College Forensics: A Celebrity Intro to Public Address

Posted on April 16, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

Let's be honest, if you're a speaker in high school forensics, it can be tough. Interpers have plenty of events to choose from, limited preppers can bounce between domestic and international Extemp, Impromptu, and for many - Broadcasting. But if you prefer to give an audience ten straight minutes of fully prepared content, unless your circuit regularly offers events like Expository, chances are that Oratory is your bread and butter. Bread and butter are great. Sometimes, though, you want a cold cut combo or veggies and hummus. Womp womp - welcome to Oratory.

All of that changes once you hit the collegiate circuit. The four public address events run 8-10 minutes, are typically memorized (though manuscripts are allowed), and visual aids are welcomed. Visual aids: a treasure to behold (and a burden to be carrying) can range from foam boards and models, to handouts, brochures, or anything that is necessary to help illustrate and emphasize your message.

While some of the names of the events are fairly self explanatory - Informative and Persuasive - others, like After Dinner Speaking and Rhetorical Criticism (a.k.a. Communication Analysis) are a bit more unique. To capture not only the specifics but also the "spirit" of the event, we've chosen a few celebrity speakers who we believe capture the essence of the public address events in one way or the other. Unlike Josh Gad's championship in Oratory, we're not suggesting that any of these celebrities actually competed in these events. If we were running our own Fantasy Forensic League though, we'd definitely be interested in recruiting them.


When it comes to presenting information in a clear, coherent, and charming fashion - we thought nobody captured the spirit of Info quite like Neil deGrasse Tyson. The internet darling slash astrophysicist blends enthusiasm and education in his talk show appearances and on Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey. If you haven't caught his appearances on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, or The Big Bang Theory then you're missing out. Check out how he uses humor and intelligence to spark human curiosity and make science so fascinating. Watch as he discusses human communication and space below.


Aristotle believed that persuasion occurs through logos (logic), pathos (emotions), and ethos (credibility). Speakers who come across as credible and knowledgeable, incorporate logic and reasoning into their argumentation, and touch upon the emotions of the audience tend to have greater efficacy in successful persuasion. Whether you agree with Maddow's political perspective, her ability as a speaker to use pauses, inflection, reasoning, and emotional appeals demonstrate her commitment to communicating her message.


If you've ever sat through a round of After Dinner Speaking (or Speech To Entertain), the inclusion of Jon Stewart is obvious. The goal of a successful After Dinner Speaker is to utilize humor as a means of conveying a message. While the description sounds easy, the execution is much more challenging. This isn't a stand-up comedy routine - judges will be looking for a message, argument, and research to support your claims. Veer too far into your rhetoric and you lose the rhythm and mood of the audience. Many speakers have found Stewart's ability to effortlessly transition from clown to critic to be the gold standard in style, (while finding their own voice, jokes, and message, of course.) It would help to have a team of writers and the ability to use television clips in rounds, but you make adjustments as needed. Regardless of whether you agree with his political perspective, the live audience response shows that he's able to sell his jokes.


Admittedly, this entry may strike a few as a bit...odd. Fashion guru and mentor of Project Runway, Tim Gunn, isn't the first name that comes to mind when discussing public speakers. Bear with us - we have a reason for this inclusion.

Of all of the collegiate public address events, Rhetorical Criticism (similarly known as Communication Analysis at the AFA-NIET) is perhaps the most challenging event for high school speakers to pick up. The event entails a speaker selecting a piece of rhetoric or a communication event (say, a public service campaign or monument) and examining its efficacy and resulting implications through the use of a particular methodology. Sound confusing?

