Is Summer Rusting you Debate Skills?

What you need is a little lubricant. I know everyone has tons and tons of extra time on their hands this summer. (hehe… yes, I know… me too.) BUT without lubrication, your speaking skills will get rusty, so I recommend you devote a little time over your summer to make sure you’ve still got it. So, here are some of my tips:

1) Read Made to Stick

Made to Stick BookMy Debate Club has officially decided to make Dan and Chip Heath’s Made to Stick required curriculum for next year. I’d recommend using your summer to get a head start. Here’s the website: Complete with the first chapter (for free) and a link to buy the book (not for free).
Made to Stick has to have been the most useful book to me in my entire debate career, and that includes books like Introduction to Argumentation and Debate, so it comes highly recommended.

2) Be your own judge

Sometimes, it’s had to get into your audience’s shoes and see your speeches from the judge’s perspective. Here’s my tip: grab an old video of you from last year’s competition, print off a ballot from and fill it out on your speech. Yes, you heard me right. Judge yourself.
This works especially for speeches, but you might also do it on one of your debate rounds.

3) Do Some Russian Reading

There may not be any assignments or any pressing cases, but you should still do a little reading over the summer. Specifically, you should focus on big picture information. Read up on Russia’s history or international relations philosophy. You probably shouldn’t bother cutting blocks or briefing just yet; work on having a strong foundational understanding.

For starters, head over to Wikipedia’s Russia article or go see what the Department of State has to say about Russia.
Oh, and if you learn how to say “please vote affirmative, judge” in Russian, you will get double coolness points from me. 😆

4) Drills

Here are three great drills you should do before every tournament. Summer may be the perfect time to get in the habit!

Warm up your face: sometimes in the morning, my face looks like its been botoxed. You want your face to look natural, so a few overdone facial gestures may be good. Grab a mirror and see what creative facial expressions you’re capable of. 🙂

Smooth Impromptu: It’s really hard to speak smooth as an ice cream sundae. Sometimes you want a thoughtful pause or a rephrase or two, but you want to be were you don’t HAVE to use any verbal crutches. Get a totally random topic and instead of focusing on content or structure, just focus on speaking smoothly. Every time you make a verbal slip (a stutter, an um, a “like”, etc.) start over from the beginning.

Practice Reading: Debate involves a very different type of reading. You need to read out loud with precision and interest. The single most important ingredient is to develop a “reading buffer,” so that you’re read words and comprehend meanings before you actually speak them. The best way to practice the “buffer” is to read something you’ve never read aloud as fast as possible.
Need something to read? Head over to wikipedia’s main page and read about something random like Leviathan Melvillei or Hugh Capet. Reading about stuff you don’t care about and can’t pronounce is great practice for debate! 😉

One last note: If you were preparing for football season, your coach might have you do push-ups. Why? You’re never going to do that in a game, right? Even so, a player who doesn’t do his push-up won’t be in shape for the season. Similarly, I want to encourage y’all to work up your debate “strength,” so to speak, even if it doesn’t seem like you’ll use these drills in a tournament.

Let me know if you try this out and what summer drills work well for you.


One Response

  1. Thanks for posting this Brian! I was trying to think of something to get me back into speech and debate mode 🙂 I’ll try it out.

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