It’s true—watching yourself speak can be an extremely embarrassing experience.
But the fact that it’s embarrassing should not stop you from using this technique in order to refine your speaking.
Why use video to practice
As I talked about early on, the best type of practice is focused practice, which is pretty different from typical notions of “practice”.
In focused practice, you aren’t just practicing for the sake of doing so.
In focused practice, you take one issue at a time and tackle it.
In focused practice, you use tools like video as a way to improve your habits and eventually your speaking.
While having a good coach and doing focused practice is the best way to learn, focused practice on your own can be fairly effective, as long as you use the proper techniques.
It’s pretty difficult for you to catch your own subtle mistakes while you’re making them. And since you can’t see yourself in third person, you really have no idea how you look and sound to other people.
A video allows you to bypass these issues and examine your speaking critically.
What to practice with video
Before I begin the list, please note that you can practice almost all of the tips that I’ve given on this
- Improve your voice. Is your pitch too high or low? (Girls tend to be too high-pitched, guys tend to be all over the place).
- Improve your vocal emphasis. Not just your pitch, but how you fluctuate throughout the entire speech. What words are you emphasizing? One person I know used to emphasize the word before the one he should emphasize, quite frequently. Emphasize the words that are important.
- Improve on your evidence reading using the tips on this blog post.
- Improve your body language. Are you doing anything awkward with your hands? If they’re by your side, are they playing with your clothes? What about your posture? Are you being professional?
- Is there a disconnect between how you are saying things and what you are trying to convey? For example, are you being too dramatic when talking about typical stuff?
- Are you taking too long on arguments? Does it feel like it’s already been refuted but you’re still going?
- Are you making your multiple responses clear (like by saying “first response, second response”)?
- Can you flow your own speech?
- Does each word you use make sense, or are you saying stuff that barely passes? Filler sentences like “The United States has been pressuring issues on Iran and their nuclear program deserves a serious consideration” Do you know what I just said there? It kind of makes sense but also doesn’t.
- Do you sound like Kanye West rambling?
- Are there obvious pauses where you didn’t know what to say?
There are many, many things you can work on with video. I’ve just given you a small sneak peak.
I challenge you
Every day for the next two weeks, spend 30 minutes taking videos and reviewing videos of yourself speaking. (If you’d rather not do that on Sunday or have a day you just can’t squeeze it in, change the schedule accordingly. But commit to doing it every day that it’s possible).
Follow a format like this:
- Eight minute speech
- Eight minutes reviewing speech and writing feedback notes
- Five minute speech incorporating most important feedback
- Five minutes of reviewing speech and writing feedback notes
This leaves 4 minutes of buffer, as well.
I’m just giving that guideline to make it concrete and easy to start, but feel free to adjust it as you feel is necessary.
This will make you incredibly good if you keep it up.
If you manage to actually do this, give yourself a high-five, then do the challenge again.
I would estimate that less than 5% of debaters practice as regularly and effectively as this. You will be miles ahead if you do this. Sure, if you’re young and it’s your first or second year, getting high speaker awards will be difficult. But you’ll get it a lot earlier than most people do, and by your last year you’ll be incredible.
This is not just an investment in debate, this is an investment in life.
So I challenge you.
If you haven’t already, subscribe to my email list. I’ll be providing specific speaking drills you can try out (and they’ll be exclusive to email subscribers!)