Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Greatest Forensicator of Them All?

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In the high-profile, high-risks campaigns of politicians, their speeches and their ability to deliver them are often a politician’s best weapon at convincing a voter to vote for them. Sure. Commercials and websites that push their policy are important too, but it’s the debates the people want. Voters often need to see a potential candidate, listen to what they have to say, and watch how the speaker handles themselves under pressure and on the spot. In a way, political candidates are no different than a speech or debate competitor. We’re all in this to win. We’re all using every skill we have in persuasive speaking and performance to win the trust of the voters, the judges, so we earn top marks. And the only weapon we have out there is ourselves.

When thinking of speech and debate and politics, a mind could wander to wonder which politician, living or dead, would have succeeded the most as a forensics competitor. In finals, we have Lincoln vs Douglas! (This is when a TARDIS would come in handy.) The truth is, many politicians used to be former forensicators, so we theoretically could tally all of their wins to see who had the most successful forensics career. But that does not really tell us anything important. It is a score. Not insight. I think the take-away is to question what made them so successful as a public speaker. Looking beyond the basics of were they articulate? Could they project? Did they vary their hand gestures? Reflecting on what made a particular politician memorable can help improve your own forensics career. What follows are some general ideas that have made certain politicians memorable, likeable, and judge/voter approved.

Looking good and exuding confidence is vital in a performance or debate. Doubt that fact? Ask Richard Nixon how television ruined one of his debates for a counter opinion. In 1960, Richard Nixon debated John F. Kennedy in the first ever televised presidential debate. Both men knew their content. Both were good speakers. However, to Americans listening to the debate, it was either a draw or a win for Nixon, but to those who watched it, JFK was the overwhelming winner. Why? JFK knew how to work the camera and looked good on screen. Nixon appeared awkward on camera (addressing reporters off screen too often), pale, and as if his face was melting from the sweat. The lesson? Appearing confident, self-assured, knowledgeable, and at ease helps to win over the audience.

A Clear Message
It has been said that President Abraham Lincoln was an eloquent speaker. Being well-read tends to do that to some people. While being well-spoken could be a focus, it is not the only thing Lincoln was remembered for. At the time, Lincoln received criticism for the shortness of The Gettysburg Address (some thought it should have been far longer to memorialize the battle), yet today it is viewed as one of the best, most iconic speeches in American history. Lincoln was skilled at finding his message and then crafting a piece which very clearly delivered it. Speech and debate competitors do have time limits, so not everything can be stripped to the most powerful, basic elements, but pieces and speeches need to be clear and precise. Wandering and getting off topic weakens a piece. Find the message and theme and shape everything around that to help strengthen it into something memorable.

Effortlessly Highly Polished
Politicians have to be polished if they are going to be taken seriously. Forensicators have to be too. Think back to some of your previous rounds. Can you pick-out a person who obviously practiced their piece to the point where they must have every line, every gesture, every moment memorized? Of course you probably can! That describes nearly every serious competitor. Now look again and pick-out the person who so clearly practiced, practiced, practiced, yet looks real. Looks like they are living that moment then. Looks effortlessly polished. Guaranteed that number dwindled. It is easy to be polished when you invest the time into a piece or event. It is harder to look polished without looking rehearsed. Some of the better forensicators and politicians out there know that looking effortlessly polished comes off as less fake. And less fake gets the vote. How to achieve this delicate balance? Try being as in the moment as you can; let emotion guide you a little; let go that this is not new to you and embrace it is new to your character or audience.

Building to Big Moments
Politicians like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, JFK, and Reagan all share a public speaking characteristic: they knew how to deliver a speech with BIG MOMENTS. They have memorable lines. Quotable lines. Iconic speeches that were written by a skilled writer with headlines in their minds—because they knew their president would not throw away a glorious line they wrote. Look through your piece. Think about your upcoming statement. Do you see anything, or can you think of anything, that is a snappy, memorable line? Learn to build to that line and create a moment that sticks with your judge. When they are seeing 6+ speech and debate competitors in a round, it is necessary to be a competitor they can fondly remember if you want a good rank.

Authenticity and Being Personable
One of the main things the American public thinks about when they decide on whom to vote for is whether or not that politician appears authentic and personable. The general vibe a politician gives off is important for winning the trust of the public. Hillary Clinton knows this well. She is deeply intelligent in her speaking style, but at the same time, has had issues with being perceived as having a slightly cold image by the mainstream media. Being “cold” has nothing to do with a political platform, but regardless, it might cost votes. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have very engaging, warm, personable public speaking styles. They give off a very friendly persona that draws voters in. They can sound conversational. Furthermore, it appears effortless and real, thus gaining further votes for appearing authentic and genuine. Speech and debate competitors can learn from these politicians. Competitors tend to leave a better lasting impression if they come off as personable and likable. Forensicators who deliver an introduction and look like they have no joy in their piece, or in performing, might drop rank simply for leaving a judge with unintentional bias.

Watching and learning from public speakers can be a wonderful learning tool for a speech and debate competitor. Even if debate or a speaking event is not your area, public speakers are accomplished in the general thing we are all trying to excel in: addressing the audience as best we can. Find a public speaker or politician that captivates you. Watch some recordings of their work and see how you can improve your game. Try to watch a variety of speakers and figure out what makes that one person memorable. What sets them a part. Because, let’s be honest, it is doubtful any one politician could have been the greatest forensicator. Anyone is the greatest on any given day.


haha, love ^^^^^

Good luck this season!

Not curious as to why I would say that? I imagine, by objective criteria, it is fact.

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