"What Do You Mean By, 'Debate Like a Girl?'"

Posted on July 02, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

Let's be honest. The colloquial phrase, "like a girl," hasn't been a terribly flattering one. As a kid, it was a sneering insult that made an otherwise innocuous term sound like a four-letter word.

You hit like a girl.

You run like a girl.

You fight like a girl.

It is as if doing something "like a girl," meant that the effort was less than ideal. This brilliant video from Always was recently launched tackling this rhetoric.

 Similarly, Verizon paired up with Makers to illustrate the subtle ways in which girls and young women are discouraged from expressing their curiosity and critical thinking skills. 

Many people will contend that the necessity for gender equality has passed. There aren't any rules preventing women from becoming doctors, astronauts, mothers, teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, or politicians. Some may point out statistics that show a greater percentage of women enrolling in college to illustrate that everything is going great.

Except when it comes to representation in politics. Or only 3% serving as Chief Executive Officers. Oh, what about the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields? Nope, that's not too hot either.

One would think that being a highly influential leader in a public debate would mean that the content and quality of one's arguments would be the most important factor. They are, unless you happen to demonstrate some semblance emotion. Then journalists will pose the question, "Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back into the White House?"

So let's start reclaiming what it means to do things like a girl. Young women and girls can be as passionate, critical, articulate, argumentative, competitive, and successful as they want to be. There is no shortage of desire, curiosity, or talent among today's young women. That's why we're selling our "Debate Like a Girl" shirts and donating the proceeds to the Women's Debate Institute. The funds will help cover the cost of their tuition-free debate camp for high school and college aged girls. 

The shirts also give you the opportunity to start discussing the power and potential of young women in forensics and debate. Though it isn't perfect, this activity celebrates the accomplishments, intelligence, passion, charisma, and efforts of a diverse community of individuals. If someone asks you what it means to "Debate like a girl," you have your answer. 

Debating like a girl means using passion, critical thinking, logic, and strategy. How else would they do it?  

Continue reading →

Exclusive Gift for SpeechGeek Fans At the NSDA National Tournament Vendor Expo

Posted on June 09, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

Kansas City will be "a world of pure forensication" this Sunday. We'll be at the Vendor Expo selling digital and print copies of our interp scripts at a special price. We'll also be giving away tons of stuff like the cup Sir William H. Wonka is holding, vinyl stickers, and these really cool pens that double as a stylus for your touch screen devices. That's some Inspector Gadget type stuff and they're free to those who visit our booth (and ideally buy some stuff)! 

(We're also setting up a Square card reader at the expo! So if you (student, coach, or parent) are interested in purchasing interp materials but don't want to carry a lot of cash, you'll be able to swipe your card at the table and have your receipt sent via e-mail or text message. We'll collect your e-mail address and have your digital files sent before the tournament is finished. You'll be ready for the new season before this one even ends. How cool is that?)


We've made ultra-rare "Speech Meme" buttons that we're only giving out to SpeechGeek fans at the NSDA Vendor Expo who join us on social media.  It's pretty easy, but you have to do a few things:

1). Find the SpeechGeek table at the Vendor Expo on Sunday.

2). Using your smart phone (or a print out, if you don't have one) show us that you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr.

3). Make a post containing the hashtags #SpeechGeek AND #Nats14. It won't count if you don't have both. Even something as simple as, "Excited to see #SpeechGeek here at #Nats14!" or "Going to grab some free stuff from #SpeechGeek at #Nats14," or "Yay! #SpeechGeek #Nats14" will do.

You can make your posts now through the end of the expo. One button per person. Quantities are limited. If you can't make it to the National Tournament, don't worry! There will be other chances to get the buttons in the future.



Continue reading →

Motivational Movies: Why We're Watching "The Lego Movie" Before Nationals

Posted on May 21, 2014 by Stephanie Alderdice

When you're preparing a humongous, totally momentous competition - there are things you like to do to get in the mood. Get all of your clothes lined up, create the perfect playlist, Facebook everyone you know who will be there, maybe...actually...uh...practice or something. Or whatever. As for me, I'm all about the movies.

Sure, some folks like the sports films. It makes sense. Competition, struggle, winning...hoo-ray...that hits the spot. Maybe you're tired of watching The Karate Kid, Rudy, Remember the Titans, Bring It On, Stomp the Yard, Happy Gilmore, or any of those other films featuring feats of athleticism. No hate...no hate...but, eh...we've been there before.

That's why I downloaded The Lego Movie as soon as it came out this week.

Now, if you're one of those "Blah blah animated movies are for little kids" folks, then you can go find another party to poop on. Plenty of people LOVED The Lego Movie. Seriously, it's worth a viewing.

If you've already seen the movie, you may be scrunching up your face like, "Whaaaat? Pffft. How is that even related to forensics?" Well unscrunch your face, cynic. I'm about to get on the S.S. Explainer and take you on a trip to This-Is-Whyville.

Emmett (voiced by the deeeelightful Chris Pratt) is an average guy who happily follows the rules and gets overlooked by those around him. When he stumbles upon the piece of resistance -- the key to thwarting the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) -- he is considered "The Special" master builder who will save the world. The only problem is that unlike the master builders who can assemble anything they can grab into anything they can imagine - Emmett only knows how to get things done by following for the rules. When he does have an idea, it is generally laughed at.

Those who have seen the movie know there's a 'twist,' but I'm not going to spoil that for you.

I will say that there is a lesson regarding the idea of following a formula versus embracing one's own quirky and creative ideas. In forensics, there are rules that we have to follow: time limits, literature choices, quoting sources. But then there are tons of unwritten rules that we think we have to follow. When you watch videos of previous champions and finalists, you begin to break down those performances as instructions for success. "This is what you have to do to be successful, because this is what these successful people have done." And yes, in a way, there are great lessons to be learned in the process.

But blindly following the instructions to make something "look the way everyone else thinks it should look," as the movie points out, isn't all that it is cracked up to be. Slowly but surely, you're erasing the little parts of you that don't look like everyone else. It's like making a sandwich without including a special sauce. Your ideas, your passion, your connection to your speech, you are the special sauce. Without the special sauce, there's nothing unique about your performance.

The Lego Movie is a celebration of creativity and individuality. Pragmatically, you can't just waltz into a round, do whatever you want, and expect to win. With forensics competition, you'll have to make some concessions and adjustments so audience members and judges understand what you're trying to say. But that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice the unique and creative ideas you bring to the table.

No one else thinks the way you do. No one laughs like you, or feels the exact same way as you. Ten people could do the same piece, but you can bring your own special sauce to make it your own flavor. Maybe the judge won't appreciate your flavor. So what. That's life. There will be people in your life who may not appreciate what you can do. But there will be other people who love what you do, who would stockpile crates of your special sauce.

Those people in the videos? The finalists and champions that inspire you? They got there because they brought some unique part of themselves into the round. Sometimes we get lucky and get judges and audiences that just so happen to appreciate our sauce at that moment. That's how you become legendary. That's how you become the inspiration - to hundreds of people on the final stage or dozens of people in your regular rounds. That's the whole point of this activity. To get together, share ideas, perform for each other, and genuinely celebrate how wonderful it is that we're all so weird, smart, and creative.

If you get a chance, watch The Lego Movie. Hopefully you'll be amused, if not inspired. Here's to building something amazing for the national tournament.

Continue reading →

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.

Continue reading →

Scroll to top