Congratulations on the success of your team. Last year your team finished in the top 5 nationally and this year they reached the finals of Wake Forest and closed out Yale. You also coached some of the best speakers at the Wake Forest tournament and Yale Tournaments..
Can you identify five essential elements that students need to incorporate into their speeches to rank in the top 20% of speakers at a tournament. What are the judges looking for?
So first, Fluency/Clarity is probably one of the most important expectations of judges when it comes to awarding speaker points. Your ability as a debater to extemp speeches and effectively address the main issues in a round become very compelling and are often reflected when awarding speaker points. Practicing your speeches and knowing what arguments to go for before the round even begins can help debaters increase this skill. Stammering and word fillers are easy to catch and can be the difference between 27-28s and 29-30s. Speaking drills that force a person to not compromise clarity for content are most efficient. Practicing speaking drills such as speaking with pens in mouth or doing impact drills to practice talking about the way you impacts interact with common arguments for late round speeches.
Secondly, Confidence. I tell my kids all the time that perceptual dominance matters. There is a line between being aggressive and being overtly mean, but when you know your arguments/evidence that goes a long way. Judges appreciate students who have the ability to answer and respond effectively to questioning and can move from issue to issue with no hassle. Confidence is best exuberated when you are well prepared. Topic knowledge from extensive research and evidence gives you the ability to attack all sides of the topic without having to rely too much on external factors like your partner or your blocks.
Third, too often kids get into the habit of not properly “extending” their arguments. They prefer to extend taglines or just impacts without really explaining the Logical Analysis behind their arguments. The “How” and “Why” are very important questions to answer when you are talking about your own arguments. Judges often find themselves with a multitude of arguments that just aren’t substantiated and that leaves room for judge intervention or a discrepancy between what you are trying to say and what the judges perception is. Without this, judges often think kids aren’t doing enough in speeches. In order to improve this, practice rebuttals without reading any cards to help engage the debate with more logical warrants.
Fourth, Coverage/Organization, there are often a wealth of issues and arguments that get tossed around in the debate. It is imperative that students make these issues clear and concise in order for the judge to properly identify who is winning what. Going over each point with proper time allocation ensures you leave nothing on the table for your opponents to counter and the better word economy allows for you to cover more issues. Transcribing speeches by recording them and later listening, you can cut down word count while also improving your time allocation per argument.
Fifth, Strategy is also very important. A team should provide a cohesive narrative to outline their arguments. When team members go for different things or neglect to engage the debate in the same way, the judge becomes conflicted as to what issues are important. This discrepancy can lead to the judge having to prefer which arguments they think are better and penalize a team member for not having similar narratives.