What is Public Speaking and Competitive Debate? (Part III)

Coach Andy
Post by Coach Andy
What is Public Speaking and Competitive Debate? (Part III)

How to Help Students Prepare?

We hope you enjoyed Part I & II of this blog series! If you haven't got a chance to read it yet you can do so here:

What is Public Speaking and Competitive Debate? (Part I)

What is Public Speaking and Competitive Debate? (Part II)

In this series of articles, you will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of competitions.
  • Understand what a competition/tournament looks like (including but not limited to evaluation criteria, registration need-to-know, tournament journeys).
  • Learn ways that parents can help students for competitions.

Students attending competitions can be anxious and aggressive. It is hard for them to deal with those mentalities by themselves. Stepping in and helping them out will comfort them before the competitions. The following tips can be used not only for competitions but in daily life so students can be more confident and willing to try more through practice.

Psychological support

  • Deep breath. Help both you and your students to relax before your conversation about competition or their speech practice at home. This may sound dumb, but it can be really helpful!

  • Accept help. Some students may be reluctant to receive help from others. Tell them it is not a shame to receive help from others. You can tell them a story about yourself receiving help and making something happen to let them know it is a common thing to seek help.

  • Figure it out. Have a conversation with the students, ask them how do they feel without asking leading questions. Respect their feelings, send them a message that you are here to help. You can also set a clear plan. The goal is not to eliminate anxiety or other feelings but to manage them positively. For example, if a student is nervous facing the audience, give them some time to practice to themselves, then practice while recording. You can watch the recording together and increase the audience group bit by bit.

  • Don’t Compare. It is a bad idea to compare students with other students and say something like “you should be as good as them”! Always compare students with themselves to see their progression and improvement. Find where the students have improved and encourage them to achieve more, where the students have been stagnant and ask why it happened: work together to help the students.

  • It is often easier said than to be done. Giving praise can sometimes be hard when parents do not tend to recognize the student’s achievements that fall short of first place. Try to praise them from small things, for example, “I think this argument is convincing, I have been persuaded,” or simply say, “you are right on that point.” It does not require you to try too hard but it still will help students to build confidence. Suppose you are a parent who encourages the students very often. Try to praise students for hard work. Many parents tend to say, “you are so smart,” or just “wow, I am so impressed.” In that way, kids do not want to try that hard compared to praising them for their hard work. If they are praised for their hard work, they tend to try harder and think trying hard is merit. Next time, try “I am so proud of how hard you are working on that issue, and I really see it paying off in practice. You are able to analyze more deeply and deliver a super informative speech.”

  • Students tend to be nervous, especially for their very first tournament. Setting the right expectation of competition is the key. Tell the student that it is another practice that is not so different from class. They will be fine. Competitions are for fun. They can make new friends. And you will reward them an apple pie for their brevity! This is something you can often do other than competitions. Once they have tried something new or have improved in class, always reward them with something (that can be small or big, depending on how hard they have tried to reach the results).

  • Soothe Must-Winners. Students can get aggressively competitive if they have several achievements. They want to win every time. Simply saying doing your best will be fine, and that even if they did not reach the elimination rounds, you will still love them, is still not enough support to comfort this type of student. This type of student always tries really hard in order not to be put behind, so you do not need encourage them to try even harder, which will make them further anxious. Instead, tell them that you can see that they are trying their best which is already a win. What is left for them to do is to enjoy the tournament and improve through the judges’ feedback. It is not important to win every single competition, but important to improve all the time.

  • Gear up. After winning a few competitions, some students think they no longer need to try. Different competitions have different competitors and a different atmospheres. Winning one or two competitions does not necessarily tag a student as “winners” or mean they will win competitions automatically. They still need to work hard in order to improve themselves, or they will not be able to win competitions since their opponents are improving!

Tournament preparation: how to improve debate/PS skills towards tournament

  • Get involved. Let’s start with small things that can get students involved in discussions at home. It can be what to eat for dinner, what family activity to play for Sunday. Do not just stop there! Ask them, “That is interesting. Tell me why you think that.”, or give them alternative plans and ask why their plans should be prioritized. In this way, students can practice their argumentation skills in daily life. Depending on the events students are participating, you can find some past topics online for students to practice.

  • Face the audience. Delivering a speech in public can be nerve-breaking. But students can do it through practice! Don’t push them to make a speech in front of a large audience. It scares them. Allow them to practice to themselves at the beginning. Later, ask them to record a video while presenting. Watch the video together, do not make a comment immediately. Wait until you have finished watching the whole video. Tell them that they have done a great job, you appreciate the efforts. Every time when you are watching the video, encourage them by commenting on something with which they have done a great job, with only one comment on where they can improve (focus on those they can change immediately, like adding a transition between the two parts). When the student is more comfortable presenting their Speech, it is time to have a real audience! Start with a small group of people of maybe just one or two . Likewise, encourage students for the first few rounds, help them to be more confident, and later give them feedback (since the purpose is to encourage students, please give more “glows” than “grows”). Increase the audience group little by little, making the students feel more comfortable facing a group of strangers.

Competition Prep

Pack list:

It is important to get ready for the competition mentally, but there does exist some physical help you can provide for the students!

Click here to download an editable packing list.

You can also get involved in competitions with LearningLeaders. Check out our availbe competitions below!

Compete at LL

Coach Andy
Post by Coach Andy