How to Judge Speech Events at High School Speech Tournaments

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hi there I'm Cindy Sidwell and I am the

director of judges for the Utah debate

coaches Association and here are a few

instructions on how to judge speech

events so thank you so much for tuning

in and for finding out how to do this

because you're doing an incredible

service for our kids all right here we


okay so first and foremost thank you so

much for judging a lot of our judges

really do feel like they're not

experienced enough to judge a high

school debate and at speech events but

most of our judges are people just like

you who have no experience judging and

without you we wouldn't have near enough

judges to actually run these debate

tournaments which are so beneficial to

our kids so first and foremost thank you

if we forget to thank you because it

gets kind of crazy all right your main

goal today is that you will be filling

out the ballot and determining the win

the top winner and then ranking kids

down so before each round ballots are

going to be handed out for you to fill

out and if it's like a Friday night

usually do they do like three rounds and

you'll probably end up getting ballots

for each of those rounds now many of

these ballots actually have robux

rubrics on you to help you judge so do

take a look at these just make sure that

you are being kind to the kids all right

once you're given a ballot you're going

to look for the room number to see where

you'll be judging you're going to take

the ballot which is actually a group of

ballots all stapled together a pen or a

pencil and a timer or your phone that

has a timer on it to the room now

students will probably be waiting for

you when you come they're not allowed to

enter a room without you so please alert

the tournament if they are already in

the room as this is a major rule

violation our contestants aren't allowed

to go inside without a judge just so

that we can keep our room secure all

right next you're going to look at your

ballot or a cover sheet with the

contestants names

codes and you're gonna call them out to

see if all the contestant contestants

are in the room and that's kind of

important just to see when you're going

to get started now some students may not

be there as they may be double entered

so this means that they're actually

entered in another event as well and

they may be going to that event first

and then come in near the end sometimes

the contestants will actually show up

and say I'm double enter do you mind if

I go first so even though there is an

order you can break that order when

someone is double entered because they

really do need to get to the next round

so that we can get all of our kids

through and they can go to all of their

events next you call up each contestant

in the order on the ballot now if

someone says they're double entered like

I said please let them go first and

they'll run to their next round on each

ballot you're going to find a place for

your name the school you represent the

contestants name code etc just fill in

the blanks and one thing I would

recommend if there are just codes

to also ask the kids names every once in

a while you might get a little number

wrong or the code might be a little

wrong so it's really important that we

know who that is and putting the

contestants name on the ballot

will help us figure those out just in

case alright so now you get to listen to

these speeches and you can fill out the

ballot as you go make sure the name and

code are correct on the ballot before

they start speaking so when I call

someone up by saying now you are this

person and this is your code is that

correct cool all right whatever speech

event you're judging make sure you you

take a timer and you're willing to do

time signals for our kids now time

signals are when you hold up how much

time they have left so for instance if

they're giving a speech and it's ten

minutes long and they say please start

giving me time signals at five minutes

then I would hold up five and then at

four minutes hold up four and then

three-two-one this means 30 seconds it's

like a pirate hook and then 10 9 8 7 6 5

like that okay usually there's a

15-second grace period when you finish

but then you you've got to kind of cut

it off so that's why time signals are

really important because they could keep

talking and they don't want to get

themselves disqualified by going way

over time so make sure you give time

signals sometimes other contestants are

in the room and you could ask them to do

time signals for you if you would like

since you are also dealing with the

ballots so for most events this does

work out where other contestants are

happy to help you judge if the kids want

to time themselves I'm good with that I

probably would still you know set the

time at the same just to kind of keep an

eye out how much time they used so just

make sure you do do time signals some of

our kids are doing spur-of-the-moment

speeches and they want to use all of

their time and like I said they will

keep speaking alright as you listen to

each speaker take notes on the ballot

contestants will see this ballot and

what they're mainly looking for is what

did they do well please compliment them

and how can they improve please be

really kind some of our debaters like

right now I have kids going to their

very first tournaments some of them

aren't great yet they're gonna end up

being awesome as long as you encourage

them if all you have is negative and

you're just nitpicking every little

thing for these kids they may quit

thinking there's no way that they can

get over all of these hurdles so I even

had a kid once who gave like a 30-second

impromptu speech which you'll find him

out about impromptu and I tried to do a

compliment sandwich I tried to do more

compliments than I do like the negatives

and the critiques so I said way to get

up there that was super brave and I

really liked where you were going with

this topic maybe

got another story with it cuz I thought

