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We hear coaches (and judges) discuss the need to “stand out from the competition.” Point well taken. Just one question: What does this mean for writing, blocking, and performing our platforms?

If you have ever asked or thought of a similar question, you are not alone. In this article, I hope to discuss useful and practical ways to make your platform stand out from the competition. Please note that not all these suggestions will apply to all platforms and topics. Simply take and use any suggestions as you please. (Feel free to give Ethos a shout out if a friend asks where you got any of these ideas).

For simplicity’s sake, I will discuss these tips and tricks in three areas: writing, blocking, and performing. 

Writing: developing the script

Writing a script is half the battle of preparing to compete in platform speeches. As such, there are countless ways to make

  • Prioritize Passion
    • When coming up with a topic for your platform, prioritize the topic you are most passionate about. One of the worst feelings when writing your script is losing motivation. By picking a topic that you love, writing the speech will be worth the effort.
    • Additionally, staying passionate about your topic helps the judges better enjoy your speech. No one wants to watch a competitor relay information without enthusiasm. If you get impassioned just by reading your script, then you are on the right track. 
  • Specifically Specific
    • When writing about your topic of interest, try writing on a particularly specific area/part of your subject. Go deep into one angle/perspective on your topic. Depth is preferable over breadth. Being super specific helps judges remember your speech apart from others.
  • Research Ruthlessly
    • Always take adequate time to research your subject before beginning to plan out and write your script. Make sure you have a clean line of thinking and vision for your speech before you begin to write. I once heard a really insightful piece of writing advice: “Clearer writing demonstrates clearer thinking.”
    • Do not settle for a quote less than satisfactory. Maybe you are having a hard time thinking of how to phrase a thought. Consider looking for a quote along the same idea. Additionally, if a quote says exactly what you need, but seems too long. Try giving credit to the source while paraphrasing the idea in your own words. 
    • Lastly, use all available search engine tools. Google is a word-based search engine; therefore, typing in individual words rather than phrases is most efficient. Try using parentheses to search for a particular phrase (e.g., +birds or +“birds can fly”). Use a hyphen to indicate words or phrases to be avoided (e.g. -birds or -“birds are government drones”).
  • Special Structure
    • Non-tradition point structure
      • There are various ways to use the layout of your speech to your advantage. Write a sentence into your script that specifically highlights the unique style of point structure you use. Here are a few ways to diversify your point structures:
    • Acrostic
      • Depending on the subject of your speech, you may be able to come up with a creative acrostic that helps the judges track with your speech. For example, my senior year, I used the acrostic W.O.R.S.H.I.P to cover various subjects I wished to discuss about worship. The acrostic was further divided into three main areas: what worship is (W and O), how society wrongly defines worship (R and S), and how to regain the art of worship (H, I, and P).
    • Acronym
      • Following the same idea as an acrostic, you can title your points to communicate a central phrase or subject. As an example, you are writing a platform on NASA. Title your first points with the letters N, A, S, and A in that order. Sometimes this results in your points sounding more like an acrostic. Do not fret if this occurs. It still sounds great and looks cool when the judges write it out.
  • Spectacular Story
    • Did your desire to write your platform start when you heard a story? If so, and the story is applicable for your speech, write it into your script. When writing, try to include as many of the five Ws as possible. Describing who, what, where, when, and why are crucial for storytelling and connecting with the judges. Here are a few types of stories you could include in your speech.
    • 1. Personal: We all have a unique story to tell. Consider using yours to emphasize your topic, its importance, or why you chose to speak on the topic.
      • Demonstrate Purpose (for the topic): One reason for using a personal story is to emphasize the speech’s main topic. Maybe you decided to wake up and make your bed every day. As a result, you saw countless benefits that are available to those who wake up early. If the moral of the story fits, consider using it to demonstrate the why behind your speech.
    • 2. Well-known
      • Individual: Maybe you know a historical figure who demonstrated the quality you are trying to promote. For example, our nation’s first president, George Washington, cut down his family’s cherry tree. A speech on humility and honesty could use Washington’s story to stress the need for social change and transparency.
    • 3. Fictional
      • Could you use your favorite book character or beloved movie star’s role as an example of your topic? Consider how a character, oftentimes the hero, demonstrates perseverance in the face of trials and tribulations. Maybe the bad guy shows how greed corrupts and power comes at a cost. Use the good and the bad of a story to show the benefits of your topic or what it looks like to need your suggestion.  
    • 4. Ancestral
      • Did your desire to write your platform start when you heard a story from your family’s past? If so, make sure to include your family’s connection to the topic. Judges love to hear how you came to choose your topic, especially if it has to do with your heritage.
    • 5. Moral of the story
      • All stories, characters, and analogies boil down to a central moral and message they seek to communicate. Thus, in order to effectively use a story in your speech, you must find a story, character, example, analogy, etc. that aligns with your central message. 

Blocking: Conducting your performance

When blocking (planning out how to perform and present your script), I suggest thinking of your speech like a topical monologue that you are performing. With this perspective, competing in a platform event is more than just memorization work. It entails deliberately considering each moment of your performance and how it will be perceived by the judges.

Here are some areas in which you can use blocking to your advantage when planning how to perform your script.

