Lesson 10 Public Speaking


An important part of any debate event, but especially of Public Forum Debate, is speaking well.

Judges are impressionable and you want to make a good impression if you are going to win.

You can take an entire class on public speaking, but there are a couple of critical things to understand and a few important things to do in order to be a strong public speaker.


There are basically three ways you can present a speech.

You can memorize a speech, you can read it from a manuscript, or you can speak extemporaneously, often from an outline.

In Public Forum debate you will engage in presenting speeches from a manuscript and speaking extemporaneously.  The Constructive speeches are pre-written and read in debates. The rest of the speeches are given extemporaneously from an outline (from a flow).

Types of Appeals

Effective public speaking is based on making three types of appeals – ethos, pathos, and logos.

An appeal to ethos is based on how the speaker comes across. Namely, how credible  is the speaker.  It is sometimes associated with ethics, as ethical speakers are often deemed to be credible. But speakers can have strong ethos in more than one way.

An appeal to pathos is an appeal to emotion.  The idea is to persuade an audience by creating an emotional response.

Logos is an appeal to logic. The idea is to persuade an audience through logic and reasoning.

The Basics

While one can take an entire course on public speaking, there are a number of critical things one should to be a strong public speaker in Public Forum debate.
Organization.  We discussed how to organize each of the speeches earlier, but the important part to mention here is that not only the strength of your arguments but also the quality of your public speaking will be judge by the strength of the organization of your speech.

Dress. People are impressionable and if you are dressed well your audience (in this case, the judge) will see you as more credible.
Volume.  The simply reality is that most debaters do not speak loudly enough. When speaking, you should always make sure you are projecting your voice enough that the judge can here you, even if the judge is sitting a bit of a distance away. If they judge cannot hear you, he or she will not work to do so and instead is likely to  tune you out and not listen clearly.
You can also speak a bit louder on key points to emphasize those points.

Confidence. You should always act like you are confident in your arguments.

Excitement. You should always act like you are excited to present your arguments and to communicate those arguments to the judge.

Rate.  You can talk a bit faster than conversational speed in debate, but you don’t want your speed to be too fast or it will be difficult for the judge to understand. Some judges have been known to vote against debaters only because they have spoken too quickly. 

Pronunciation. You should always make sure that you can clearly pronounce the words in your speech, especially in your prewritten case.

Eye contact.   Be sure to make clear eye contact with the judge. Although you wont’ always be able to look up, as you will need to read through your case or look at your notes, try to establish as much eye contact as possible.  You should do this not only because judges expect it, but also because it gives you the opportunity to get feedback from your judge – you will be able to literally see what arguments they like and don’t like.

Posture. You should always stand up straight. A strong posture will help exhibit strong confidence.

Hand gestures.  Hand gestures help draw attention to certain parts of your speech. You can, for example, use strong hand gestures to emphasize certain points.

Practice. The more your practice speaking the better you will get at it.  You should practice your case before tournaments, if you are the first speaker. You should practice your rebuttals to common arguments if you are the second speaker. You can re-do Summary, Rebuttal and Final Focus speeches after your round is over.
Put simply, debate is about communication and the better you speak and communicate, the more likely you are to win.

Next: Flowing