How to make a great chapel talk


Joan Borba

Here is a photo of my sister and I alongside some members of WSC at our chapel talk.

Will I mumble my words? Am I too far away from the microphone? My palms begin to sweat as the seconds pass. Seconds, leading up to the moment when I will ascend the stairs onto the podium. Here it is, the 20 minutes that my four years at Webb have been building up to.  

Over the years, I have witnessed my fair share of chapel talks. There are the very personal talks that leave people weeping. There are hilarious talks, and talks that reflect someone’s personal challenges.  

The senior chapel talk is arguably the climax of a Webb student’s career. Chapel talks are a constant in a student’s weekly life, and as each day goes by, we all come closer to the fact that one day, it will be our turn to stand at the podium and address our peers.

Chapel talks take place every other day for WSC and VWS. It is when a senior stands at the podium in the Vivian Webb Chapel and addresses their class. The student can invite their families and up to 20 members of the opposite school.

Facing public speaking, deciding the central theme of the talk, choosing which friends will give quotes, and asking a teacher to introduce us are only some of the obstacles when crafting a talk.  

My chapel talk was on January 29th and I hope that my experience with writing one can help clarify the experience of writing a talk and the involvement of the faculty in setting guidelines.

My talk was under special circumstances, as it dealt with more than one speaker. Traditionally, each student goes to the podium, alone. My sister and I had decided that since we wanted our talk to be funny, and we come up with the best jokes together, we should do it together.

Faculty is as involved as you would like them to be. You are only required to send in two drafts of your talk.  The first draft is sent in to the Dean and your advisor about a week before the talk. The deans and your advisor can provide some good advice if you need some help with creating a theme for your talk, or with general direction.

Connecting with your audience, distinguishing between what you think is funny or heart wrenching, and what the audience will connect with are the most important aspects of making a great talk.

Fortunately, I am very comfortable with public speaking. I find that the delivery of a chapel talk is just as important as what someone is talking about. If you are confident up on the podium, people will feel that. If you are nervous, your voice is shaky, and you stumble over words, people will feel that as well.

The challenge with making a talk is to find a subject that the audience can resonate with. You can experience hilarious, sad, or life changing moments, but if the audience cannot feel some sort of connection with it, it will not be a big hit with the people watching.

To make a chapel talk something that people will remember, you need to make the words jump off the page. With good preparation, anyone is capable of giving a memorable talk.