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OSAGE BEACH, Mo. -- The 2023 MO Cattle Industry FFA Speaking Contest took place on Saturday, January 7, during the 55th annual MO Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in Osage Beach, Missouri. KMZU's Abigail Looney took time to speak with Chillicothe FFA member and Chapter President, Claire Walker.

Active in the organization, Walker usually shows cattle, among her many other endeavors. Wanting to move up and take on more tasks, she decided to enter the Speaking Contest. She also thought it would be a great way to improve her public speaking ability. Her topic? Beef on the Dinner Plate. 

After writing the speech, Walker memorized what she'd written, prepared for a multitude of questions from contest judges and competed in her local contest, where she took first place. But, it was only the beginning. Walker continued to compete, while continuously working on her speech delivery skills. Her hard work paid off when she also won first place in area and district competitions and her second place title at state. 

"The hardest part for me was just balancing how genuine I wanted to be. I didn't want my speech to sound like it was rehearsed. I didn't want it to seem like I was preaching to these judges. I didn't want it to seem like I was looking down on someone for not knowing a topic that I had done a lot of research in. So, my hardest part was just making sure that my entire speech seemed more of a conversation and a story and keeping it comfortable and just a light conversation, rather than just telling someone else what they should believe and why they should believe it," Walker says. 

Walker was one of six finalists who competed on the state level and all competitors received recognition at the Convention Banquet.

She plans to attend the University of Missouri - Columbia and to major in Ag Business Management and International Business. She says the networking opportunities FFA has afforded her, especially with major players in the cattle and the agriculture industry, will definitely help her down the road. 

Walker urges everyone to take every opportunity that comes along. She says by doing so, herself, she's made some of her closest friends. 

For more information about the Missouri Cattleman's Association, click here

To listen to KMZU's Abigail Looney interview Claire Walker in the KMZU Newsmaker segment, click below.