By Michelle Xu

Public Speaking season is here! With a fresh new year ahead, both novice and varsity speakers alike are preparing hard for the upcoming tournaments. Whether it’s just gaining experience or aiming for the Tournament of Champions, everyone has a reason to get involved. But before you go compete, here are a few tips on how to become more effective at public speaking.

Do your research: You aren’t going to sound like a confident speaker if you don’t know what you’re saying. Prepare ahead of time by doing a lot of research on your topic. Search up evidence that you can incorporate into your speech. If you’re doing debate, it’s especially important to know your topic well enough to answer any possible questions the opposing team might have.

Know your speech: I have to admit, I’ve been up on the podium at a tournament where I was stumbling all over throughout my speech. I didn’t prepare the order in which I was to present my arguments, and at one point, I completely forgot what I wanted to say! To prevent this from happening, make sure you know what points you will present in your speech and what order to present them in. Using notecards or writing notes on your speech often help. If you’re at an event where no notecards are allowed, then practice your speech until you can present it without thinking too hard. Of course, “knowing your speech” doesn’t mean “memorizing your speech word for word”. It takes practice, but over time you will be able to elaborate on your points without looking at a script.

Practice delivery: One mistake speakers often believe in is that they should be loud in order to be heard. While you should be clear when speaking, being louder won’t always make your judges pay attention to what you’re saying. In fact, speaking in a slightly quiet tone may just capture your judges’ attention. Adjust your tone to the environment of the topic. Variation will help keep your judges wide awake.

Everyone has their own style of presenting: When presenting to an audience, you want to sound like yourself, not someone else. Don’t try to copy someone else’s way of presenting just because they won the national championships. Presenting in a way that doesn’t fit you won’t make you more effective. Instead, just be yourself. If you normally like to crack jokes every day, then crack a joke during the speech! By being yourself, the audience will see you as someone who really cares about the topic instead of someone who is trying too hard to be great. You want to be a person which the audience can connect with, not a clone of someone else.

Relax: When it’s the day of the tournament, just relax! Drink some water right before your speech and remember that you prepared well and hard for this day. Be confident, and your speech will reflect your confidence. Plus, there’s no reason to feel nervous if you’ve prepared this hard!