How to Have Swagger Like an L-Der

For those who do not listen to T.I. and Jay-Z songs a lot, swagger is defined as, “A bold or arrogant strut; A prideful boasting or bragging.” (For those who do know what song I am referring to, I listened to that song before my last day of competition at L-D Nationals to pump myself up. AND I made a reference to it to my coach right after I lost my last round.) What I basically mean by this is that out of all the different types of Speech and Debate one can do, I see Lincoln-Douglas Debaters in particular best mastering the ability to radiate the concept: “This guy knows what he is doing.” While this can be seen in any event, I think it is especially important in L-D (or Extemporaneous Speaking) because judges choose to trust or distrust what is being said very quickly after walking into a room. Many judges may even subconsciously have made their decision before any words have been spoken--with an affinity to listen to one side because he or she seems the part. Debaters want to seem wise and confident, quiet but not shy. Be a force that people notice when you walk through a hallway.

The main part of this is to know how to present oneself. Debaters who walk into a room with a slouch automatically seem like they do not want to be there or that they are less than professional. It is best to be well-groomed because people will notice otherwise. I think being clean-shaven is more important in individual events than in team events because it is just YOU and the other guy. I had no problem with going into a Public Forum Round with a little scruff. In Lincoln-Douglas Debate, considering Value arguments can be more subjective and Lays have a harder time buying one side over the other, I would never be caught as such. There are two distinct strategies that can be taken when first meeting the judges. I usually like those who present one style or the other; moderation here is essential. Some will choose to seem stoic and silent as they enter the room. They will come in and start setting up their information with as little noise as possible, as if this is an everyday occurrence and they see nothing especially difficult in the round again. Still, others will take the opposite approach and be friendly and talk to the judges a lot. Either way, be willing to make eye contact, and if a judge wants to talk to you, TALK BACK.

A Lincoln-Douglas Debate guy should always have a suit (with a jacket and tie) that appears classy, not spontaneous. This is not a Humorous Interp. Debaters want to appear like a lawyer, not a fun guy. Have polished shoes and a belt. Black suits tend to come across the best, though I have seen others pull off brown or even white- it just depends on personal style mainly. A girl should be in a nice business suit or a proper dress (this is not a beauty pageant).

If you have a nervous habit, (I bite my nails) try to keep that at bay while in the round. Do everything possible to sit without legs crossed at all (exception is obviously granted to girls, especially in skirts) or to have one leg in an awkward position. Have both feet firmly on the ground when sitting. If there is a tendency to sit with one’s mouth open, make a mental effort to keep it closed while in the room. Seem quiet because one does not feel the need to say anything, never seem like one has nothing to say before the round starts. Do not spend too much time checking out the surroundings of the room, focus on getting prepared. Turn off phones and hide them away before even entering a round. It seems more professional to a slight degree. When speaking, look calm and collected (my directions for Cross-Examination can be applied here a lot) to appear more professional. The wise person who knows what is going on does not have his voice vary or get louder based upon how the round is going. Do not look surprised when an opponent says something unexpected. Look like it has all been heard before. And importantly, many debaters will make faces when their opponent says something that is way out there in left field- NEVER BE THAT PERSON (and yes, I just made a sports reference to debaters).

Briefcases tend to be the tool used by most Lincoln-Douglas Debaters. I tended to keep a lot of books in there (along with a binder for each Affirmative and Negative). Never let the inside be visible to judges if possible (it ruins the effect). When walking in, lift it and set it on the table like this is what one does when going to work in the morning, and open it in one quick motion. Each of these little qualitative differences seems minuscule, but in judging the grand appeal, it is surprising how many billions of little variations can make all the difference towards who a judge is more susceptible to listen to.

When the round is over, be sure to stand up if not already doing so and shake the opponent’s hand and say “Good job” or “Great round” or something to that regard. Go pack up all evidence and thank the judges or timekeeper or whatever one’s preference (shake the judge’s hands if custom in the area or if the opponent does). It is important to not pack up before this time because if the Negative packs up all of his or her things during the 2AR, the judge gets an idea that the Negative is bored and does not care what the Affirmative is saying anymore. Even though, in all honesty, debaters do not care after their speeches are done, pretend to and sit there attentively listening to the opponent’s speech. Then quietly leave the room and do not discuss the round with anybody until far away from anybody who could possibly overhear what is said--more than one debater’s shots have been ruined because of a rogue comment in the hallway. Just be sure that with everything done to have an attitude of control.