Should You Speak To A Judge?

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To talk to the judge or not? It’s a query that leaves many speechies at a loss. If you speak too much are you sucking up? What kind of boundaries are you crossing? Could you accidentally say something offensive and get marked down? How do other competitors view you for chatting? These negatives are what keep people from treating the judge like a person. This dilemma also plagues students when they are deciding what kind of student-teacher relationship they wish to pursue.

But there are also positives. By talking to the judge you are making an impression. Just saying “hello” if the judge looks at you as they are sitting down is interaction, and interaction often means getting remembered. Not to say your rank will be high because you said “hello,” but the judge might take note of your kindness and take detailed notes with more creative criticism for you. Also, taking part in idle small-talk with the judge, and those around you, helps to lighten the atmosphere and make a comfortable performance area.

Obviously certain guidelines should be kept. Do not try to suck-up. People can see that and will think less of you for trying to use them (unless they like this attention; still, it is highly inappropriate). Keep chat to basic, shoot-the-breeze type stuff. Avoid controversial topics. Never, NEVER talk about other competitors—even if it is positive. Just avoid that topic all-together. A good guideline to follow is to talk to the judge as you would a teacher.

Certainly you have a choice when it comes to speaking to a judge. I’ll just add this. I judged a speech competition once and I did talk to those in my round. One round I remember distinctly. We had five minutes before the round and we were waiting for a speechie to show. I started talking to the competitors, asking them basic questions like how long they’ve been competing, why they chose this event, were they enjoying the tournament, etc. A few minutes in, a kid asked where the judge was. I laughed and said I was the judge and that we were waiting for another speechie. As soon as I said that people turned away from me and said little. I understood why they did this, but I still felt hurt and slightly offended (I did not let this affect my judging; I based my ranks on performance only!). So, maybe all judges do not feel as I do, but I have always been the type of person that engages teachers, judges, adults, etc. These are people—not objects of fear.

Lis, I absolutely agree with you. It can definitely be tricky trying to break the ice with the judges in the opening rounds and especially the break rounds in any tournament. Well said.

I agree as well. It's hard to do but worth it. Plus, it is awfully fun watching the other competitors get uncomfortable once that "hello, how are you" is extended to the judge or to another competitor. It's like people expect rounds to be tense and are put off guard once the mood lightens.

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