It’s finally time. Months of prep work, practice and particularly late nights for Speech and Debate have all built to this singular moment of your life. To quote that stanchion of modern poetry, “He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready, To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin’, the words he wrote down.”
Then suddenly, in a flash, it’s all over. The awards ceremony comes, the dubiously red roses are given to the administrators of the tournament, you clap once so many times you think your hands will fall off, you bask in the steaming hot light for 12 maybe 15 seconds, smile while your eyes are assaulted with the electromagnetic waves of ionized xenon gas, say your tearful goodbyes and then pour through ballots, praising the parents who called you “Enlightened” and dismissing the ones who presented any criticism at all. That’s it. Was it worth it? Was the time and money your parents paid, worth the mediocre feeling of self-satisfaction? No, it wasn’t. Because that feeling was not what they paid for, they paid for you to learn how to be brave, how to speak despite your fears and misgivings. They paid so you could understand that hard work does pay off. More than any of that though, I think they put forth all that effort, so you could understand who you are as a person. That, in my opinion, is the greatest strength of After Dinner Speaking. It provides a platform on which the speaker can build a personal brand and entertain others while doing so.
Before we get into my thoughts and opinions on how to write and perform an ADS, I’ll introduce myself. My name is David Bloom and I’m currently a junior in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Louisville. I’m a complete nerd as evidenced by the oscilloscope, various textbooks and 3D printer all within arm’s length of my bed. I competed in the NCFCA for 5 years in Humorous, Apol, Extemp, Duo, IO, LD, TP and of course ADS. I went to regionals several years in a row and made it to finals at nationals in both Duo and ADS. I also competed in the NFL for a year and won state in Humorous and placed at nationals in Parliamentary Debate and Humorous. So you can throw me into your folder of “kinda-qualified” plan advocates. The point of me mentioning these aforementioned “Mediocre” accolades is not to brag, but instead to instill confidence in the reader that I’ve been in your shoes and understand the stress of writing a speech in the car while traveling to the last regional qualifier of the season and the infuriation of Script-Submission.
To swim back into the metaphorical current of this article, I’m going to go through a couple of questions Mrs. Neumann was kind enough to provide me with.
1: What made you want to try ADS?
When After Dinner was first announced, I instinctually knew that I wanted to do it!! There was something about the combination of being able to create my own jokes while talking about something I was passionate about that appealed to me in a way no other category could. I’m a “Situational Comedian” in that I am at my finest form when I can make observations about the world around me in a humorous context. The option to create the situation and then manipulate it how I pleased was too much to pass up.
2: Have you ever tried something like ADS?
Up to performing in ADS, the only real comedy I had done was in the popular tournament game “Freeze” and in normal conversation. Afterwards I started seeking out those opportunities, in fact, I am a stand-up comedian now.
3: Are you naturally funny?
I would like to think so, and most people who know me will tell you yes, but if I’m being perfectly honest with myself then the answer is a firm no. I started telling jokes in high-school as a defense mechanism and way to relate to my peers. Before I started learning to be funny, I was always an outsider. Comedy allows me to join into almost any group without being fully part of it. This is a skill massively important to professional development that ADS is very good at building.
4: How did you come up with your topic?
My topic was ADHD so coming up with it was not difficult with it at all seeing as it effects every aspect of my life. Choosing a topic is difficult and my advice is to choose something you know from personal experience.
5: Did you think the writing process was difficult?
In every event I’ve performed, the most difficult part was the writing, for ADS, it was the easiest. I attribute that to a combination of the topic and format of an ADS. Unlike the majority of speeches which require a more professional and “tight” performance, ADS is a menagerie of emotion. You’re able to be casual and speak to the audience without any guise or filter of formality. This is one of the most powerful parts of ADS as a platform for discussion of difficult topics.
6: What would you say was the most challenging part of ADS?
For me, ADS wasn’t challenging in the least. Every part of it felt natural and heartfelt. If I had to choose one thing though, I would probably say matching the performance to the script. I’m a very dynamic speaker and that means sometimes I go off script. I wrote my ADS the morning of the final qualifier and did NOT have it memorized. I ad-libbed a good 40% of the first round, 20% of the second and maybe 10% of the third. By out-rounds I had it down, but those previous 3 rounds provided with an active source of critique for my speech. I got to see firsthand the changes that felt natural and necessary. I tailored my speech to what felt best for me.
In future articles, I’d like to get into my personal philosophy of After Dinner Speech and speech in general, as well as some of the techniques I used to engage my audience and leave a lasting impression that goes beyond tab or even the tournament.
Thanks for reading and I hope to see you soon!
David Bloom competed in the NCFCA for 5 years in Humorous, Apol, Extemp, Duo, IO, LD, TP and of course ADS. He went to regionals several years in a row and made it to finals at nationals in both Duo and ADS. He also competed in the NFL for a year and won state in Humorous and placed at nationals in Parliamentary Debate and Humorous. He is currently a junior in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Louisville.