In my experience there are two types of new debaters. There are the ones that have trouble speaking at all. They can’t fill up time and they are deathly afraid of public speaking. Then there are the new debaters who can talk for hours and have absolutely no trouble speaking. The problem for the second type of debater isn’t an inability to speak, it’s a tendency to take something that could be said in one sentence and spend five minutes on it.
I actually went through both phases. As soon as I got over my inability to speak, I would cover up my nervousness with rambling.
Time management is essential to quality debate and it’s something that I had to work really hard on to succeed. It’s also something that no good debater has completely mastered. The good news is, it’s actually not that hard to improve. Here’s what I used to take my time management from a weakness to what I considered a strength…
I always really hated doing drills. I’m not really even sure why, but I did, which is actually why I loved redoing speeches so much. It’s definitely the more adaptable of the drills here. The idea is simple: you take a speech for which your time management was poor and re-give the speech trying to improve on your time management. There are a lot of ways to go about this, and you should choose what best fits you.
The first variation is the 10 second drill. In this drill you set your timer for 10 seconds and give each of your arguments in 10 seconds. When you can’t give an argument in 10 seconds you reset the timer and start over. The benefit of this drill is that it gives a specific goal. The only problem with this variation is that it’s a little bit inflexible. Some arguments should take longer than others, and that’s fine. So, if you don’t need the specific goal and want more flexibility, just keep on re-giving the argument until it is as concise as possible.
The second variation is the decreasing time drill. In this drill you take the entire speech and re-give it, first with normal time and then with a shorter amount of time. The goal here is that you would force yourself to be more concise than you need so that in a round, you would have more than enough time to make your points.
The final note on this drill is that it doesn’t always have to be formal. Sometime I would sit down at my desk with a timer and flow pad, but sometimes, I would re-give my speeches in the shower. Obviously, I didn’t have a timer or flow pad, but I could still work on making my arguments more concise. So, mix and match and do what works for you, but repetition builds habit so, make sure to work on conciseness regularly.
The amazing thing about re-giving your speeches is that it improves so many different aspects of your debate skills. Not only do you become more concise, but you also improve your wording. If you are competing in Team Policy or Lincoln Douglas, arguments get repeated every round. Figuring out the exact wording for those arguments is often going to be the difference between the winner and loser in a good quality round. Try working this into your routine. Do it a couple times a week in a formal way and try to do it every day in an informal manner. Find some mindless activity and use that time to re-give your arguments and speeches. I promise you it’s going to improve your debating.
Caleb competed in Stoa for 4 years. He is currently attending Union University and pursuing a double major in Economics and Political Science, with a future goal of a law degree. If you would like to book a coaching session with Caleb, click here.