Back to Reality

By NSD instructor, Alex Smyk

There’s nothing more annoying than hearing your speech and debate teammates making a classroom presentation. More often than not, they turn your English classroom into a competitive round by using their “debate voice” – by bringing the world of forensics tumbling awkwardly into a room full of students who think forensics means CSI. LDers talk too aggressively and quickly, Congressers let the occasional “ladies and gentlemen” slip, and interpers are uncomfortably animated. Usually, someone in the room turns to you and says, “Isn’t he on the debate team, why is he talking so weird?”

We often hear about how debate endows us with all sorts of life skills, from nailing interviews to making good pickup lines. Sometimes, though, those skills aren’t so evident on a day-to-day basis. In many ways, forensics is self-contained; who the hell knows what things like “cross-apply” mean? If anyone has watched CSPAN, they know that the average speech in the House of Representatives isn’t animated, or exciting, or divided into distinct points.

One thing that the best debaters learn, however, is adaptation. When you see a yuppy, East Coast judge in the back of the room, you should be speaking a little differently than you would be for an elderly female from the Mid-West. Why don’t debaters apply that same sense of judge adaptation to the world beyond forensics? Always remember that throughout your life, you will have to speak publically on about 100 times more occasions than there are debate tournaments.

In my opinion, Congress has the speaking style and analytical framework that is most conducive to integration in everyday life. When you’re speaking, listen to yourself. Do you sound normal? If the answer is no, you’re not getting what you should out of Congressional Debate.

As someone who isn’t debating anymore I can tell you the best way I’ve applied the activity in the last week: I forgot I had to give a presentation in my University Writing class until I got to the lecture, and was able to pull something out of nowhere. And, best of all, I sounded normal.

Remember your life beyond debate so you can make it easier.