A Guide for Speech Preparation by: Chiara Baldacci

Every tournament at script submission, if you listen, you’ll hear numbers of people complaining (but really bragging) about how little time they put into their speeches. You can almost hear the debate about who has stayed up the latest memorizing and writing. People take pride in their procrastination—especially when they go and win a tournament. But health, sanity, and excellence are all far more important than your pride—and your cramming skills. Pace yourself. You will achieve a higher level of excellence and a lower level of stress…

Beginning in the fall:

1. Make a plan. This certainly does not ensure the effectiveness of it. I made many schedules to accomplish forensic tasks that I never completed. But you have to start with a plan. I would recommend writing your plan down. For me, printing out four calendars (September through December) worked well, but using a digital monthly calendar can serve the same purpose. However, a plan in your head is the same as no plan at all.

[Here are two monthly calendars I used that you can print for free and use every year!]



2. Write out deadlines for yourself (or type them if you prefer digital). The hardest part of self-paced work is the lack of deadlines, so you have to make them. I would write things like, “outline duo plot” or “memorize 1/2 informative” on the days that I wanted those task accomplished by. Specificity allows you to break down large tasks into manageable amounts. It also means if you procrastinate you will be putting off multiple deadlines and feeling more guilty, so it incentivizes productivity.

For breaking down an entire speech into multiple deadlines, I would use the same method:

  1. brainstorm
  2. research & read
  3. outline
  4. write
  5. revise
  6. memorize
  7. practice

And when you have four months to do so, the task of preparing a speech can be kept to a stress minimum. Most importantly, be realistic. For me, writing and revising always took longer than brainstorming, reading, and outlining. So allot more time to those things which you know will take you longer. The last thing is simple:

3. Work!! Do what you need to get motivated: motivational music, tea…both.

  • One month out: At this point, you should have your speeches written. For those who take longer to memorize, you should have begun that as well. For me, my plan needed revisions in the last month. Classes and holidays always made my schedule busier. I would revise my plan to include mostly just practicing—alone and with a critic.
  • One week out: By this time, many of your friends will be stressing over writing and memorizing their speeches. And you will be done. Like a boss. Don’t over practice or overwork yourself. Plan to practice each of your speeches 1-2x and complete script submission.
  • The night before: Sleep. Listen to some more motivational music. Drink some tea.

I never wrote or memorized a speech the night before a tournament. I also didn’t win every tournament. This is a key to excellence, sanity, and health—which often produce success—but not always. Don’t pace out your preparation simply to win more. Otherwise, when you don’t I may receive some angry phone calls. Strive for excellence. But also pace yourself because the habits you make now will stay with you through your college year and adult life. There is no pride in procrastination.

Heather says

Tip One- If you are stuck and need direction, find help! Whether it be a mentor, club leader, or even a coach from Lasting Impact, having help to point you in the right direction is key! You need to be making progress and decisions need to be made. Many of our students meet with us right about now to help get them on track – a plan of attack! I offer them assignments, a check list, geared specifically for them and their speeches. If you would like to meet with any one of our Lasting Impact! Coaches, you can schedule an appointment HERE.

Tip Two- Often times speech and debate students are super enthusiastic about all of their speech ideas (and debate). But honestly, we can not get really good or have a level of excellence, if we have our hands in too many things at once. Each speech is like a work of art, it needs to be molded, crafted, explored, etc. If you are trying to do too much at once, it may be best to do one at a time. No one says you have to have all your speeches done by the very first tournament. Some really great speeches were done later in the season, when the competitors had the time to develop it. Example- 2015 National Duo Champs the Baldaccis, yes, the author of this article. They didn’t start the Duo until they had the time, which wasn’t until March of that year. So, remember you can end up with abstract art if you don’t focus on the Mona Lisa.