This will take you 60 seconds to read.
I’m heading off to my regional competition tomorrow and naturally I’m preparing so that I can do my best.
Now some important background: my speaker points have been progressively getting worse as the season goes on. I’ve been winning just as many rounds (5-1 every single qualifier and two tournaments wins), but just not truly connecting with the judges.
That being said, I’ve been trying to find out why I’m getting worse and not better and I think this is why: I am a debate robot.
Mechanically I’m stellar: I have up to 12 responses for every argument against my arguments, my brain is primed and ready to go, and I have as much fuel in the forms of briefs as I need.
But guess what? No one likes robots.
Can judges enjoy a machine speaking at 300 wpm? Eh, not really.
Can judges legitimately vote for a machine speaking at 300 wpm? Yes.
So what do people like? People like people.
When was the last time you had a productive, encouraging, entertaining, quality, or thought-provoking conversation with a robot? I’m willing to go as far as to say “never.”
When was the last time you had a productive, encouraging, entertaining, quality, or thought-provoking conversation with a person? Probably this very day.
Help! How can I be a person if I’m already a robot?
Condense and connect. It’s simply difficult i.e. it’s so easy and attainable, but sometimes it’s hard to do.
By “condense” I mean “condense.” Run fewer arguments, develop them (and by “develop” I don’t mean “have a ‘j’ subpoint”) by truly solidifying them in the judges mind. Use figures of speech, explain everything (this is crucial for a good argument), and show why your one, seemingly small, argument is in fact massive, true, and deserving of a vote.
By “connect” I mean “be someone who is enjoyable; be a person.” Connection means talking slower, maybe using a quick analogy or example, having catch-phrases (usually in the form of a figure of speech), being normal i.e. not talking about how utilitarianism ultimately leads to ethnic cleansing, or not claiming that mention of the word “proliferation” is culturally racist, and lastly being easy going.
All of those techniques connect with judges, allow for appearing confident, make you seem truly intelligent and not some PhD candidate who only likes to talk about how ANYTHING ANYONE does leads to extinction or national collapse, and ultimately makes you enjoyable and real.
All in all: be a person, not a robot, because heart and brains matter, and oil and hydraulics don’t.