My Experience Online By: Charis Baker

“When one door closes another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us.” -Alexander Graham Bell

While the coronavirus quarantine brought the abrupt end to Stoa’s and NCFCA’s 2019-2020 season, we saw the arrival of a new opportunity: online speech and debate tournaments. Lasting Impact! did an amazing job of recreating the experience of a tournament in an online setting with the Trailblazers tournament in June. For many of us, this was the sparkle in our spring, as we were stuck at home unable to compete in the sport we love.

Of the three online tournaments I experienced, the Trailblazers tournament was the best replication of a brick and mortar tournament! One facet that made this tournament stand out from the others was the student hangout room, where competitors could gather and chat, participate in challenges and wait for postings. Each morning I would dress in my suit and heels, style my hair and rehearse my speeches. At 9:00am, I would join other competitors in the virtual hangout room until devotions and announcements at 9:30am, and then head off to our first round! Another enjoyable part of the tournament was the ability to watch other events and rounds. I watched my friends’ Parliamentary debates and they were able to watch some of my rounds. At the end of the tournament, we had an awards ceremony, very similar to the experience an in-person event would provide. Overall this tournament was a very enjoyable experience and was a great stimulus for future online tournaments, especially by Lasting Impact!

Speech and debate is always teaching us public speaking, research, and professionalism. It is no different with online tournaments, but we are required to gain new skills in a virtual competition. As the world of technology continually grows, we are being called upon to use media platforms such as Zoom and Skype. Professionalism, not only in a conference room, but also on a video call is a valuable skill for the rest of our lives. Within the first fifteen seconds of meeting someone, we often determine our opinion of that individual and whether or not we want to listen to or do business with them. During these first few seconds it’s possible that you haven’t even spoken, which makes your visual presence on camera even more important. The appropriateness of your background, eye contact, lighting, posture, and clothing color can all play a part in what your judge or interviewer thinks of you.

An online tournament also allows you to experience the drawbacks of online communication, such as internet service issues, and poor sound and video quality. From these experiences, we developed skills of recovering professionally from internet service failure, politely agreeing on timing when our opponent is cut from the call in the middle of their Prime Minister Rebuttal, or simply speaking more loudly than usual. To be able to learn these skills in highschool through a speech and debate tournament is a huge advantage as we look forward to college and future job opportunities in a virtual world.

Homeschool forensics could have easily missed the open door of online opportunities; but we didn’t. We did not spend our time regretfully looking back on missing NITOC and other national tournaments, but rather used these circumstances to grow and learn in new ways. While the door of in-person tournaments closed for the 2019-2020 season, Lasting Impact! opened a new door for me and other high school speakers and debaters to connect and compete. A way that before was not considered possible. We have the opportunity to learn so much on multiple platforms and I’m looking forward to future tournaments that Lasting Impact! will offer.