A few people have asked me about speaking practice given the recent articles I wrote about redos and what not being a poor use of time. Here are two articles I wrote a while ago about how to work on speaking by yourself
Three things can be improved on most easily in terms of delivering a good speech, in order
I put speed last even though when I debated I probably would of put it first. Having judged for a few years now I will say the following is true
-most people go faster then they are capable of doing clearly
-most people go faster than they are capable of doing smoothly (no stuttering, awkward pauses etc)
-many debaters don’t utilize 90% of the arguments they made in previous speeches in their rebuttals, making them a large waste of time.
Clarity- How do you improve this. A few things
1. Transition words- making sure you consistently use numbers or emphasis /transition words (and, next, additionally, sub points) to clearly mark when you move from one argument to another. Many people are relatively clear but don’t properly differentiate when one card ends and another begins, so judges have no idea a new card has started until they hear a date or something similar. This is a really easy way to add clarity to your speech- not in the sense of less mumbling, but in terms of organizational clarity.
2. Use emphasis- either changes in how loud you are speaking, changing your rate of delivery etc. Use this on key points not just in pieces of evidence, but on arguments that you think are particularly important. Some people take this too far- telling people to quadruple star an argument etc. That can be an effective technique, but if you have to say “I’m emphasizing this” instead of just emphasizing it then there is a problem. One thing to think about is that there is a fine line between emphasizing and flagging- emphasizing is making something that is more important stand out, flagging is needlessly drawing attention to something. You emphasize that the qualifications of your uniqueness evidence are better, you flag sever perms as a voting issue. Generally if something needs to be flagged it is of a quality such that if its dropped you will barely win on it, thus you want to make it very obvious so that when it is dropped a judge will have no choice but to vote on it. This is generally not a great way to try and win debates.
Working on emphasis is somewhat tricky in that before you can emphasize, you need to know what arguments are important enough to warrant emphasis. However, the techniques you would use are somewhat universal. Some techniques
1. Practice reading evidence and working hard to differentiate tags from the card before them, bold text in the evidence etc.
2. Practice reading un numbered theory blocks and trying to add your own mental numbering/ sub pointing during the speech
3. Practice speed transtions- these are the trickiest. You have probably seen someone who reads tags very slowly, then as soon as they get to the card speed sup into an incoherent mess. A speed transition should not be so dramatic, it should be like 5% max. When you end a card and go onto the next one, slow down 5% for the beginning such as “Next, economic decline causes nuclear war” and then speed back up. This requires yout to have a clear baseline speed obviously.
Annunciation- many people when they speak fast tend to blur words together. Instead of saying “Nineteen Ninety Nine” they end up saying something that sounds like “na-nye”. This is obviously terrible. However, since people understand the gist of what they are saying, people rarely object/yell clear. You should make sure you are fully pronouncing and annonciating every syllable you are speaking. You should be saying the same things when you talk slowly as when you talk fast, the only thing that should be changing is the rate of delivery. Drills you have probably done at camp like over annunciating or pen in mouth are to try and get you to overemphasize things so that when you go faster the baseline level of annunciation is coming through. If you do these drills, and then go to give a speech and revert right back to your old habits you aren’t getting the point.
It’s like high knees in football. I used to hate the crap out of running drills, being a lineman I never saw the point. High knees is where you run and lift your knees artificially high, ideally hitting yourself in the chest with each step. The point is that if you are a running back, and you move your legs very high up and down when you run, it is harder to grab your legs and tackle you. So if you do high knees in practice, then run normally in a game- you aren’t getting the benefit. The point is to change the way you are doing things when you run by exagerating the effect in practie, and then finding a middle ground between what you do normally and what you are doing in practice. So do these annunciation drills, and then try and use the same technique when giving actual speeches.
What is it?
1. Saying an argument with the least amount of words possible while still conveying the point
2. Not repeating an argument unnecessarily.
3. not reading unnecessary or repetitive evidence.
4. Extending only the arguments you need to win/not wasting time on un-winnable points.
Breaking them down individually:
Least words- this is pretty simple, instead of saying “this disad is totally not unique judge- because obama already did a stimulus, and in aforementioned stimulus he included some like, incentives for alternative energy projects, and here is a card about it ” say “non unique- stimulus”.
Seems simple enough. So things you should look to eliminate are
-overly long tags- dont explain warrants you are going to read in the evidence, give unnecessarily detailed descriptions that are contained in the cards etc.
-eliminate fluff language and filler words- this isn’t an english essay- it doesnt have to be 3 pages with standard margins. A good tag is rarely over 10 words- remember judges CAN’T write all that down- who are you reading it for? Everytime I hear someone read a card that is like “heg will collapse, 10 reasons” and then lists the 10 reasons my eyes roll.
-highlight tags and theory blocks/overviews- a lot of times people type things out so that they have a stock overview to read, but then that overview is too long and they waste time in every debate they read it. They never think to change this because hey, they wrote it out so its gotta be good right? Case in point:
-highlight tags and theory blocks/overviews- a lot of times people type things out so that they have a stock overview to read, but then that overview is too long and they waste time in every debate they read it. They never think to change this because hey, they wrote it out so its gotta be good right? Case in point
Done and done.
Don’t repeat args-
This happens most of the time when say an aff has a non unique trick and then repeats it on every disad (when there are 5 of them). Unless your argument changes dramatically for each disad, just say it once. Other instances are saying “reject argument not team” 20 times in a speech, or “don’t vote on potential abuse” etc. Once you have said something like this, if you feel the need to say it in 50 other places just say “cross apply this to other voters” or “this is a universal response to cheap shots” etc. This one seems fairly obvious.
The more bothersome version of repetition arises I think when people have temporarily run out of things to say. They are trying to flounder and find a new argument and instead end up just repeating the argument they just made or an argument they made a short time ago. This is a sympton of trying to go to fast, and generally means you should slow down a little. Some people have argued that one of the benefits of speed is that you can repeat important points to have them sink in better, a la the simpsons (Marge: This town is a part of us all … a part of us all … a part of us all! Sorry to repeat myself, but It’ll help you remember!). I think this has merit in certain instances to add emphasis, but this is not usually what is being done.
3. Repetitive evidence- 6 uniqueness cards that all say the same thing are not useful. Neither are 20 winners win cards. You should only read new evidence if the new piece of evidence adds a new argument, or in certain instances if it is better than the piece of previously read evidence (either because the argument you need to respond to has changed or because you slowplayed a powerful argument). Generally any time you hear yourself say “more evidence” that is a pretty good sign (unless you are doing the double reverse say more evidence but really its a whole new argument trick, at which point kudos to you).
4. Extending what you need to win- this generally props up later in the debate. The 2NR gets to 3 case flows with only 40 seconds left and tries to extend as much as possible. The better track is to focus on a few key arguments and give them each more time. It is inefficient to spend a small amount of time on a lot of arguments because you never really get to the meet of an issue. In a 2NR to win an argument you generally have to
-explain your argument
-answer their arguments that responded to it
When people rush they just do a lot of step 1, and none of step 2 or 3. Step 1 is rarely enough to win an argument.