How to design your own speaking drills

One of the common questions I get after a post like yesterdays goes something like this


“you are always saying to practice speaking on our own, but also that you think rebuttal redos are stupid… so how do we speak on our own?”


Fair enough. Most people do tell you to redo your rebuttals 50 times, and to a certain extent that can be valuable. I won’t rehash my case against the sacred redo again here, so instead lets focus on the step by step process through which you design your own speech.


For the sake of simplicity lets say you are writing a new neg argument and now you want to practice it. So what do you do? The first thing you need to do is brainstorm every conceivable argument the other team could make against your position. I can still remember in college when I decided to run Spanos before the Harvard tournament I cornered D-heidt in his office and interrogated him for like 2 hours about every possible argument he could come up with to that K.  So now I had a giant list of reasons the Spanos K was stupid. Some of them I had already cut cards to answer, some of them I had not. Some of them I understood, some I did not. This is exactly how you will find yourself in most debates – prepared for (hopefully) most of the other teams arguments, not prepared for some of them.


So then I went and tried to sketch rough blocks to every argument. I would try and find applicable evidence, and then write out as much explanation as I could off the top of my head about why that argument was wrong or how it didn’t apply. Every time I would get done writing 2 or 3 blocks I would practice reading them aloud to see if they sounded good and how long it would take me to read them. As I did this I would revise them. Once I had a pretty good set of blocks I moved onto the next phase- assembling 2ACs.


In this phase I role played that I was a 2A and had just heard our 1NC. What would I read in response? I assembled 5-6 different 2ACs (though some arguments like Framework or ontology not first were duplication because the aff has to make them) . I would time each 2AC to be about 2 minutes which given the size of a Wolmer 1NC was all the aff could hope for. Once I had all those 2ACs together I would do my drills. I would select one of them at random from the pile and give myself 6 minutes to flow it and assemble the answers. Since I had blocks to most of the arguments that part went relatively quick. Each block was somewhat different though, and some of them included case specific impact/alternative arguments that required writing out new explanation. I would also try and write out some specific link/impact arguments for a hypothetical affirmative. Then I would give the speech and see how it went- how was my time allocation? Did I get to everything important? If not what could I cut out to fit in more important pieces? Did I get to all the cheating on my K checklist? If the speech didn’t go well I would do it again and try and fix these problems… and then again. Then move onto the next 2AC and repeat. Before I got to the first tournament with that argument I had already given 20+ 2NCs and I can tell you the last one was quite a bit better than the first. And then we never read that K at the tournament- isn’t debate fun!


Lets say you have done this and are now a 2NC legend on your arg. Is practice over? Unfortunately no. Here are some ways you can ratchet up the pressure and make yourself work harder which is what produces improvement:


  1. Increase the size of the 2AC- add 2-3 more arguments but give yourself the same amount of time in the speech
  2. Reduce your amount of prep time so you have to improv responses during the speech
  3. take away key pieces of evidence and force yourself to try and explain the argument
  4. If you have key arguments like “epistemology first”, try giving the speech without them and think about how you have to change your strategy accordingly
  5. Try and adapt your 2NC to different types of judges- how would you change it and what parts need to be changed?

At a given tournament you will be neg 3 times unless you clear. If you do 3 practice 2NC’s every day for a month that is the equivalent of attending 30 additional tournaments. If you make a committment to do that you will be astounded a the progress you will make. If you sit down on a single saturday and say “ok lets do 30 2NCs” you will quickly become bored and give up. This is why small chunking is important. You can easily do 3 2NCs in an hour, so working only an hour a day you can get the practice of 30 tournaments a month. Once you get your 2NC down, then you can move on to practicing the 2NR in a similar way.


Here are some additional time saving tips

  1. Copy your flows- what I mean is flow your 5 2AC blocks, then make photocopies of each set of flows so you don’t have to keep redoing them. When you are done save those flows so later you can work on your 2NR
  2. Work in a group- I’m sure there are other students out there or on your team who are working on the same 2NC argument, if you collaborate with all stages you can get things done a lot faster.
  3. You can find a lot of 2ACs by looking at wikis so you don’t have to make them yourself.




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