Loose Nukes Because every debate can be improved with a little highly-enriched uranium.

23Feb/117

Top 5 simple speaking tips

1. Smile!

Being friendly can make the difference between a speech that the judge understands and a speech that the judge likes. If you've never intentionally smiled in a speech, give it a try. Obviously, use discretion - you don't want to be grinning from ear to ear while talking about human trafficking - but there's rarely a reason to look like the Grim Reaper all the way through your speech. Treat your subjects with respect, but don't look like you're about to die.

2. If the judge asks you to do something, actually do it.

This seems kind of... obvious, but I see it violated almost every. single. round. Recently, one judge's entire "judging philosophy" was basically, "I like it when you repeat your taglines." Guess what? Nobody repeated their taglines.

If the judge asks you to do something, doing it should be your highest priority for the round. If the judge asks you to repeat your taglines, then by golly, you better repeat your taglines. If the judge asks you to signpost your arguments, then those arguments had better be signposted. They're the ones checking the ballot, after all.

3. Fix your tics.

Most of us have some little thing we do constantly that annoys the fuzzy furballs out of everyone else - saying "um", clicking pens, etc. Stop doing it.

Most of the time, we just don't realize we're doing it, so all we need is to have someone point it out repeatedly. Have someone watch you speak and *BANG!* on the table really loudly whenever you do it. (Alternatively, you can have a little sibling shoot rubber bands at you.) Several years back, our club president decided to stop saying "um" (which he said all. the. time) and had everyone do this whenever he talked. By the end of the meeting, the "um"s were practically gone.

If, like me, you have problems with "dancing" (moving your feet around too much), a good way to stop is to use a "magic mat". Basically, just stand on something while speaking and pretend your feet are glued to it. It sounds silly, but it's actually remarkably effective at forcing you to think about what your feet are doing.

4. Get sleep.

Caffeine is overrated. If you want to talk well, sleep well. What comes out of your mouth will make a lot more sense.

About a month ago, I inadvertently became a good illustration of this. I was attending a tournament in Fort Worth, and on the first day, I got about 5 hours of sleep. Average speaker points? 25. On the second day, I got about 8 hours of sleep. Average speaker points? 29.

Obviously, that's not statistically robust, but it's illustrative nonetheless. I felt a lot better on the second day, and apparently I spoke a lot better too.

5. If you're a fast talker, SLOW DOWN, seriously.

Think about it this way: If you make sense when you talk fast, you'll make more sense when you talk slow. The average person has difficulty producing an eloquent sentence at ordinary talking speed; if you can do it at 300 WPM, what you come up with at 160 WPM will be brilliant.

I'll use myself as an example. A few years back, I talked... really fast. I was good at it - I won rounds, the judges understood me, and I got decent speaker points. I got a lot of "SLOW DOWN" comments, however, so I decided to cut the speed a bit. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made in debate.

All of a sudden, I didn't just make sense, I was eloquent. Talking slower gave my mind more time to think about what it was saying. I still said the same things in about the same amount of time; I just said them a lot better. (I was afraid I would run out of time, but slowing down made it so much easier to be concise that I never really had problems with it.) My speaker points went through the roof.

There are some situations where being able to go fast is still useful - like when you have 50 arguments to tackle in your 1AR and you can't clump any of them - but as a general rule, talking at a normal rate is far superior. Seriously - slow down. You'll be glad you did.

How? 10% luck, 20% skill, 15% concentrated power of will. (Mostly concentrated power of will, though.) Unfortunately, as with most habits, the only real way to stop talking fast is to force yourself not to. It may also help to intentionally breath at the end of every sentence, or intentionally pause now and again to "reset" your speed.

Comments (7) Trackbacks (0)
  1. …These are, of course, simple speaking tips. I have a ton more that are more complicated. Hmmm, future posts? πŸ™‚

  2. I like it πŸ™‚ Thanks for the reminder.
    Yesh a future post would be much appreciated πŸ˜€

  3. That was the year Ben was your prez, eh? πŸ˜€

  4. This is really helpful. All you need is number 6 drink water.

  5. 6. Don’t consume dairy. It produces phlegm, which effectively halts your speech whenever it enters your nasopharynx. Drink apple juice instead.

    7. Keep your airways clean. At the last tournament, I was recovering from a slight fever. Each morning, I used a neti pot and about 500 mL of warm isotonic water to irrigate my nasal cavities. I also blew my nose very frequently each day. As I listen to the recordings of my speeches, I am convinced that this was one of the best decisions I’ve made in debate. My voice sounds beautiful and I can actually go 250+ WPM without phlegm blocking my airways. (However, my Tourette syndrome still prevents me from achieving speeds significantly over 250 WPM. It slows me down rather embarrassingly. I need to work on that…)

  6. ^ Good points, although the effect of dairy probably varies by person – I’ve tried with and without, and haven’t noticed much of a difference.

    Don’t stress the speed – you really shouldn’t be going over 250 WPM anyway, unless you have a very specific kind of judge.

  7. Thanks for these tips. They really helped when it came to speaking to my judges at Trade Fair (:


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