I know that we are finally to finals and the Christmas season with many students across the nation thrilled to take a break. However, as a forensics kid, you’re reaching one of the busiest times of the year. If I had to guess, you are registered for around four speech slots; if you’re NCFCA you haven’t started yet, and if you’re Stoa you still haven’t rewritten from the draft you piecemealed together in the fall. Even if you are one of the faithful few with everything already written, don’t even try to tell me it is fully memorized. The point is, you have a tournament coming up, and you’re not prepared. I’m going to be totally honest, a truth that holds throughout the entirety of the forensic world is this. The people who are going to win your next tournament will do so not because they are intrinsically the best speech and debate students, but because they recognize that forensic champions are built in the month before. I want to quickly share with you my strategy for tackling speech and debate prep so you can enter your season ready to roll.
Naturally, what I am talking about creating is a prep plan. Prep plans might literally be the most boring part of speech and debate, however, when done effectively they become one of the most dangerous weapons in your arsenal.
When plotting out your prep plans you should use a few levels; we’ll break those down and then I’ll give you my major tips for your prep plans.
The first level of a prep plan that you make should be the one for a month to two weeks out from a tournament. This one is focused on content and ideas. Here you should be setting out goals that focus on having everything you need later on at the tournament. This means first and foremost finishing your scripts, but also memorizing your final scripts, getting info formatted and onto apol cards, preparing evidence, and extemp file finding. Additionally, this is when you should start doing consistent practices. Aim to run through everything at least twice a week, and schedule time to perform before others and get their critiques of your pieces. Finally, now is the time to assimilate information from past ballots and set out major performance goals for yourself. This is the time for major corrections, and getting yourself into a position for fine-tuning.
The second level of your prep plan should be for the week before the tournament. This one should be much more focused on fine-tuning and applicable corrections. If you’ve done the first part you should be able to transition to a focus on delivery, emotion, and impacts. Now is the time to refrain yourself from massive script reconstruction; it’s fine to change lines or rearrange words to improve the flow or delivery, but don’t allow yourself to massively change points if possible. Trust me, a well-practiced point is better than the great idea that you just had. During this time you should be practicing 1-4 times per piece and recording all your memorized pieces for review and edits. On top of this, keep practicing for other people, and keep a minor tweaks list that is a running tally of what you want to correct. Needless to say, that memorization should be done, and you should be totally focused on the finer points of your presentations.
The final level of your prep plan is for the week of the tournament. This is for perfection of what you have practiced. Seek to run through a performance of every event you’re running through daily keeping up the same protocols that you have used so far. This stage is focused on fine-tuning, but more so consistency. You should be focusing on presenting the same piece every time you stand up. This stage is what gets you ready to push through long nights and busy finals rounds without losing quality.
If you create and follow that structure you’ll be set for success. Here are a few more tips that I found helpful for succeeding in your prep plans.
1st – Make everything objective. If you have on your prep plan “get better at extemp” then you can throw it in the trash can for all its worth. Your plan should be objective both in what you seek to do and how often you plan to do it. Use goals such as “practice my informative paying attention to the emotional impact of each statistic at least once a day three times over the course of the week”. That goal will cue you for success by setting out a goal and making it obtainable.
2nd – Record and save your practices. This will allow you to not only look for improvement areas but also be able to see how far you have come. One of the biggest things that decimate students’ motivation is the feeling that they are not improving. Having a log that lets you watch your practices back to back is insanely motivating.
3rd – Play dress-up. Preferably in pink princess outfits. In all seriousness, many students act differently in their tournament outfits, if this is you consider practicing in full tournament attire. Extra Incentive: You’ll figure out that moves shouldn’t be in your duo before you get to the event.
4th – Actually follow the plan. Guys I know it can be insanely hard to stay on track and motivated when you are tired and everyone else is on break. Make a plan that is reasonable for you and make yourself do it. No professional in their field got to where they are without long nights and seasons of discipline. Give yourself days off, and then make yourself follow the schedule – you’ll do better in the long run.
I along with the rest of the ethos team are so proud of how far you have come this semester. Finish out well, and take your first tournament by storm!