Why you shouldn’t use a Table of Contents

Too many people treat their speeches like term papers. Great recipe for putting your audience to sleep! In the odd case the you aren’t a sleep therapist and have to speak to people at some point in your life, you might want to read this post.

Don't like boring speeches? (Courtesy of Shilly Shallys World on Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Don’t give the punch line away

Your introduction is important. The first 30 seconds is when the audience decides whether to listen or tune you out. If they already know everything you’re saying, they’ll stop listening. If you reveal everything you’re going to say… well, would you listen for ten minutes when you already know everything in the first minutes?

Your speech is not a book. You don’t need a table of contents. Think of it this way: when was the last time you were deciding whether to read a book from the table of contents? Seriously; your introduction should look like the back cover of a book; not the table on page xii.

Don’t bury the lead

Anyone who knows anything about journalism knows this is key. Don’t bury your lead. Taking too long to get to the meat of the argument also puts your audience to sleep.

The trick is to give your audience just enough to want more. Use a good murder mystery as your guide. Good authors always give you just enough to ask questions (“whose the killer?” “who is going to find him?” “is the victim telling the truth?”) but not enough to guess the end. Sometimes it’s even useful to mislead the audience in order to bring to light and shatter some misconception they may have.

Make your audience ask questions - like it's a mystery. (Image from Gregory Wake - used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Say what you’re going to say, say it, and then say what you said.”

Probably the worst advice for a speech you want people to listen to. Definitely the most boring.

Still, can’t really blame those who give this advice. I mean, repetition is good. It’s the root of learning. Instead of saying the same thing over and over and over, come up with different example, application, and phraseologies. Keep hammering the same point, just use a different hammer. Say it a different way each time. (get my point?)


just take it from me. Go read Beth’s the three points of death.

This is a big ‘ol list of “don’ts.” To hear about the “dos” of making ideas interesting, my recommendation is Made To Stick by the Heath brothers.


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: http://heathbrothers.com/madetostick 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 http://ncfca.org 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.

The Case that won Region IV 2009

Well, NCFCA Nationals is coming up, so I figured it was my duty to give every bit of advice I can to those moving on to this higher level of competition. Anyway… here’s the case that won finals at last year’s Region IV tournament.

A super extra lot of credit goes to my super awesome former debate partner Toni Maisano. Maybe she’ll share some of her wisdom with you on why this case worked as well as it did.

This was a long time in the making. If you’re interested, you can read an earlier version here. Maybe I’ll post a little later on why we made the changes we did. Three specific things I think were done well in this case (and made it interesting):
a) support: evidence; not solid quotes.
b) SHORT taglines.
c) stories.

Feel free to ask questions and let me know what you think.

Aff1.1 – FA006

Imagine that there’s a poor man on the side of the road. He informs you that he can’t feed his children and desperately needs money. You’re feeling generous, so you give him a hundred dollars, telling him to use it wisely. He assures you that he will, turns around, and takes off his brand new Porsche.

After investigating this strange character, you learn that only 5 out of the 100 dollars you gave him actually went to feeding his family. You also, to your dismay, discover that he owns shares in the mortgage on your home. Now, knowing just how apparently irresponsible your last decision was, I have to pose the question: The next time you go past his corner, will you give him another 100 dollars? Or will you take that money and use it toward paying that mortgage you owe that strange “poor” man?

The way our government hands out aid to India is very similar to this analogy, and it is why we must affirm: That the United States Federal Government should significantly change its policy toward India. Today we will be showing you the similarities, and presenting a plan to phase out our irresponsible program to aid India.

But before we can do this, we need to make sure we’re on the same page in:

1) Definitions

Sources and further definitions are available upon request. Here are a couple to get us started:

United States-“country North America bordering on Atlantic, Pacific, & Arctic oceans; a federal republic”

(“United States of America.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/United States of America )

Significantly-“Having or likely to have a major effect; important”

(American Heritage Dictionary, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/significantly)

Change-“to undergo a modification of ”

(Merriam-Webster Online Dict. 2008, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/change)

Policy-As foreign policy consists of ‘decisions and actions which involve to some appreciable extent relations between one state and others’, it can be defined as ‘the actions of a state toward the external environment and the conditions under which these actions formulated’.

(Prof. Mustafa Aydin (professor of International Relations at the Faculty of Political Science, Ankara University, Turkey; as well as at the National Security Academy, Ankara, Turkey; was Research Fellow at the Center for Political Studies, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor) 2006, “Turkish Foreign Policy at the End of the Cold War; Roots and Dynamics”, Turkish Yearbook of International Relations, http://www.politics.ankara.edu.tr/dosyalar/MMTY/36 /1_mustafa_aydin.pdf)

Toward-“With regard to; in relation to”

(American Heritage Dictionary, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/toward)

India-“A country of southern Asia covering most of the Indian subcontinent.”

