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December 20, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

How to deal with the speed versus clarity issue in debate

Overenunciate. (this is part of what Phantom is getting to). Eventually this gets to be more normal.

Slow down for tags. Super critical.

Pause before a tag….or something that should be on the flow (ie argument titles–if only for clarity so the judge gets out another piece of paper)…..if possible.

There is a certain way debaters pop certain words….learn to do this if possible.

It might help to letter or number your speech… you cue the next argument. If you forget where you are….debaters just say “next”…..which can help…..but you REALLY want to number or letter so you cue judges in.

Remember to breath in normal spots….this helps.

Ask the judge for immediate feedback…if I need to be clearer…feel free to yell clear…..or if I’m going to fast.

Two things to avoid:
1. Sounding like you are hyperventilating. This is incredibly distracting….and not very good for communication.
2. Breathing in the wrong spots (see also #1). These are often related in practice.

Never ever forget the follow three short principles–which are the same thing just stated differently:
1. Debating is about communication. Judges aren’t super human. Slowing down to ensure that you are heard….is farrrrr more important to winning than blistering through some piece of evidence. Intelligence & thinking on your feet……beats speed. If you are clear & moderately fast….you should be pretty decent.

2. In terms of this last point. Ross Smith, one of the top winningest coaches in the activity from Wake Forrest University…before he died about 3 or so years ago made this point. It cannot be emphasized. I will state it a slightly different way…..if you sped through an argument and the judge didn’t get the argument down….it is as if the argument didn’t happen in the debate. You have wasted your time.

3. After all, the judge looks at their flow at the end of the debate to determine what is said and not….what is dropped and not. The flow & the judge actually hearing and understanding your argument is the ultimate filter for the debate. He/she makes the decision based on what he/she heard and got down.

Yes, these are difficult principles to remember in the heat of battle. But the dividends you will receive from being smart & clear….versus apparently “fast” but not making arguments that get on the flow, heard, or understood–are incredible.

I apologize…..this is my citation of Ross Smith from the lecture at the Berkeley institute in 2009, before his passing:
1. 30 Ways to Increase Your Speaker Points:

2. Judge Adaptation Lecture:

“You need to adapt to judging. You need to adapt to the fact that judging and debate are different. Judging is different than debate.”

This is from the second lecture. I think he develops this thesis throughout–or at least develops it throughout the early part of the lecture.

The wisdom that Ross Smith unleashes is quite profound…and helpful…..even in its seeming simplicity.

I haven’t watched these videoes since the summer they were published….but if you get 3 things from them–and actually implement the changes in your debating….its probably worth your time.


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