Thought Piece #2 - Speaking Well - Part 2

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Thought Piece #2 - Speaking Well - Part 2

Postby brubaie » Tue Nov 01, 2011 10:13 am

After watching several more debates and getting my judging feet wet on the college topic, I have a few more things I want to add to the speaking tips given by others:

Question 1 - What is the most common speaking mistake you have seen?

Failure to reflect on the style of delivery while speaking. Many debaters only think of the content they are communicating and not how they are communicating it. This has diminishing returns. Information is only as useful as a judge's ability to process it. If a judge can't process the information delivered by the speaker they won't hold your opponent responsible for addressing it.

Question 2 - What is the best advice you ever received on better speaking?

"Tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them and tell them again." One of the most common complaints made to judges goes something along the lines of "...but I thought I said that." It is very easy to forget that judges are imperfect information processors. As a result, it helps to utilize important arguments several times to highlight their importance. On those points that matter most, it is very important to highlight what you've said, what your opponent hasn't addressed and why that matters.

Question 3 - What is the best speaking drill you ever practiced?

"Flawless victory." This drill requires a debater to clearly read and enunciate every word they speak. If they stumble, slur or skip a word they have to start over. What I like best about this drill is that it teaches focus and attention to detail. If you don't pay 100% attention you'll be forced to repeat the drill several times. If you pay 100% attention you can finish the drill in just a few minutes.

Question 4 – What traits does a good speaker need to possess?

Organization, clarity and emphasis (in that order). Organization is the key to all other things. One can be passionate and clear but a rant is a rant. Displaying clear organization and flow of consciousness is a thing of true beauty when done well. Of course, it does no good to organize your thoughts if they are muddled once they pass your lips. Someone who is well organized and clear is nice but emphasis makes a good speech great. Judges need to know which issues should be most essential in guiding their decision.

Question 5 - What advice would you offer to an upcoming generation of young speakers?

Think faster, speak slower. Consider an opponent offering you the following either/or choice:

-- Speak as quickly as you like with 3 minutes of preparation time or
-- Speak at a conversational rate with an hour of preparation time.

I would always make the 2nd choice, and in my mind it isn't even close. Debates are resolved by a very small number of issues. Mental fortitude is far superior to physical capability to spread in preparing the best speech possible.

The more work you do before a tournament thinking about debate the stronger your mental fortitude and the faster you'll think.
Brian Rubaie, Director
brian dot rubaie at ncpa dot org
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