  1. Interp Elements
    • In order to stand out from the competition, consider adding in interpretive elements.
      • Characters
    • Your intro could contain interping a famous quote from Aristotle, Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln, or even Darth Vador. Remember, you’re just adding in a little touch of something untraditional to add energy to your speech. You do not need a crazy-long dialogue scene, just a simple quote with a focus on your key theme will do. I would recommend interping quotes if your speech strategically includes humor.
      • Postures
    • Your posture controls your perception of confidence. Could you strategically shrink inward when talking about being afraid? Could you stand boldly when you proclaim the solution to that one problem you always find annoying? Think through how your posture can communicate a different message to your judges. Which posture best portrays your central message, section of your speech, quote, etc.?
      • Imaginary Objects
    • Very rarely, I will see someone pretend to interact with imaginary objects around the room when giving their platform speech. One time I watched a competitor effectively pretend there was a bookshelf in the room. At each transition, they would pull out a new book from the shelf and proceed to open it to an imaginary page. Consider using an imaginary object for transitions or effect. It can be an effective method for standing out from your competition. 
  2. Write Down Dynamics
    • Think of your speech like a sheet of music. When blocking out your script, do not forget to plan out your “vocal blocking.” Just like on a sheet of music, mark the pitch, tone, volume, pacing, and pauses you wish to use at various parts of your speech.
      1. Pitch: Psychologically, ending sentences with a slight drop in your pitch builds more credibility than ending sentences at a higher pitch. Thus, practicing your speech at various pitches and recording yourself helps find your best pitch efficiently.
      2. Tone: When you plan to become elated in your speech, try speaking excitedly. Wanna act grumpy?  Become Eeyore for a second. Getting mad? Raise your voice like your mama tells you not too! Portray the correct mood of your words by changing the tone as needed. Don’t forget to mark your plan down on a printed copy of your script!
      3. Volume: Trying to emphasize your next sentence? *Try…getting…quieter* (and slower). Seeking to spark energy and wake the judges up before their coffee sets in? Be loud and proud as you sing “LET IT GO!” (No, not that again. Sorry…not sorry). When you want to use volume to your advantage is up to you. Be smart in using this tool and you will unlock its true potential. 
      4. Pacing: Getting excited? Speed up. Telling a heartfelt story…slow down. Planning the pacing of your speech helps your time management as well as the judge’s ability to comprehend.
      5. Pauses: I know you have been reading this blog for a couple of minutes by now. Take a deep breath. Pause. Rest your brain. Similarly, give the judges a second to take in the impact of your last statement. Plan out a time in your speech to let the silence hang in the room. Use the silence to allow the judges to think of an answer to your question. Maybe the pause is strategic to evoke a sense of …. Oh no, the awkward silence! Sometimes a planned pause in your speech helps you, as the competitor, to relax and regain your thoughts and composure.
  3. Scrambling the Speaker’s Triangle
    • Have you learned about the speaker’s triangle? The idea is to start your speech in the middle of the room moving to one side while changing points then the other for your second point before coming back to the center for your last point and conclusion. Yes, it actually exists. Sounds complicated, right? Well, judges will frequently see speakers do the same movements across the room over and over again, six, seven times in a room. What if you were the one competitor that paced around the room for a little bit, paused at an untraditional time in the speaker’s triangle for emphasis, or even did not follow the speaker’s triangle? Here is a suggestion for platforms.  
      • Sub-triangles: Pretend you are following the speaker triangle, but during each point (both of the triangle and your speech) you form a mini triangle with your movements. I would not suggest going outside a four-foot radius of the point, but make sure to use the space provided for you. 
  4. “Think Outside the Box”
    • In order to stand out from the competition, it’s well-known you need to “think outside the box.” How can you spark your creativity to tap into untouched territory?
      • Target: Target one specific area of blocking to be the best and practice meticulously.
      • Bold Actions: Try finding a unique action to perform that will help you stand out from the competition. For example, touching the floor (presently against the rules). Inspiration for the idea of touching the floor came from an NCFCA nationals winning platform speech I watched a few years ago. The speaker was bold enough to sit down on the stage to emphasize his message effectively. My senior year, I followed in the competitor’s footsteps by including an action in my platform that demonstrated postures of worship. During this segment, I would touch the floor with my knees and hands as an act of worship to God. Do not fret, it was not against the rules at that time. The following summer, the rule “only feet are permitted to touch the floor at any time” was implemented. 
  5. Twist Familiar Phrases
    • Remember those “weird” phrases and references your parents would use all the time when you were younger? Yes, you’re not the only one who knows about those. How could you use one of those phrases to challenge a false view people hold? “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a common idea one might mention. Find a Chinese proverb to challenge. Point out its flawed logic and thinking as you continue to communicate the truth to your audience.

Performing: when under pressure

What should you do when you are under pressure and performing your speech? Here are my current suggestions:

  1. Be You
    • There is no reason to be stiff when trying to act like someone who is not you. 
  2. Control the Room
    • As you enter the competition room, analyze the space. Could you move more freely about the room? Or, are you constricted to a confined space? 
    • How can you plan for different sized rooms? Should your voice be louder or softer? 
    • Try to check the acoustics of the room when introducing yourself. Does the room cause reverberations or echoes? Is the room sound insulated? 
    • Know your audience. Do judges like humor or prefer straight facts? If your first two jokes are unable to land successfully, consider refraining from making more than one more joke.
  3. Confidence is Key
    • No matter how prepared you may feel, always be confident in your message. You have poured countless hours into your speech. 
    • Keep a clear perspective on why you are giving this speech: to inform, persuade, or analyze a subject for God’s glory. No matter how well you place, as long as you communicate your central method, you have succeeded.
  4. Confidence in Your Creator
    • You are uniquely created by God. Use the personality, talents, and gifts He has given you to bless those around you. Be confident in His love for you and allow His love to overflow from you into your speeches.


There are countless tips and recommendations for how to stand out from your competition. I hope these tips and tricks spark your imagination into a new world of platform speeches.

Let me know what you have learned in the comment section below! What have you done to stand out from your competition?

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