There's an analogy we like to use when explaining the event to lay judges. Pretend that your communication event (a.k.a. "the artifact") is an outfit that a person is wearing. You want to discern whether this person's outfit would be considered a great trendsetting outfit. The guide that you will use to determine if an outfit is trendy might be a particular fashion magazine's "Ten Trendsetting Items for Spring 2014." If the outfit meets the magazine's standards, then you can say, "This outfit is an effective trendsetter because it follows the tips laid out in this particular fashion magazine." The outfit may meet none, or a few of the items laid out in the magazine. Your implications may be that a good looking outfit may make the wearer more or less popular - or you may find that there are underlying issues with the tips the magazine laid out. For example, "Yes, Modern Mom does have interesting spring fashion tips, but those may not be applicable to a seventeen-year old person."

As a speaker in Rhetorical Criticism, you're juggling a variety of hats. At one moment you're educating your audience about the different standards you will use to analyze the artifact, then you'll turn around and begin to pick apart the different aspects in the next. Ultimately, your goal is to be an insightful and unbiased critic, communicating your assessment while being willing to see the potential for both success and failure in the process. It may not be the perfect parallel, but it ideally captures part of the spirit of the event.

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College Forensics: Introduction to Interp

Posted on April 14, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

Just kidding. Working with a black book looks scarier than it really is.

Have you ever watched a sitcom where there's a class assignment that requires two OBVIOUSLY incompatible people to take joint responsibility in caring for an inanimate object like it was a baby? They're all like, "Whaaat? This is ridiculous. I don't want to carry around this sack of flour!" But they misplace the bag of flour and then they're all like, "Oh noes! I totes need that to do well!" Then they kinda, sorta, accidentally enjoy taking care of the bag of flour. It becomes their "bay-bay" not in the literal sense, but in a "I have a newly found respect for what this inanimate object comes to represent."

This is what the black book is for college interpers. Instead of a flour sack, you find yourself tasked with carrying around a black binder. At first you think, "This is ridiculous! I can barely move one of my arms! I need that arm to reach all of my #feeeelings!" But you pretty much have to carry it around because the manuscript is required in college interp and the binder (although a norm and not technically a rule) is pretty much expected.

One day you go to a coaching session, but you forget your binder in your room and you start to try to run through your performance can't. Someone tries to hand you a different binder, but it just feels wrong. Then you realize that like it or've grown attached that three ring lump of vinyl and cardboard. It's yo "bay-bay."

To compare college and high school interp as "similar but different" is vague, frustrating, and kind of accurate. Yes, there are characters, intros, and #feeeelings, but the college circuit tends to reward more nuanced and subdued performances. Yes, you keep your script in your binder, but the regulations for publication verification aren't there. Yes, you speak for 8 to 10 minutes, but no one is giving you time signals or grace periods. Yes, H.I. does not exist as an event in college, but you'll be using humor in a variety of pieces. You'll have teasers and intros - and those introductions better sound like an ivy league English lit course squeezed into sixty seconds.

I feel like I'm selling the college interps short right now. There are some really awesome things you can do! The events are based on genre of literature, not the tone. You'll see Proses and D.I.s that are downright hilarious. Program events allow you to create innovative performances by splicing different pieces together. Topics, subject matter, and language are more mature and varied than what you would typically find in the high school circuit. There is more freedom to experiment - as long as you're able to explain the reasons behind your experimentation. Plus, the movies, television shows, spoken word poetry, and online literature that may not have an ISBN number is fair game in collegiate competition.

When you add all of this together you find that college interp performances are thought-provoking, emotionally driven, and quite often life-changing performances. With this new world of literature, splicing, and argumentation - you're able to learn more about yourself and the world around you. It is one of the rare opportunities available to combine rhetoric, passion, performance, and competition.

Below you'll find a list of the interp events you'll see most often at college tournaments. Some areas may offer specialized events, experimental events, or improvisational events. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus on discussing the descriptions, rules, and norms of the interp events as they appear at the American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament and the National Forensic Association National Tournament.

AFA = American Forensic Association, NFA = National Forensic Association, IFA = International Forensic Tournament, PRP = Phi Rho Pi, DSR = Delta Sigma Rho, PKD = Pi Kappa Delta. To learn more about each organization, click 'National Tournament and Organization' and scroll down to view the links.


