Tongue Twisters: Repetitive consonants can be tricky and can sometimes mess you up when you’re speaking. When you’re warming up before practice or tournament, do a couple of tongue twisters to make sure your mouth is physically prepared to enunciate properly.
Pen Drills: Place a pen in between your teeth and begin speaking, whether it be practicing your speech or more tongue twisters. This will force you to over-enunciate, so that your diction automatically improves
Improving your vocal variation:
Here are a few drills and games to try out!
Emotion Explosion: Take a few sentences, which can be from a speech, article, book, etc. and say each one in a different emotion, such as happiness, anger, or sadness. Make sure to over-emote and clearly express which emotion you’re trying to display.
Say your whole speech/do your whole performance in one emotion: This is most useful for acting or speech events. As weird as this may seem, it will allow you to pinpoint places where that specific emotion is appropriate.
Improving your nonverbal communication:
Confidence is key! Signaling it with your body language as well as your speaking is crucial. Try a few of these tips out:
Posture: Make sure you are standing straight! Avoid slouching and leaning to either side. Try standing against the wall to maintain your posture while speaking.
Stance: You shouldn’t be completely still while speaking; stay loose, but avoid things like swaying that could be a distraction to judges. Keep your feet hip width apart. Whenever you feel yourself diverting from this, try to start over or assign yourself some other penalty.
Using your space: This applies mainly to speaking and acting events. Make sure to own your speaking space! This takes some work, but start small and work yourself up to covering larger spaces as you speak or perform. In acting events, blocking, or choreographing your piece, is crucial.
Hand gestures: Use these sparingly. If you find yourself speaking with your hands flying every which way, stick your hands in your pockets while practicing.
How to improve at debate events
One of the hardest things to do in debate is to be efficient in your speeches. There’s a couple of ways to stop rambling and start winning!
Logical/Analytical Rebuttals: Take any case you have and give yourself 2 minutes to think of as many logical responses to that argument you have. Then give the speech as if you were in round. This practices thinking on the spot and giving rebuttals!
Debating a video: Take any round online, whether it's from youtube or from other sources, and flow it. Right before any speech after constructive, pause the video and try to give the speech yourself as if you were debating. There are many resources you can use
NSDA has many rounds available for members
Youtube has many videos with PF, LD, and CX rounds
Another important aspect of debate is thinking of a winning strategy during round. You can improve your strategy by doing a couple of things.
Flowing rounds: It’s relatively simple, but if you flow a round as if you were a judge and made your own decision as to who won, you can see if your decision matched the actual winner and see what you missed.
Outside of the judge’s decisions you can also listen to the reasons they voted, see what each team did to try and win the round and consider why they did those things, etc.
Finally, a major, but not necessary, aspect of debate is being able to talk fast, or spread. If you want to improve your spreading, here’s a couple things you can do.
Escalation: Take any passage, whether its a case or Dr. Seuss and give yourself a certain amount of time to finish reading that section. Keep practicing, decreasing the amount of time you have every time you succeed.
Reading things weirdly: Read a passage backwards, read it with a random word in between each word ( EX: we affirm becomes we BTL affirm), or do it with a pen. Either way, reading things in a different way will force your brain to become used to focusing on how to pronounce each word separately, improving enunciation and fluency, a crucial step in learning to spread.
How to practice efficiently:
Practicing is extremely important and necessary to improve in speech and debate, and practicing efficiently is what will really make a difference!
Avoid distractions: Whether you’re giving an extemp speech, competing in a practice round, or practicing a performance, make sure to stay completely focused. If you keep your phone with you to time, make sure to put it on Do Not Disturb, or turn your alerts off. Practice with a clear mind and put all your attention into what you’re doing.
Practice like it’s the real thing: Every single time you practice should be with the same effort that you would put into a finals round at a tournament. If you practice with minimal effort, you’re going to perform with minimal effort
Watch yourself: Practice in front of a mirror or record yourself to see if you like the way you deliver a certain line, or to watch for your posture or hand gestures.