One of the best ways to be a better speaker, besides practicing, is to watch other good speakers.
Debaters that started out by timing others and observing how they speak generally have an easier time when they begin debating.
Some of the best speakers I know enjoy watching presidential candidates give speeches, or finding other sources of good speakers. (Hint: not all presidential candidates are good at it, and in fact most are pretty bad, but at least they’re above average.)
So, here are a few ideas for learning from other public speakers.
1. Watch TED talks
I’ll start you off with a couple of good links:
You can learn something from any TED talk, though. Not just the good ones. You could learn from David Blaine’s TED talk what a monotone speaker looks like.
2. Watch others debate when possible (outrounds)
If you’re currently competing, you’ll usually be unable to watch other people’s rounds.
However, it’s amazing to me how many people skip out on the chance to watch some of the best debaters do their thing, every single tournament. They skip outrounds. I get that hanging out with your friends is fun, but watching the top teams debate in a high-level outround is one of the best ways to learn.
If you’re not the one debating in an outround, the ones that are still debating are statistically likely to be better than you. (Sorry, it’s true).
Not only can you learn from them, but you can also get valuable info about their strategies so you can beat them next tournament.
3. Write down good analogies/phrases
When watching other debaters, take note of good analogies, phrases, or strategies they use. Don’t just think “oh that was cool”, actually write it down and review it after the tournament. Add it to your brief on that case (if it’s case specific).
Take note of the effective parts of their speaking styles. If someone gets speaker awards, they must be doing something right. Try to figure out what judges like about that person.
4. Watch presidential debates and speeches
While typical presidential speeches such as inaugural addresses and responses to major events are not extremely applicable to debate (very different speaking style, very authoritative), presidential debates are a gold mine of interesting nuggets.
The main thing about presidential debates is that candidates are very focused on influencing masses instead of winning arguments. They use more emotional appeals and often will deflect questions in order to speak their pre-planned pitches.
While I wouldn’t advocate following this style exactly, keep in mind that this style can be very effective with community judges. Just keep honest and use actual arguments instead of only emotional appeals.
Currently, Ted Cruz is one of the smoothest speakers. He does come across a bit too slick sometimes, but he’s a lot closer to the debate style than other candidates. He did competitive debate when he was younger, so it adds up.
5. Look for top speeches
Youtube has plenty of good speeches if you’re willing to look for them.
Here’s an example, from a world champion toastmaster.
Watching good speakers is a great way to improve and learn new speaking skills.
The main point, however, is that you need to be willing to work at it. If you haven’t thought of doing any of these 5 things before, then I can say with some confidence that you probably don’t put much effort into your speaking. That’s okay, if you don’t want to get better, but in that case I don’t see why you would be reading this 🙂
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