Cold Reading

Have you been wanting to know more about Cold Reading? Stoa added Cold Reading to their Wildcard list in 2016-2017. According to their website, “Competitors read from a short selection given in the competition room. The Competitors will have two minutes to prepare approximately 3-4 minutes of material. Material could include well-known literature, speeches, poetry, or other genre selected by the tournament for each round.

A good dramatic cold reader is able to communicate with fluency and clarity and to project speech rhythms well. He should also be able to bring out the intent, mood and characterization of a piece through appropriate articulation and body language.”

We caught up with a friend that  is a huge fan of the event, even placing at NITOC. Here is her story and tips…

Tell us how you decided to compete in Cold Reading?

I actually didn’t find out that I was competing in cold reading until we were on our way to the very first tournament of the 2016-17 speech and debate season. My mom told me that she didn’t know too much about it but it sounded fun and she signed me up. I was a little skeptical, since it was the first tournament ever that introduced cold reading as an event, but I ended up loving it!

Is it your favorite category? If not, what is?

Before cold reading was introduced to stoa, duo interp was definitely my favorite event to participate in. After my 2nd or 3rd tournament doing this event, cold reading quickly became my #1 favorite category.

Why do you like Cold Reading?

I love cold reading for a variety of reasons, but most importantly I think that it is a great way to become best friends with your speaking skills and styles. You go into the room not having a clue what the category or topic will be, which was very intimidating at first, but very quickly, it improved my confidence in presenting speeches and being in front of judges, not only in the cold reading rooms, but in all of my other speeches as well.

Do you have any tips on how to prepare?

They say the best way to learn, is to teach! I taught a juniors speech class over the spring and we worked a lot on giving impromtu speeches and cold reading. At the end of every speech we all gave 1 helpful/critic feedback and 1 positive feedback. Just by listening to others and noticing what they could do to improve, actually helped me to think what I could do to improve when I gave my own speeches. Another easy and fun thing to do Is to pick a completely random book around your house that you’ve never read before and open it to the middle of the book and just read the whole page without any prep time. Once you’re in a round with 3 minutes to use for prep, it seems so easy because you’re used to not having any!

Describe what a typical round looks like?

For me, there isn’t really a “typical round” in cold reading… which is the best part about this event! Every time I go into a cold reading room, it’s so different: the judges, the topics, the space and even the way I feel. I have had rounds where I acted out children’s stories and a round where I read out of a scientific log book and even a round where I sang a hymn! Every round is a new adventure and an open opportunity to be yourself and decide what YOU want to do with the topic you drew.

How do you break up your prep time?

I have talked with a ton of people about what they prefer during prep time and everyone that I have talked with has a completely different way of preparing than the other. I have tried many different ways of using my prep time, but what I have found most efficient and helpful is using my first minute to read the first half and then the second half and if I have time, to read the middle of the passage depending how long the piece is. I spend my second minute deciding what voice/voices I will use and how I will portray the person speaking or characters. I use my third minute to decide and quietly practice how I will present the piece.

What is the oddest piece you had to cold read?

During the second round of The very first tournament I participated in cold reading At, i recieved a whole page titled “finding the chemical composition of a beef frank”. Needless to say it was a very odd and random speech, but the judges enjoyed listening to me try to pronounce words and equations I had never heard before!

Why do you think this is a good skill to learn? How do you feel it will benefit you in the future?

Participating in Cold reading is a great way to learn how to think on your feet, be creative and to use and be confident with your own ideas. I have always feared having to give last minutes speeches or doing read throughs for plays or skits, but since I’ve started being active in cold reading, those are some of my favorite things to do. It’s not easy at first, but that’s why it’s such an important thing to learn and become familiar comfortable with.

How would you encourage someone thinking about participating in Cold Reading?

Cold reading is all about you and the way that you comprehend and see things. I occasionally get to talk with people that had the same topic as I did and it’s so much fun to compare how we presented our speeches so differently. At first it may seem scary, but as soon as you realize that it’s totally up to you how the round goes, you’ll realize how easy and fun it is. Especially when you just be you and truly make your ideas come to life!

Do you have any advice for someone who just signed up to do Cold Reading at their next tournament?

Don’t limit your abilities just to what you know. I’ve learned SO many things from cold reading that I have been able to use in other speeches and in life. It’s so fun to find out things you can do that you’ve never done before during speeches by just being yourself and using your creativity! I never would have dreamt that I could just sing a whole speech without any practice at all, but I ended up getting first place from all of my judges in that round! If you ever feel discouraged about the topic you pick, make sure that you still present it confidently! Its all about the way that you portray the topic and engage the judges.

Any additional thoughts??

My favorite thing to remember when I start thinking, “I can’t do this” or “this is too hard”, is the verse Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.