(The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/India)

Foreign Aid-“assistance (as economic aid) provided by one nation to another”

(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foreign%20aid)

In this case, we will be focusing on one goal. That’s the second point we want to make:

2) Goal: Responsibility

So, in this round, we would encourage you to look at our policy on foreign aid and see if it is truly responsible. We want to start by showing you two reasons that foreign aid is not a responsible policy in:

3) Harms

This case specifically addressed economic aid, both in cash and in kind. According to the Congressional Research Service, we are sending India $74.1 Million annually.

How is this money being uses irresponsibly? Our two harms are debt and waste.

Thomas Lum (Specialist in Asian Affairs Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division). “U.S. Foreign Aid to East and South Asia: Selected Recipients.” October 8, 2008. Congressional Research Service, RL31362. http://opencrs.com/document/RL31362

a) Debt

Interestingly enough, the Department of the treasury reported that while giving India foreign aid, we also owed them about $38.2 Billion in Treasury Securities.

Department of the Treasury/Federal Reserve Board. May 15, 2009. “Major Foreign Holders of Treasury Securities” http://www.ustreas.gov/tic/mfh.txt

In other words, we’re donating to our creditor. Our children are the ones who will have to pay for it. This is anything but a responsible policy, especially when you consider that much of our foreign aid has been wasted in India’s system.

b) Waste

A team of three Indian researchers decided to see what kind of effect foreign aid had on their government. They used a computer generated model to predict government spending with and without aid, comparing it to real data. Their conclusion was published in the:

Vinaya Swaroop (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India), Shikha Jha (Ph.D. in economics, Development Research Group, World Bank), and Andrew Sunil Rajkumar (Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India).
September 2000.
“Fiscal effects of foreign aid in a federal system of governance The case of India.” Journal of Public Economics 77.3 (2000): 307-330. Accessed via ScienceDirect.

“This paper models fiscal effects of foreign aid in a federal system of governance. Our main innovation is to incorporate the inter-governmental fiscal link in examining economic fungibility of foreign aid. The model is applied to the expenditure decisions of the central government of India. The two main findings are: (i) Foreign aid merely substitutes for spending that the government would have undertaken anyway; funds freed by aid are spent on non-development activities, and (ii) In passing earmarked external assistance to states, the central government makes a reduction in its transfers to states. These findings indicate that the central government’s expenditure choices are unaffected by external assistance. The implication for donors is that even though their development projects may be associated with very high rates of economic return, they could be assisting the central government in financing something very different at the margin. For the state governments, the finding indicates that they may not be reaping the full benefits of externally procured assistance.”

Non-development activities. So, major studies have shown that foreign aid doesn’t help India build roads or feed the poor; those projects have been done anyway. In fact,

The Financial Times.
23 2008.
“Western donors wrestle with the contradictions of rising India.” By Jo Johnson (B.A., M.B.A., Financial Times’ South Asia bureau chief). http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3470229c-c9db-11dc-b5dc-000077b07658.html

India does little to solicit aid and, sometimes, much to deter it. Ahead of Mr Brown’s visit, Rahul Gandhi, a senior Congress party politician, hinted at the extent of corruption, claiming that only 5 per cent of development funds reached their intended recipients, down from 15 per cent when his father was prime minister.
“His warning coincided with the release by the World Bank of a report that found “systemic fraud and corruption” in a flagship health programme and “suggested that other projects had been similarly compromised”. The bank in the year to June 2007 provided $3.7bn in new loans to India, its largest borrower.”

95 percent of aid somehow gets sidetracked. It gets spent on “non-development:” activities that are nice, but don’t actually help people. Well, like what? For example, while millions are going hungry, India is working on a two billion dollar space program.

The Guardian.
22 October 2008.
“Over-reaching for the stars” by Randeep Ramesh (the Guardian’s south Asia correspondent). http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/oct/22/india-spaceexploration

Summarized it well:
“But with precocity can come a hubris that is hard to shake off in later life. Perhaps the country would do well to direct some of its remarkable talents to the more obvious, acute problems it faces on earth, rather than inventing reasons to reach for the stars.”

Our funding allows them to gloss over their people and keep their head in the clouds.

