Time to have an honest discussion.
Most debaters learn some great tips, and have some of the right ideas. BUT ALAS! They aren’t applying that knowledge to their debating.
We often assume that what we learn will be automatically synced in our minds for our next debate round, without even needing to practice.
But we are wrong.
When athletes learn a new trick, they don’t wait for their next high-stakes game to incorporate that trick. Instead, they practice, relentlessly.
Practice. I am convinced that the major problem facing most debaters is a lack of focused/specific practice. No practice and no application = no substantial improvement.
I seek to provide a list of ways to practice at home so you can apply the knowledge and skills you are learning.
My observation is this: Debaters may have the knowledge, but they aren’t applying that knowledge and harnessing the information they have. It’s about application, folks.
Incorporate debate practice (not just a vague “I am going to work on debate”) into your schedule. I can pretty much guarantee you it will dramatically increase your debate abilities. If you want to win more rounds, practice more out-of-round.
If you are a novice, this will help astronomically. If you are an “intermediate” debater, these tips aim to take your debating to the next level. If you are an “advanced” debater, these ideas should get your brain thinking about what you can do to personally improve.
Here are 5 ways to practice at home to make the tips you learn more beneficial. I plan to be adding more to another post, to keep the ideas flowing.
If you get nothing else from the following tips, use the first one. I call it: Specific improvement.
Tip 1: Specific improvement
I remember back in the day I decided I really wanted to improve my debating. When I was thinking of ways to accomplish such a mission all that came to my mind was to “practice speaking.” And so I would lock myself up in my closet and “practice” speaking all by myself (forever alone) with no real goal or specific area I wanted to improve on.
But it wasn’t ideal. It was a step in the right direction, but not as helpful as the alternative: Specific improvement.
Later on I sat down with a pen and paper and did this: I wrote out 100 attributes that make a great debater. Some of these included:
- Eye contact
- Voice modulation
- In-round analogies
Some of them were basic, some were advanced. It took a long time. Next, out of the 100 items on the list I chose just one, and focused on that area alone. If I chose posture, I would record myself and see if I was slumping or if I was standing correctly. At the table, I would do the same. It helped me much more than just saying I was going to “practice speaking.”
But I’m not alone. Researchers have found that setting a goal for a specific area dramatically increases your development and helps accomplish your goal.
So here is my challenge:
Write out a list of 100 attributes that make a great debater, ranging from creative to basic. And rather than just “practicing speaking” – work on one specific area relentlessly. Record yourself, practice in front of others, practice in front of the mirror. Just do it. If you finish all 100, buy yourself some candy…. Or give me the candy instead.
Tip 2: Try your 1AC without evidence
Give your speech without any evidence and instead focus on analysis. Pretend that you are the evidence, you are the expert, explain and give warrants, rather than rely on evidence. Why?
First, this exercise will reduce your reliance on evidence, so you can focus more on analysis & warrants.
Second, it forces you to provide more explanations and impacts to your arguments. It’s harder to fill 8 minutes without evidence and without being redundant. This also works well for the 1AC. Your case should make sense without any evidence.
Third, this exercise makes you more comfortable and confident in your ability to debate, without relying on someone else’s analysis.
Now, I can already smell you argument-hungry readers about to lambast the exercise with a rant about how good evidence is.
I get it. This is for home practice, and you shouldn’t do this in an actual debate round, but the skills you gain from this exercise will be especially beneficial.
Tip 3: Brainstorm power narratives
One of the best ways to develop rhetoric, analogies, creative illustrations, etc. is with a pen in your hand and a notebook in front of you. This is where you go through cases and prepare, practice, and create openers and power-narratives. This too, is more effective than simply “practicing speaking.”
Tip 4: Visualization
A post has already been written on this topic, but it needs to be utilized at home as well. Think about WHY you want to succeed and HOW you can improve. You can find that post here.
Tip 5: Read this website
Start at the beginning and read (or reread) every single post, while taking notes. Think of ways to incorporate the knowledge you gain so you can apply it to debate rounds. Make a list of the main areas in which you would like to improve.
And finally, I just want to encourage all of you to apply these tips. Don’t just read them, use them. I know how you may feel: locked up in a closet talking to the wall in the vague attempt to “practice speaking.”
You have taken a step in the right direction, now it’s time to utilize these practical tips to substantially improve.
Thank you Simon for this post! These are all great ways to practice.
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