National Tournament


 Rules, Descriptions, and Norms

Dramatic Interp


Dramatic refers to the type of literature and not the tone of the performance. Pulled from plays, television, film, radio plays, and videos, the goal is to create a vivid character(s) from a piece written with the intention of being performed. D.I.s can range from a singular monologue, one character addressing an audience, multiple characters addressing an audience, multiple characters in off-stage dialogue, or a combination of different styles. Use of manuscript is required.




Similar to high school competition, Duo involves two performers. Recently, national organizations such as AFA and NFA have begun to open the doors for programs and different literature to be used in the event. This means a Duo may range from two characters in one play to multiple characters in a performance that includes plays, prose, and poetry. The goal is to utilize teamwork, highlight interpersonal relationships/cooperation, and employ effective characterization through the interpretation of literature. Use of manuscript is required.




Poets of the world rejoice! Be it spoken word, free verse, sonnets, haikus - if it is considered a  poem then consider it fair play. You'll find that Poetry in college is quite similar to what you see in high school competition. Without rules restricting literature to ISBN publications - you'll find a greater range of literature available for performance. From one long poem to a program of several, highlighting the use of vivid language (while maintaining a coherent and compelling theme/argument in a program) is the goal. Use of manuscript is required.



Program Oral Interp (a.k.a. P.O.I. or "Poy like boy") allows performers to craft a program on a particular theme, concept, or argument through the use of a variety of literature from drama, prose, and poetry. P.O.I. requires a fair amount of skill. Not only do your poems need to sound different than your prose, but you need to piece everything together in a clear, coherent, and compelling fashion. The opportunities for creativity and personal connection are endless. Use of manuscript is required.



Prose is all about stories and narratives and can include novels, short stories, articles, memoirs, and essays be it fiction or non-fiction (though children's literature is virtually non-existent.) Some Prose performances have a single narrator addressing the audience while others may include different characters. You'll find that some stories lend themselves to using a different point of view, and performers exploring narration in first-, second-, or third-person. Your basic goal is to 'tell a story.' Use of manuscript is required.

These are very basic overviews of the various interp events. Consider it a very quick introduction. In future posts, we'll explore each event in more depth.

For many high school competitors, college interp may appear to lack the appearance of fun to which they are generally accustomed. Carrying around a binder and attending a tournament where H.I. doesn't exist sounds like...well...I don't know what it sounds like but I've seen people scrunch their faces like they just drank bad milk. You're going to have to trust me when I say that college interp is FAR FROM BAD MILK. Once you realize that the packaging is just a little different, you open up a carton of college interp and you're like, 'Woah! This tastes like chocolate/strawberry/vanilla/soy/almond awesomeness!"

Everything you enjoy about interp - making people laugh, performing for a crowd, doing something different, making audiences think and feel something - is all there in college interp. Getting familiar with the different events is the first step to finding your niche on the collegiate circuit. Just remember to keep your black book handy, it's your new bestie that will be with you in all of your rounds.

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Why College Forensics Matters (A Lot)

Posted on April 10, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice


The Ball State University Forensic Team at AFA-NIET 2014 (@bsuspeech)

Chances are, if you follow SpeechGeek on Twitter or Facebook, you may have noticed a lot action surrounding the 2014 AFA-NIET earlier this month. If you don't follow SpeechGeek (on Twitter or Facebook or on Pinterest or Tumblr), take a moment to stop reading this blog post and add us now. It's cool, we'll wait.

Some of our more recent followers may have thought, "Where are my memes, SpeechGeek? I'm here for the LOLZ." Some follow SpeechGeek only for the annual coverage of these tournaments. Others shrug and think, "Eh, it doesn't really matter to me."

Don't get us wrong: we get giddy when folks enjoy and share our more humorous posts. But the geeks here feel like we need to make a contribution to the activity beyond pictures of bears wearing bow ties with the caption "#CrossExProbs." We love being silly - but we love forensics a bit more.

