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How do you take your speeches to the next level? How do you separate yourself from the rest of the room, and even the other speakers in the debate round? Focus on the key distinguishing factors that make all the difference. Most of the time you can just get good or beat your opponent with sheer argumentation, but what about those times when it is evenly matched?

Eye contact, hand gestures, vocal intonation, and especially syntax, are what matter. Here we will examine syntax. These techniques are a path to making your speeches smoother, more attractive, and more memorable. It helps your audience, or your judge visualizes what you are talking about, and accept your arguments.

Practice including these in your speeches, debate rebuttals, and you will see improvement. These are best used when you have a few spare minutes to find a way to include them beforehand. Platform speeches, prep time, and any prepared presentation or speech.

  • Repetition: Everyone knows this one (Ex. MLK’s I Have A Dream Speech). You can use it to get across one large idea. Gain consistency and credibility the longer you choose to use it in one speech. When you repeat keywords, your audience starts to see a theme. Read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2, Page 4, When Antony gives his speech “They Are All Honorable Men.”
  • Parallelism: This is where portions of your text and sentence structure (syntax) are similar. This is generally when listing three or more items and it follows a rhythm.
    • EX. At the Airport, the train’s schedule ran regularly, the tunnel’s lights and music played continuously, and the terminals setting areas we clean and well kept.
    • EX. The vat boiled, dripped, and bubbled
  • Illustrative Detail: Using an illustration to draw a connection for your audience.
    • EX. For example, for instance, namely, that is, including, such as, like, etc.
  • Imagery: Using the audience’s sense or imagination to create a visual image through sound, smell, and sight. When you are giving a speech, this allows your audience to turn a primarily auditory exercise, into a mentally visual one. It hijacks another form of evidence and allows your audience to “see” what you are talking about, thereby making your point all that more persuasive. Many debaters fail to do this. It is most helpful when impacting arguments out to the judge. If the audience can “see” why they should care, they inevitably will. It’s also the best tool to fight any sort of bias.
    • EX. The path meandered
    • EX. The music had a strong jazz flavor.
  • Noun Based Description: Uses nouns to describe the scene in a upbeat and fast-paced scene. Usually, this kind of description is utilized in thriller books and mystery stories.
    • EX. A white convertible Mustang, driven by a 50-year old man in an ill-fitting suit.
  • Verb Based Description: This approach lets everything do something. The story never stops, and everything is personified.
    • EX. The wind howled as she swept over the barren rocks and dusty desert.
  • Adjective Based Description: These channels your inner Charles Dickens and is the most flowery of the available techniques. Sometimes called Victorian, it is a style laden with adjectives.
    • EX. Maybe mansions are meant to be cold and musty. I was uncomfortable, and as isolated and outside as I could be.
  • The List Twist: Making a humorous moment out of a usually mundane one. When you are listing potential outcomes, probabilities, or aspects of any subject, give one unexpected one at the end.
    • EX. This plan will increase taxes, hurt the economy, and has as much chance of success as a dart-throwing monkey.

This list is by no means comprehensive – and is really just a start to all the advanced verbal techniques a speaker or debater can utilize in order to better persuade his or her audience. Communication centers around relaying information, so the listeners understand the speaker’s point of view.  These tactics will better equip anyone looking to help another party understand. These tactics translate to debate and speech, mostly because they work in everyday interaction as well.

Happy Debating.




Source: Simplified Writing 101, Erin Brown Conroy

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