your analysis was really interesting

maybe add some stories to make it longer

and maybe work on not pacing but holding

still and just moving now and again to

add to the speech alright so just think

if this was your kid they would want

some cool critiques but they would also

want some nice things so as I put on

this little PowerPoint you don't have to

write a novel about them just jot down a

few thoughts please be nice what happens

sometimes is we have judges who are

taking notes on a separate sheet of

paper and then they go back to the judge

room they can't turn in their ballots

fast because now they have to transcribe

everything over so my ballots don't look

super pretty but it gets the job done

where I take some notes on like the

right side on the speech itself and then

I just write some quick comments as I'm

seeing them okay so don't worry don't be

a perfectionist and you don't have to

have a novel of things to say to them

but please do give them some comments on

their eat um even if the even if the

tournament allows you to do oral

critiques is really important for the

coaches to see what judges see and it

helps us a lot when we're coaching them

alright so again fill it out as you go

the faster you get done filling out

these ballots the faster we all go home

and that's why it's so imperative that

you do that after each speaker what I do

is I ask myself were they better than

the other speakers so I compared the

first one to the second one the second

one was better I put that ballot on top

and then I keep comparing them and

moving those ballots around because at

the very end of the round you're gonna

end up ranking them first place second

place third place 4th place fifth place

and on down

so first would be the very best speaker

so by the end of the round if I've done

this they're already in order all I have

to do is do 1 2 3 4 5 etc I used to not

do this and it would

be much longer to fill out the ballots

because I had to figure out and try and

remember whose speech was whose it also

helps me to write on the ballot a few

things that help me remember them like

story about mom

the cashier or something like that

alright I hope that that helped some of

the ballots have not only the rank but

they have something called a rate at

this what they're asking for is for you

to put s for superior efore excellent G

for good and F for fair okay alright and

what I usually say is please don't use

fair I resist using the rate of fair

because I want to encourage students

students not discourage them if they

were all amazing like in a final round

you can give them all superior that's

awesome you have to have only 1 1 1 2 1

3 1 4 like that but you can't I on the

rate okay so sign the ballots and you

are ready to go so in general if I'm you

know filling them out as I go I only

need a couple more minutes to put the

rank and the rate and off we go

so again be kinds don't use fair if

possible don't just give everyone

superior either but at the same time

these kids are working hard all right so

here are the speech events that kids can

participate it

so first oratory foreign or US extent

impromptu there are the inter prevents

humorous interp dramatic interp and

doooo informative and POI or prose oral

interpretation some tournaments may have

more events than these so just ask them

for clarification as to what those rules

are so let's just go through these

speeches that's real quick ok the

oratory the orator ease of speech event

where competitors write their own

persuasive type speech so I like to tell

judges it's a lot like writing your own

TED talk so this speech can have up to

10% of other people's words but it's

mainly the competitors writing if if you

feel like they have like way too much of

other stuff I mean you can ask the coach

about it in general the kids know this

and you don't have to worry about that

part of it

this speech is 7 to 10 minutes long

competitors should have a topic they

feel strongly about now one thing I

would caution you is it just is because

they're taking aside and they're trying

to be persuasive if you disagree with

them if your set of morals is different

from their set of morals whatever it is

please put that aside and judge them on

their speaking ability and the quality

of the writing within the oratory so

please have an open mind with these I

actually had a judge once like yell at

one of my kids because they didn't agree

with their topic and they thought they

took the wrong side so please don't do


right let's not punish these kids for

trying to take a stand on something they

feel strongly about by the end of

oratory speakers will usually have a

call to action they will have excellent

delivery and hopefully make you think

they probably did some research there

may be some statistics our kids are just

brilliant and for me I am always very

inspired when I watch these oratories so

have a good time with these oratories

all right next extent speaking we call

it extent

so exteme are going to speak on

questions given to them on current

topics in the United States or the world

now before they came to the tournament

they did a bunch of research they

uploaded it to a Dropbox or something so

that they could be offline they actually

don't do research online during this

time period they had to do the research

beforehand and they don't know what the

questions are going to be but a great

extent speaker will use many sources and

dates in their speech to back up their

analysis if a speaker you find doesn't

have any sources at all they should not

be ranked very high since it's important

that they have demonstrated their

research and that they are backed up by

by those sources for me as a judge I

keep track of sources by directly

writing them on the corner of the ballot

just to

notes for myself unlike the other events

that you have with oratory and these

other speech events where everyone comes

in it's stem speakers are preparing

their speech in another room they have

30 minutes to prepare to research and

write this up to seven minute speech

