Advanced Delivery, Part II

Once you’ve got a handle on your presentation, start thinking about delivery as a tool for persuasion. You don’t want to simply get by with smooth presentation. Delivery can help you create a better connection with the judge. Delivery can also be used with purpose in order to be persuasive. Here are a few (more) ways to move from okay delivery to outstanding delivery.

  • Be aware of your posture in CX (cross-examination).
    • Because you are speaking impromptu in CX and have to respond to your opponents’ questions and cues, it is easy to forget about your nonverbal body language. Start off each CX right by positioning yourself towards the center of the room and slightly in front of your opponent. This makes sure you are prominent in the judge’s vision. Also keep good posture and face the judge. While you should glance over at your opponent when they begin to answer (to try and read his or her nonverbal cues for any discomfort), do not position yourself towards your opponent. Bring all your papers, flows, etc with you so you do not have to move back to your seat. If you are seated, make sure you keep good posture and do not lean forward over the table.


  • First and last 15 seconds need eye contact.
    • So often I watch debaters give good speeches, but they undermine their presentation at the very beginning and very end of the speech. Too many debaters shuffle around their papers and look down during these time periods. At the end many debaters will simply trail off when the timer goes off. No! You must make eye contact with the judge during both the beginning and end of your speech (at least). Also make sure you end on a polished sentence and a complete idea (and begin with one as well). You want to set the tone at the beginning as well as leave the judge with the same polished image. Don’t stutter step your way through a sentence back to your seat. Finish speaking, take a breath, then sit down.


  • Don’t go into a round cold.
    • Never walk into a debate without having warmed up your voice and your brain. This could mean you practice arguments or cross-examination questions with your partner. You could also read over your case quietly. Do something to warm up your vocal cords and topic-thinking.


  • Don’t fall into stress mode.
    • Many debaters don’t have any pre-round routine and simply wait, and wait, and inevitably in that waiting space the stress or anxiety of debate will probably attack. I recommend listening to music, doing the warm-ups mentioned above, going on a walk, anything but sitting and silence and thinking about the coming debate or your opponents. Have a plan for when stress hits so you can have a go to way of dealing with it.


  • Don’t write out a full speech for the rebuttal, summary, or final focus.
    •  Writing out a full speech is a recipe for using up all of your prep time and not covering enough arguments. You simply do not have the time, and you won’t be able to cover all you have to. Use bullet points and outline structures to build your speeches with the help of your flow. (Also if you are writing out a full speech, there is no way you are listening to your opponent’s speech and flowing it, a BIG no no.)

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