Branching Out

Luqmaan Thein | 7/16/22

A deciduous tree starts out as a small seed. Through rain and sunlight, the seed develops roots into the ground and starts to sprout. As it sprouts, it becomes a sapling. It grows leaves. It begins to eat, converting water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen.

Its roots grow bigger and stronger—there’s more of them to collect water. Its trunk grows too, developing branches, which have smaller branches, with more leaves to collect more oxygen and sunlight. As the years pass, a mighty tree looms, growing larger every year, with more assets to aid its robust core.

Much like the tree, it is important to develop different skills to strengthen your debating and/or speaking. Every great debate case follows the same basic structure, but it’s through varied delivery styles, precise refutations, and dynamic passion that it becomes outstanding.

And just like deciduous trees are able to get the most sunlight in the summer months, the summer is the best time to refine other skills.

The best way to do this is to branch out, so to speak. The more branches you blossom, the more refined your technique will be.

To branch out, you need to approach different events. For Congress competitors, that can be accomplished by trying Extemporaneous Speaking to develop spontaneity, or Lincoln Douglas to hone argumentation, or Dramatic/Humorous/Oral Interpretation to nail delivery. For LDers and PFers, try Congress to experience a significantly different type of debate to gain a more solidified grasp on argumentation. For those in Speech events, try different types of speech events to perfect the multiple, complex facets of conveying a story.

I’ve illustrated the benefits of trying new events, but there is an added level of nuance to this.

There are those that believe it is better to stick with a single event to improve it exclusively. This method has been proven to yield such significant results that I must agree with it, at least in part. It is more cost-effective for teams to have a novice develop skills in a single event over numerous tournaments so that they can effectively compete on the national circuit in it, and actually bring back awards and merits.

Trying new events, on the other hand, does come with a learning curve that is not entirely insignificant, both in time and content. Because of this, trying new events may actually hinder individual progress to attaining excellence.

That is actually why I would only recommend branching out to veterans who already have a firm grasp of the basics of their event. For novices, it’s more important to develop the essential skills to be successful in one event. But for experienced debaters, who have already developed the essential skills and have even demonstrated success—debaters who understand exactly where they need to improve—branching out is invaluable. It can give them an additional perspective, a more nuanced understanding of essentials, and an easier path to improvement. Where they may have been plateauing, they may re-facilitate a growth curve within themselves that will help them do better.

Branching out will also maximize your forensics experience. From trying multiple events, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the art of speaking that will take you far in life. There are multiple low-stakes summer tournaments to throw yourself in the deep end, or if you can’t find any, try hosting one on your own (it manifests initiative, but here’s a good one to compete in). As you return in late August and September, you’ll find a profound change in your ability that will not only take you to the top of the national circuit, but will allow you to succeed in all places.