That's why hearing people say, "Huh? They have speech in college?" seems like a tiny imaginary foot is stomping on our hearts. YES! Not only is there speech and debate in college, but it is totally awesome!

Sometimes folks who are competing in high school may get told from coaches or alumni that college forensics "isn't for them." Maybe the coach or alum competed in college forensics for a while and really didn't like it. That's okay. The style of performances and speeches that shine in high school may struggle to be rewarded on the college circuit. Maybe they didn't like all of the travel. Maybe there was too much travel for them to balance speech, school, having a job, and experiencing the fifty billion other activities available on a college campus.

But here's the great thing about college: you get the chance to become a different person and try different things. Maybe you're happy to finish your four years in high school. Hey - you do you. You might, however, want another four years of speech before giving it up for good. (Or at least until being a professional interper is an option.) There are people who never clicked in high school who go on to achieve awesome success in college. There are people who have success in both high school AND college. You don't know unless you try.

University of Alabama Forensic Team

The University of Alabama Forensic Team at AFA-NIET 2014 (@BamaForensics)

The things that make high school speech so amazing are still there on the collegiate circuit. It is an important and enriching activity that makes you a stand out candidate for graduate schools or jobs later on. Despite what you may think, your critical thinking and argumentation skills have only just scratched the surface. College forensics opens you up to new concepts, ideas, arguments, and literature. You're not only exploring new ways of thinking, but you're discovering more about yourself in the process. You'll get the opportunity to travel out of state -- and in some cases -- out of the country. Some collegiate teams offer full or partial scholarships in an effort to recruit students to their teams. (If you see someone at the National Speech and Debate Association National Tournament with laser focus and a fistful of business cards, it's probably a college coach.) Perhaps the most valuable aspect of college forensics is finding a network of people with a shared interest in what may be a big (and lonely) new campus.

For five years now, SpeechGeek has covered the American Forensic Association National Individual Events Tournament and the National Forensic Association National Tournament. Initially, we covered the tournaments because we were already in attendance as coaches. But even as we transitioned to working on SpeechGeek full-time, we continued to share the information and results.

We continue to do this to not only serve the friends, family, and alumni of college competitors - but to serve you as well. The college competitors are often alumni of your schools or people whom you competed against in the past. The alums of high school competition are often among the most enthusiastic volunteers, judges, and camp counselors. They frequently return after their semester wraps up to help their alma maters prepare for competition in July. Is there anything more inspiring as you prep for summer competition than watching others feel the hype and joy of national tournaments in the spring?

As we prepare to pack up and head to the NFA National Tournament in Ypsilanti, Michigan, we'll be posting articles that give you insight to the different events available in collegiate forensics. If you have questions, suggestions, or contributions, you're always welcome to send them via e-mail to stephanie (at) speechgeek (dot) com.

To get you started, here's a list of links that will help introduce to the teams, organizations, and tournaments you'll find on the collegiate circuit:

Council of Forensic Organization's List of College Programs

American Forensic Association

National Forensic Association

Phi Rho Pi National Forensic Organization

Pi Kappa Delta National Honorary Society

Delta Sigma Rho - Tau Kappa Alpha

National Parliamentary Debate Association

National Debate Tournament

Cross-Examination Debate Association

American Debate Association

International Public Debate Association

Novice Nationals

American Parliamentary Debate Association

Follow us on your favorite social media outlets for live updates, posts, new additions to the store, and general forensics fun. (Oh, here's the bear in a bow tie we promised.)

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All Of the Out Round Participants At the 2014 AFA-NIET

Posted on April 07, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

We'd love to title this something exciting like INDY SWEEPS CONTENDERS!! But, without having the original entry, we don't know who qualifies.

PLUS, we wanted to celebrate everyone who made out rounds but only gets one clap at awards.


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