Why Participate in Speech and Debate


Why should you or your student participate in Speech and/or Debate? Every year I love to ask my students at club or at a camp this question. After I get some of the typical responses out of the way, “my mom made me, so I can debate my siblings better, etc.”, we arrive to some pretty fabulous answers.

Public speaking is a very common fear. In fact, most of us who participate in Speech and Debate realize that statistics show the majority people would rather be dead in the coffin, than giving the eulogy! Speech anxiety can lead individuals to feel helpless as well as incapable of communicating with others. One of the best ways to overcome glossophobia is to develop confidence, which only comes through practice. By participating in Speech and Debate, a speaker will have the ability to learn a wide range of different speaking events, ranging from interpretation speeches to persuasion and impromptu speaking.

Below are some of the reasons my students and I have come up with why they should participate in Speech and Debate….

1. Self Confidence

As long as we are alive we are going to continue to communicate. Learning to speak clearly and effectively will benefit us for years to come. The experience one will gain by standing up in front of an audience with professionalism and poise will help to enhance their self confidence. Self confidence is a huge factor for life. Almost all professions have some level of communication, learning the art of communication will only propel you further faster, because you will learn to become more confident.

2. Organization

In order to give a prepared speech, you need to prepare! Learning to get your thoughts and materials all organized and ready for presentation is a big feat! Preparing effective speeches involves reading through research, and writing effectively.

3. Practice makes Perfect

Very rarely does a person write a masterpiece on their first try. By participating in a Speech and Debate League you will write and rewrite, you will give a speech over and over again. You’ll learn to become conscious of timing – when to pause and how long for. You’ll learn about vocal variety – how to shift through changes of volume, speech rate and tone. Your articulation will be become clearer. You are practicing to become an excellent communicator, not just for a tournament or for a first place… For life.

4. Power

By standing up and speaking, you have an amazing sense of power! You have the ability to speak in a way that will change peoples minds. If you’re able to master the skill- you can change minds AND hearts. By finding your power, whether it’s within you, or in your message, you will be honing one of the major aspects of leadership.

5. Being able to think on your feet

Not every situation allows you the time to prepare or process an answer. Limit Prep Speech Categories, as well as Debate pushes students to think on their feet. Being able to quickly establish well thought-up arguments and ideas are qualities that are vital in being a well-rounded communicator.

If these reasons don’t compel you, listen to a past competitor… Erwin Zhu, a University of California Berkeley, Business major, states, “When I look back on high school, the most rewarding and meaningful organization I joined was the Speech and Debate Team. Not only did it allow me to step outside my normal social and academic bubble, it allowed me to become more knowledgeable as well as proficient in public speaking and communication. Many students today still hold an inherent bias towards activities focused on public speaking and argumentation. What’s important to understand is that these activities are not limited to a singular message, but focus on the development of a set of skills – Speech and Debate help you develop your own unique voice, one that can be amplified in whatever career path you choose to pursue. In a world becoming more digitalized and reclusive, it remains important to remember the power of verbal communication of ideas from one individual to another.”

If you have reasons why you think it’s important to participate in Speech and Debate… Please feel free to write in the comment box below!