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In my personal opinion, there are three things that every speaker wants to know: where to find the cheapest business outfits, how to memorize a speech in less than 24 hours, and how to sound conversational. While I have plenty of opinions and advice on the first two, I recently had a simple yet powerful epiphany regarding the third. It won’t take too long to explain, but if you are able to understand the root of this concept, I believe that you can slightly alter your speech writing and practice in a way that dramatically affects how you review your scripts and present your speeches. 

The basic idea is to ask yourself the following question: if I were to say this to a friend in a 1-on-1 setting, would they look at me and cringe? 

The heart behind this question is for you to place yourself in a conversation with someone and reflect on your content to see if it is actually something that you would say to them and can say in a manner that sounds authentic to you. If the person who is listening to you talk indicates that something you said did not sit well with them or did not sound like something you would actually say to them in a different conversation, then that is probably a sign that you need to modify that section of your speech. To be clear, it isn’t actually necessary for you to read your speech in front of someone for this exercise to work, but if you feel like your speaking style is trapped in “speech mode,” having a real person help you may prove to be surprisingly helpful. 

When you are reading over your script, you might ask yourself a question like “Would I actually say this to my mom?” I know it may seem random, but it works! If these are sentences you would feel awkward walking up to a stranger on the street and saying, then you might consider taking them out of your script since what you’re doing in a speech competition actually isn’t far off from that. 

If you are just starting the process of becoming more aware of how you sound in speeches, here are some things for you or your friend to look for… 

  • How long are my sentences? When you are writing, sentence structures tend to be more complex and elongated. If your friend doesn’t know what to look for, ask your friend to keep track of sentences that are too long. One way you can know if it is too long is if you have to start forcing yourself to remember the first parts of the sentence. 
  • What is my tone? This is sometimes harder to answer for your own speaking and may require a friend’s assistance. When they are listening to you present, have them take note of any sentences that do not match the way that you speak in a normal setting. 

One last resource I’d suggest is this video by a college speech and debate coach. I would honestly recommend any of his videos, but this one especially has been very helpful for me! 

Jala Boyer has earned numerous 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals and competed at the NCFCA National Championship in five categories. As an intern on the Student Advisory Council of the NCFCA, Jala worked alongside the executive director, Kim Cromer, to learn the inner workings of competitive speech and debate, helping students create long-term and meaningful success. Jala is currently an Honors student at Liberty University studying communications with an emphasis in politics. To book a coaching session with Jala, follow this link https://www.ethosdebate.com/ coaching/book-coach/

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