Random Speaker Point Improvement Tips

First, if you don’t practice speaking for at least 30 minutes a day you are a joker. It’s that simple. Imagine you wanted to be on the cross country team, but instead of running every day all you did was stretch. Or you wanted to be on the swim team but instead of getting in the pool you just shaved your legs and wore your swim cap around. Or you wanted to do cross fit but instead of doing it you just watched a bunch of cross fit videos. Debate is a speaking activity, yet most people don’t practice speaking between tournaments. Even those who do don’t really understand exactly how much and how consistently they have to do it if they want to see actual results. You can break this down by numbers pretty easily

1. At the average HS tournament you get 6 prelims

2. In each prelim you speak for 13 minutes (8+5). The vast majority of people aren’t clearing.

3. That means you get 78 minutes of speaking practice at a tournament.

4. The average debater probably only goes to 8-10 tournaments a year, so lets liberally go with 10, that makes 780 minutes of speaking in one season.

If you do 30 minutes of speaking practice a day, that is the equivalent of about 1 tournament every 2 days. So in 10 (more like 13, but lets keep this simple) days of practice you will have spoken as much as other people will do all year. In one month you will have 3 years of debate tournaments.

Before moving on, one random thing that should be obvious- you speak better after a lot of warming up. If you don’t debate all of december and then show up at MBA your first few debates are going to be pretty rough. Even if you go read the 1AC for 5 minutes before the debate, you aren’t going to be in the groove. Reading a lot in the 3-4 days before the tournament will help with this and ensure that you get good points in your first few debates. This is crucial- your first few debates determine seeding and who you are going to hit later- high points here are much more important than high points in round 6 when you are now warmed up.

One other random aside, for the vast majority of people not clearing at tournaments it is much more important to do an hour a day of speaking then it is to cut cards. This is because if you become a really good speaker, you can clear with consult Japan and Spanos, if you can’t speak at all no amount of A+ strats are going to help you. Until you can clear at tournaments regularly, and get good speaker awards its more important to learn to speak good- largely this is a result of the availability of camp evidence online now. When you are struggling to clear you aren’t competing against the top teams in the country – your peer group is other teams struggling to clear and those just good enough to clear in the bottom 1/4 of the elim brakcet.

So what should you do for that 30 minutes (which remember is a minimum)?This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor are these in order

1. Get a comprehensive theory file and read the whole thing, outloud, every day for months. While reading it experiment with different levels of volume, speed, annunciation etc. and work on finding the best possible rate of fire where you have a smooth, uniform delivery. By this I mean no stuttering, double breathing, gasping, mumbling etc. You should to this with a theory file for a few reasons

A. Theory is often the hardest thing to flow- arguments are too short, not properly differentiated between etc. So if you can clearly deliver a 9 mn speech on theory, the rest should be easy. Recording yourself with a program like audacity and then trying to flow it will quickly show whether or not your assessment of if you are flowable is accurate.

B. Internalization- many critiques of theory debates is that the students just regurgitate blocks. Reading the same things over and over again can cause just wrote memorization, but it also helps you internalize/understand the arguments so that you can rapidly deploy them of the cuff without needing the blocks which will improve your theory debating a lot. To this day I still have memorized the theory file from the 98 SDI and where I to be mugged by someone running intrinsicness on the MARTA could rattle off the reasons against it without needing a block. I also would not need to prep my 2NR or have a flow of the 2NC to know what arguments I made or how to extend them, because its all internalized.

2. If you are bad at the K, and want to start going for the K, read that file outloud for 30-60 minutes a day. If you are bad at politics, likewise. It is fine and well to prep things by reading through them and highlighting them, but you need to practice debating them. Look through the aff section and establish an outlandish 2AC block that would take the aff 20 minutes to read. Then right blocks to all those arguments. Then read your 2NC. It may take you 40 minutes. Do that every day for a month. After that month a few things will happen

A. you will know all the issues in and out, and probably will not need the blocks

B. You will have gotten much faster/more efficient, and what took your 40 minutes initially will prob take 30 or less. You will learn what parts of cards are important and what parts can be eliminated.

C. When it comes time to prep an actual 2NC in a debate you will no how long you will take to answer each argument and can prep effectively

D. Confidence = (familiarity)(time)

40 minutes a day for a month probably seems ludicrous to many of you reading this. 40 minutes is not that much time. You probably waste 3X that amount every day screwing around in the debate office, checking your email/facebook obsessively, etc. Lets say that that 40 minutes is really 3 constructives and 3 rebuttals. If you did that every day between now and the glenbrooks on the security K you would have done 60 2nc’s and 60 2n’rs. How many affs at the glenbrooks will have done 60 practice debates vs the security K?

3. Rebuttal redos- there are 2 ways you can mess up a rebuttal. The most common way is you can mess up in terms of strategic vision- go for the wrong things, not allocate time to important arguments because you don’t see what is threatening, not give good impact comparison etc. The other way you can mess up is performance- you can drop something, be inefficient etc. Rebuttal redos exclusively deal with the 2nd kind of mistake. To deal with the first mistake you need to spend some time thinking strategically about things, and you need to spend some time speaking without having things prepped out. The best way to do this is to take some hypothetical examples and just start talking. A big problem with rebuttals of mediocre debaters is that they don’t get important issues prepped, they don’t like talking about what they don’t have prepped, and so they ignore a lot of important issues. Speaking drills where you practice extemporaneous impact comparison of all kinds of arguments can help with this. Here are some examples from my lab this summer- in each one the broad stroke arguments for each side are explained. You should practice giving speeches for each side explaining why you win. Try giving the speeches in 2 minute, 1 minute, and 30 second times. Obviously in 2 minutes you have to explain more/fill in more blanks, in 30 seconds you need to prioritize one argument and explain it very well. Don’t stop talking for the whole 2 minutes, if you run out of things to say think and then talk some more.


heg causes terrorism

-fwd deployment causes anger

-attacks on civilians fuel recruiting


-key to attack cells

-leadership prevents WMD spread

-withdrawal doesn’t reduce resentment


Growth is bad

-environmental limits to growth exist- makes collapse inevitable

-growth causes global warming, warming causes extinction

-economic collapse doesn’t cause growth- countries need booming economies to fund wars

Growth good

-collapse causes war- ww2 proves- desperate times cause crazy leaders to come to power

-growth key to technology- tech solves environmental problems and makes growth sustainable

Cap bad

-no value to life- commodity

-allows exploitation of nature for profit

-causes wars over resources

-causes exteme poverty- worse than war

cap good

-economic interdependence solves war

-individual liberty is key to v2l- only private property protects it

-cap raises standards of living- solves pov

-cap causes tech which solves the environment

-key to space- space o/w other impacts

For those of you obsessed with rebuttal redos, stop bothering your coaches with them- you can do them on your own. For your benefit, here is what your coach would of said after it

-you were unclear/have bad speaking habits

-chose more- go for less arguments and explain them/impact them better

-too much time on dumb magnitude impact calc- do more impact comparison- and do it for every issue and assume the worst case not the best case scenario

-extend evidence by citation and explain warrants- no bibliography

-how did you plan to win this debate- make your strategy clearer/the focus point- less line by line and more argument resolution

3 thoughts on “Random Speaker Point Improvement Tips

  1. Maximilian Tiger

    This article was exactly what I needed. I talked about it with my coach and have been changing the way I think of speaking drills, its really helped me get to know my evidence better.

    Now I just need to get some good theory/T theory files together to practice with.

Comments are closed.