. 


Ethan Besser Fredrick

Lab Leader

Ethan is a Ph.D. Candidate of History at the University of Minnesota. He participation in LD and PF in high school and Parliamentary Debate in college, where he was a Phi Kappa Delta national champion and top speaker. He is currently an assistant debate coach for Ankeny High School in Iowa. He previously taught at the Simpson College Debate Camp from 2013-2020.