And if you were to really concentrate on what they’re saying, you’d see there’s no connection between one sentence and the next one.
If you’re unsure what I mean by this, here’s an insanely perfect example. Kanye West usually sounds like this in interviews. Try to figure out how his thoughts connect here.
Hey, hey, hey!
Looks like he just said a whole lot of nothing!
It’s funny, because he sounds really confident and passionate in what he’s saying. And some of those words sound great. But it doesn’t really make sense.
Here are a couple of ways to avoid that.
1. Write all responses down on your flow and tag them
If you are going to respond to an argument with several responses and a piece of evidence, you should have a note for all of those.
I drew up a crude flow to show you the gist of what I mean. You’ll see I have three responses to both points, and I write a brief description of each so I don’t forget.
If you follow your flow strictly, you’ll be able to avoid rambling by staying on point.
The main cause of rambling is when you have a lot of arguments but they’re not organized onto your paper.
2. Practice speaking
Honestly, you don’t have to be super formal about this.
I spoke all the time in the shower. I’m saying that without any shame.
Okay, a little shame.
Try doing it sometime. Whether in the shower, or while folding clothes, or while in a public area… okay maybe not in a public area… just start giving a speech to yourself. Don’t plan it out, just start talking about the first argument that comes to mind.
If you can give a coherent 8 minute constructive about a case without any preparation, then you’ll be able to avoid rambling. Especially if you follow tip 1.
3. Use timer signals to remind you
Whenever the timer puts their hands up, give a quick thought to whether you’re making any sense.
Also think about whether you’ve been spending too long on one argument.
Another common cause of rambling is when you allocate too much time to an argument. This usually is not planned, it just happens.
Try planning out “Okay, 2 minutes for argument 1, 3 for argument 2, 2 for argument 3, 1 min for opener/closer” or something to that effect. Then, if you are spending too much time on one point, move forward quickly.
4. Don’t get lost in thought
If you spend a lot of time in speeches thinking about random things, snap back to reality.
Observe how the audience is reacting. Think about what you’re actually saying. Sometimes all it takes is a conscious move to focus on reality.
5. Speak slower, or pause
Speaking slower and pausing are in general good ideas.
It’s even better if you tend to ramble. This will give you more time to think, and, as an added bonus, the audience follows along better!
6. Remember four-point refutation
You’ve probably been taught the idea of four point refutation before. I don’t like how strict some people are about it (because it can create a robotic speech), but the basic concept is good.
You should always identify the argument you’re responding to. Then summarize your response in a sentence. Then give the reason behind your response, and finally show why it matters.
For the non-unique response I put on the flow above, I might say:
The negative team claimed that Iran will grow angry with us if we [do this plan, whatever it is]. Although this may seem like a logical conclusion, it’s not an argument against our case. You can write my response down as “non-unique”. In debate, a non-unique argument is one that applies whether you vote negative or affirmative, making it a completely irrelevant point. Iran will grow angry with us whether we stick with the current system or enact our plan, and thus this “disadvantage” isn’t really one at all. This response alone takes out the negative argument, but I’d like to also provide some evidence…
See, I’m using four-point refutation, but it doesn’t sound robotic.
At the same time, it helps keep me focused and avoid rambling.
You can get away with saying all kinds of things if you look confident and use big words and smooth speech.
It might even win you a few rounds.
But it’ll come back to haunt you.
If you’re not sure whether you ramble, record yourself giving a few speeches in club rounds in the next few weeks and try to spot sentences that don’t connect.
Don’t pull a Kanye West!
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