Speaking Drill Guidelines
1. Treat them like any other exercise.
You are attempting to cultivate and strengthen certain muscles of the body. This has a couple implications:
- Drills work best if done regularly. Develop a routine and adopt a standard set of procedures, such as finding a time of a day when you have 15 minutes to set aside.
- Drill for longer than the longest speech. Do your reading and speaking drills for at least 10 minutes.
- Do your drills the way you will give your speeches. This will get you used to how you actually speak in round.
2. Remember that there is an audience component to debating.
There should always be a line of sight and sound between you and the judge. Pick a focal point in the room that you are practicing in order to get used to the presence of a judge during your drills.
3. Film yourself.
This will help you get a feel for how the judge is perceiving you, both with your sound and physicality. In this case, you can use drills for conditioning yourself and approach particular issues you have when you’re speaking. (Ex. Swaying while you speak, a tendency to not project your voice, etc.)
4. Combine different kinds of drills.
Look below for a list of drills and warm-ups.
5. Familiarize yourself with as much of your evidence as possible.
First, this eliminates your chances of having to cold read a lot of your evidence, which is particularly helpful in round, because when you cold read, your brain is simultaneously trying to understand what you are reading which makes you slower. And second, when you absolutely have to cold read, by practicing a variety of evidence, you will get better at cold reading in general.
Download this file to get all the warm-ups!
1. Traditional read-throughs in a normal speaking tone and speed.
This allows you to get used to having those words in your mouth and emphasize clarity. This also allows you to comprehend what you're saying while reading, and allows you to find trouble words quickly so you can learn how to actually pronounce them so you don't stumble. (ex. hegemony)
2. Read backwards.
This is a great drill to familiarize yourself with certain words and cards in your case as well as get used to just reading and not actually thinking about what you are reading. Ideally, you'll have already read through all of your cards slowly and thoroughly to know what they're saying. You want to be able to see a word and have it automatically come out of your mouth instead of pausing to think about it. This will make you more efficient and help you if you ever have to cold read something.
3. Insert a word between every word.
My favorite words to put in are "watermelon" and "bellybutton." So if my evidence says, "Fried chicken causes extinction." Then I would read, "Fried watermelon chicken watermelon causes watermelon extinction watermelon." This not only helps you with reading without thinking, but also allows you to establish a rhythm so you can speak continuously and steadily. And when you get more advanced, you can choose two words and alternate between them, so it'd be more like, "Fried watermelon chicken bellybutton causes watermelon extinction bellybutton."
4. Change emotions every couple minutes or every card.
I'll admit, you can only sound so happy when you're talking about the extinction of the human race. But being able to do this will help you adapt to mommy judges who expect a calmer toned debate, or help you calm down if you're feeling really fired up during cross-ex, or if your opponents are getting really fired up and you want to make them look like they're freaking out for no good reason. In turn, practicing an angry (but controlled) or urgent tone may ramp up your ethos and help your speed.
Try to pronounce every single sound in each word. The goal here isn't to be as fast but rather stretch out your mouth and familiarize yourself with each sound. This helps with clarity. Think of this drill as a stretch before intense exercising.
6. Read with a pen in your mouth.
To do this, you take a pen and place it in the back of your mouth between your teeth. This may trade off with speed. The goal here is to really get your tongue to work and over-articulate. This greatly improves the clarity of your speaking.
7. Breathe in once and read as much as you can with one breath.
Repeat, trying to increase the amount of text you can read per breath. This helps you become more efficient with your breathing. You may choose to do some deep breathing beforehand. Practice breathing from your stomach, so you can get more in with each breath, then breathe out twice to ensure you're really getting all the air out.
8. Read with an accent.
This can be quite entertaining (I mean, all of these are pretty entertaining if you make them.) What this really helps you with is pronunciation and clarity.