That man with a Porsche can feed his children, he’d just rather let others do it. India is the same way. A very similar analogy is used by

Professor Deepak Lal (D.Phil., M.A., B.A., Professor of International Development Studies, University of California, LA, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy, University College London, former consultant to the Indian Planning Commission, Economic Advisor and Research Administrator to the World Bank, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute).
April 6, 2006.
“Reply to Easterly: There is No Fix for Aid.” CATO Unbound. http://www.cato-unbound.org/2006/04/06/deepak-lal/there-is-no-fix-for-aid/

He adds: “[Professor William] Easterly clearly thinks that there might still be some form of escape from what will appear to the world’s great and the good as a defeatist and gloomy conclusion. But the very example he cites—the role played by accountability and evaluation in the Mexican Progressa education program as a prototype for future aid projects—shows up why foreign aid is unnecessary for such programs. This was a Mexican program not funded by foreign aid. In fact in all the currently fashionable “soft” areas—health, education, democracy, gender etc.—favored by aid donors, there is no need for foreign money. Countries which subscribe to the worthy objectives of the aid donors do not need foreign money to do the right thing; they today have enough domestic money for these purposes. It is the ineffectiveness of this expenditure in meeting these objectives that leads to the observed dismal outcomes. Thus India spends a fair amount on public education but as official report after report has documented, this expenditure is wasted as the teachers do not turn up to teach, the school buildings are not built, and there are no books for which expenditure has been sanctioned. It is the will to do the right thing that remains in question in achieving even these modest objectives favored by Easterly. Foreign aid will make no difference, for as the adage has it: “You can lead a horse to the water but you cannot make him drink”.”

As Lal advocates, we will next propose a plan that will address these two harms by phasing out this wasteful program and using the money to pay off our debt.

4) Plan

Our plan is really pretty simple. Here’s the specifics:

the Agency and Enforcement: of this plan is the Federal Government of the United States. There are two mandates that this agency will implement:

Mandate 1: Phase Out. Current government non-military aid sent to the India will be phased out. Discretionary funds shall be terminated, contracts shall not be renewed, and no new commitments shall be made. According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) service, this currently includes CSH (Child Survival and Health), DA (Development Assistance), and P.L. 480 Title II Grants (In-kind food aid).

Mandate 2: Funds Redirected. Funds freed shall be redirected to pay off Indian Securities.

Next, the Timeline: This plan will be phased in as possible over the next two fiscal years.

Finally, we reserve the right to clarify this plan as needed.

The fifth and final observation of this case is how this plan pays off and restores responsibility:

5) Advantages

a) Exponential Savings

See debt doesn’t just increase at a constant rate. It is also accumulating interest, so it grows exponentially, a lot like cancer. Consequently, we are able to save exponentially by paying it off. So, starting with just $ 74.1 Million,
-In 10 years, we will not save $ 741 Million, we’ll save almost a billion dollars.
-And in 20 years, we won’t save $ 1.4 Billion, with interest we’ll save 2.5 Billion.
Formula Used:
Where A is the amount after t years, P is the principle (74.1 Million), r is the interest rate (estimated to be 5% for the purposes of this calculation), and e is an irrational mathematical constant approximately equal to 2.71828…

The longer we save, the more we save. So now is the time to start making this long term investment. But there is anther reason to adopt this plan.

b) Responsibility

This policy is not only frugal on our part, but also promotes responsible policy on all sides. Let’s look at history to illustrate this point. In 1998, India tested nuclear weapons and, in response, the United States cut off foreign aid. So, did people die? Was the Indian economy thrown into turmoil? Interestedly enough, the exact opposite happened. At the time, an article was published in:

The Lancet (Leading Medical Journal, established 1828, currently ranked number two in general medicine).
June 13, 1998.
[Was entitled] “India to raise health spending to counteract foreign aid sanctions.” by Sanjay Kumar. The Lancet, Vol 351 (1998): p 1794. Accessed via ScienceDirect.

“Defying the sanctions placed on the Indian economy in the wake of nuclear test explosions, the BJP[Hindu nationalist]-led government has proposed large budget increases for health care, education, and public welfare. The central health and family welfare budget for 1998–99, now being debated in parliament, is proposed to increase by 34% above last year’s allocation. The education spending would rise by 50% and welfare by 91%.”

So, when we stopped funding irresponsible politics, India released that they really did have money for healthcare. Looking back, the CATO Institute points out that this historical president shows that:

CATO Institute.
Cato Handbook for Policymakers. 7th Edition (2009). Ch 63. “Foreign Aid and Economic Development.” pg 660. http://www.cato.org/pubs/handbook/hb111/hb111-63.pdf

Far more effective at promoting market reforms is the suspension or elimination of aid. Although USAID lists South Korea and Taiwan as success stories of U.S. economic assistance, those countries began to take off economically only after massive U.S. aid was cut off. As even the World Bank has conceded, ‘‘Reform is more likely to be preceded by a decline in aid than an increase in aid.’’ When India faced Western sanctions in 1998 in response to nuclear tests there, the International Herald Tribune reported that ‘‘India approved at least 50 foreign-investment projects to compensate for the loss of aid from Japan and the United States’’ and that it would take additional measures to attract capitalIn the end, the countries that have done the most to reform economically have made changes despite foreign aid, not because of it.”

