I got to critique a practice round last night at Vector. (Kelly Deibler/Jack Leetun vs. Hannah Drown/Drew Chambers) In one hour, we made it through the end of the CX of the 1NC. These are all advanced debaters who have worked extremely hard, have piles of research, and above-average grasp of theory.
But they forgot how to speak.
Imagine you are coaching a beginning speech student on the fundamentals. What do you say? Probably something like this:
Organization: Start with a strong introduction, a hook or even a powerful thesis statement if you have nothing else. Be sure and refer to this again in the conclusion. Roadmap, without getting into too much detail, and then signpost so your judge knows where you are. It’s important to slow down on your transitions from point to point so the audience follows along. The simplest way to do this is with rhetorical questions (i.e. “So we’ve got a plan, but will it work? Yes we find, in Observation III: Solvency”) — which you shouldn’t be reading b/c it’s an important place to connect.
Presentation: Use eye contact as much as you can. Show you are comfortable and confident by stepping beside the lectern and explaining now and then. Change tone and emphasize key words in anything you are quoting to keep up interest and attentiveness. Summarize anything you quote, and any time you use an example or some type of proof for your point, specifically say how that matters. Eventually you’ll call that impacting.
One more thing for beginning debaters too: Flow your opponents and respond to their points specifically. Don’t come up there with “three significance points” once you are starting to refute; the most important part of refutation is the first part: identification. Where does this go? The last part, impact, says why it matters. In all cases, you need to fit into the organization already established in the round.
Each of these principles were thrashed in what I judged last night. And so I point out that to get your J.D. in debate, you can’t be all data… you still have to PRESENT that data. The basics are fundamental because they are the fundamentals!
Tip: Take your best historical political rhetoricians (MLK Jr., Patrick Henry, George Washington, Reagan) and try to sound like them when you debate.