Speaking of success

By Josh Albrecht

In a medium that many people fear, Matt Sinason has found success.

A sophomore journalism major, he leaped into the world of NIU Forensics four years ago and, like 60 other students in the group, continues to craft his speaking skills.

“I was looking for something to do, and I was good at it,” Sinason said. “I have had a lot more success now than in high school.”

Last semester, Sinason finished at the top in two forensics tournaments and has placed eight times during his two years at NIU. He specializes in the “Speech to Entertain” category of the tournaments.

“It’s basically a normal, persuasive, humorous speech,” Sinason said. “It’s the event I’ve been the best at and have the most fun with.”

His most recent speech focuses on the risks of investing in the stock market. To make the topic entertaining, Sinason throws in a joke or two.

“You make fun of people in the news like George Bush or Darryl Strawberry and television shows like ‘Survivor,'” he said.

For most speeches, two or three days of preparation is necessary so Sinason can become familiar with the material. Sinason, whose favorite comedian is Jerry Seinfeld, memorizes all of his lines.

“Either you have your memory or you’re in trouble,” he said. “I’ve had a blackout, but you recover and go on.”

NIU Forensics coachJudy Santacaterina, an adviser for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the program has sponsored summer forensics camps for high school students for the past 14 years. It was at these summer camps where Santacaterina got to know Sinason.

“He sees the benefits of the activity and is a fun person,” she said, adding that Sinason has a natural speaking ability that has helped him get ahead in the game. “This year the maturity level has kicked in, and he enjoys himself more. He has taken his eyes off the prize and is more focused.”

Sinason supports his teammates and has improved his writing skills, which are crucial for good public speaking, Santacaterina said.

A one-time tennis player, he also works for NIU’s Sports Information office and wishes more students cared about NIU athletics.

“It’s Division IA sports,” he said. “The only thing better than this is the pros.”

And while Bob Costas is his favorite broadcaster, Sinason’s dream job is to work as an anchor on ESPN’s Sportscenter. The best speech he ever saw was Jimmy Valvano’s monologue during the 1993 ESPY Awards on ESPN.

As for Sinason’s favorite speech he has given, the jury is still out.

“I make sure I do interesting topics, so they are all on the same level to me,” he said.

There was, however, one subject he wishes he could forget about: “How to pick a stereo system.”

NIU Forensics was chartered in 1928 as one of the first student organizations on campus.

“Some are hardcore who do more competing, and others ask for help with public speaking,” said Santacaterina, who was a member of the team when she was an NIU student. “It’s a very diverse group.”

Sinason admits that giving a speech is not as hard as performing in a play.

“Theater is more interactive than speech,” he said. “You don’t have to cry in a speech.”