To recap this case, you could just use one sentence. We don’t have the money for a wasteful program when there are valid alternatives to it. History shows that when we stop propping up their irresponsibility, India will rise to the challenge. Similarly, Americans can donate to worthy causes through effective charities, who aren’t in the same financial predicament as our government. It is the time to do the responsible thing.

So we urge you to vote affirmative. Thank you.

Seven Tips for Not Sleeping During Class

Ever had a teacher that talks really softly and can’t get his mic to work? Maybe your professor uses a font designed by ants for his slides? I mean, big words and little letters. Perhaps he has a voice that sounds like it came from Oklahoma? Yeah, it’s flat. Ha! Me too. Somehow I stayed awake.

Photo credit: Natthawut Kulnirundorn for openphoto.net CC:Attribution-ShareAlike

Ok… Fine… most of the time I did. Here are some of my top tips for staying awake in the most boring of lectures:

Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe / CC BY 2.0

1. Move your pen

Don’t tap, just move. Working on your pencil twisting technique (as long as you don’t make noise) requires enough concentration to do the trick.

2. Count things

No… don’t start counting sheep. Keeping your eyes peeled for something real may help you say awake. How many times does he say “um” or “the” or “grade?” Or, better yet, practice the power (or the multiplication) tables on the back of your notes.

Image from stockvault.

3. Drink

Coffee doesn’t have the corner on the wake-up market. Water works just fine. A little liquid down the throat is great at keeping your body awake. (Just not alcohol. Seriously)

4. Nervous Dance

If you don’t have a nervous twitching problem, now may be the time to go get one. But seriously, twitching your neck, silently tapping your foot, or something else that will easily get dismissed as just a nervous habit will keep you awake just fine.

5. A clean face

For me, a bath makes me feel more relaxed and ready to doze off, but a cold water in the face or a drop on each eyelid is great at keeping you awake. As the water evaporates, the water takes your eyelids up too.

6. Stretch

No one will get on you for streaking your neck or other muscles. A little exercise in class can make the sleepy bugs go away, just don’t start doing push ups.

7. Exercise Before

Every day when I go to school, I have to walk to the bus. Most think that exercise tires you out, but neurological research shows that it produces a brain chemical known as dopamine that helps significantly in the learning process and keeps you awake. Some times, when I drive to school I have the hardest time keeping my eyes open because I didn’t get good exercise.

Something else?

There are definitely more than seven ways to stay awake. Got any more to add? Let me know.

Advice… take it from a Freshman

Yup, I’m just a freshman, but I thought that, while waiting for the results from my semester, I’d share with y’all my reflections.

The UT South mall on September 11. One flag for each victim… It was a surreal moment for me. It seemed like the clouds felt the same way.

First, I compiled a few great sayings that I’ve picked up that are useful through… all life.

Potential: What you can do

“…90 percent of your potential is not only untapped and unused, but also undiscovered.” – Tim Hansel, qtd: Urban 7.

Passive people: “Bad stuff happens to me.”
Proactive, effective, people: “I happen to bad stuff.”

Understanding: Potential in your brain

Don’t try to make yourself understood, try to help others understand.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Steven Covey

Priorities: Unleashing understanding

There are lots of things out there that are really cool – that’s why I let OTHER people spend their time on it.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” – Isaiah.
I don’t think he was talking to the gardeners here. Connection:
Grass = basic food. Stuff you see (and need) every day.
Flowers = beauty. How long does that REALLY last?

Sigh… :Is imagining misquotations of that statement: for the record: Brian does not eat grass, but maybe Isaiah did. Oh well, I’ll resign myself to this fate.

Urgency: the appearance of being important. Skip urgent stuff for the important stuff.

If you want to procrastinate, put your deadlines in a calendar with dates.
If you want to get them done, put them on a list to tear up when you’re a good boy!

Fads last a week, knowledge lasts a lifetime, but people will last even longer.

Responsibility: Responding to whatever got released

“The Beauty of Grace is that it makes life not fair.” -Relient K

Giving God control doesn’t mean loosing control. It means having complete control.

“Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional” – Tim Hansel

Now… for what no one has been waiting for…
College Specifically

In school, you pay to spend time with teachers. At college, that stops. Now I’m paying to be with really, really smart people.

Who might be teachers, but probably not. That’s the main difference: you have to LEARN proactively, not expect to be TAUGHT.

One hour of study followed by an hour of sleep sure beat two hours of study.

Stay away from dark, scary allies.

While we’re at it, stay away from Greenpeace. They want to talk about whales, not economics. :sheepish grin: Oh yes I did.

Scientists analyse what it, but engineers get to create what has never been.

So I guess that’s all the wisdom I can think of and fit in one post. Oh well. I honestly don’t know what else to add. Lookin’ forward to another semester. And I still want to be an engineer. And, believe it or not, my sense of humor survived. 😉

I have a great future to look forward to. Just check this out: PHD Comics: Motivation.