which is pretty amazing if you ask me so

they look over their research they write

their speech they practice on the way

and then they'll be coming in one at a

time seven minutes apart because their

speeches can last up to seven minutes


alright so usually you know the best

speakers that are competitive will speak

usually between five and a half to seven

minutes long and you can take that into

account on the ballot when you're

deciding if someone gets up and gives a

great three-minute speech and someone

else gets up and gives a pretty good

seven-minute speech you can tell the

other one has a little more material

right but also ask yourself did they use

sources in those dates next please this

is also super important

please given them time signal so that

they know when to stop

if you don't do time signals they will

keep talking and wondering how much time

they used so very very vital that you do

that which for me as a judge is kind of

nice because I'm writing on the ballot

and looking down you're the only one in

the room so sometimes they're just

looking right at you giving their speech

for me that kind of breaks eye contact

for a second to look down and they're

welcome to time themselves if you want

them to time themselves too so again

remember if you disagree with them

politically or and and you land on the

opposite side again please don't like

yell at them or rank them down for not

picking the side that you believe in

okay so this is really cool that they

are presenting this just please don't

rank them down if you don't agree with

them especially with politics the way it

is nowadays where we totally disagree

with each other

we want our kids to know that they can

discuss these things with us and even if

we don't agree we can be amazed at their

speaking ability and the research that

they did so

please be kind judge on the depth of the

analysis all right next up impromptu

speaking now impromptu speakers are

going to be creating their speeches

right in front of you you'll be given a

list of topics for them to use these are

usually stapled on to the ballots and

you will have access to those these may

be abstract words quotes people or

social issues I've also seen cartoons

which is rare but hey you know you never

know whatever the tournament wants to

run when the round begins you are going

to call up the first speaker and hand

them the first bunch of topics sometimes

these are just on one piece of paper so

you have to kind of rip them up hearts

so do your best to do that because

you're going to be actually handing them

physically handing them those topics

they will have three topics to choose

from on there let's see as soon as the

speaker looks at them so they look down

at them start the timer at 7 minutes

counting down so again time signals are

incredibly important here you're welcome

to ask someone in the room to do this

for you but if you do it yourself what I

do is I tell them when they've used 30

seconds one minute a minute thirty two

minutes two and a half three etc and I

do that out loud because they are busy

writing down some ideas now we don't

want speakers to bring up this paper or

even look at this paper and if someone

does bring up the paper then they

shouldn't be ranked ahead of someone who

does not bring up the paper right so

they're welcome to write this on a

separate sheet of paper to get some

notes down and and get their thoughts in

order but again don't rank someone who

brings up a paper ahead of someone who

does not the speaker is going to pick

one of these there they're getting all

ready they usually get up after two

minutes prep time maybe three minutes

prep time just don't stop the timer

you're gonna keep going only now your

time signals will be this way right and

not verbal you don't want to be yelling

cuz that that's really awkward

all right speakers will then be judged

on their delivery their analysis of the

topic their organization etc but you can

also take into account how much prep

time they used which is actually very

important if one kid uses two minutes

prep time it gives a really good speech

and someone uses three minutes prep time

three minutes is a whole minute longer

than the two-minute one right are you

gonna reward the two-minute time you

know the two minute prep time and they

spoke for five minutes above the three

minute prep time with four minutes to

speak so you can see using prep time is

very they think about how they're going

to do that so the less prep time they

use you know a little bit the better it

doesn't mean if someone uses one minute

that they should always be in in the

lead but at one of these at a tournament

last year I had a judge who a kid used

five minutes prep time which was just

crazy and then spoke for two minutes

and they gave them the first in the

round which shouldn't have happened

that's kind of that's a little

outrageous okay so you can balance that

out do your best to look at their

delivery their analysis and then how

they use their prep time

all right the inter prevents so

interrupts or drama or comedy pieces

that are performed without the use of

props costumes etc actors may play many

roles or they may just play one it's

kind of up to them they choose their own

pieces the contestants are judged on how

well they can do the characters and

create the spellbinding scene they have

five to ten minutes to present their

piece and you can even ask the

tournament if there is a minimum amount

of time but usually five minutes is

about minimum dramatic interp or we also

call it di our pieces that are usually

serious they may have some funny

elements in it but overall they're

pretty serious humorous and turps or h-i

are pieces that are supposed to be funny

and we hope that they are funny duo has

two people performing now

weird thing about duo is they're not

allowed to look at each other they're

not allowed to touch each other and so

they have to get kind of creative as to

how they're gonna go about doing this

it can be funny it can be serious it can

be both it could be whatever they want

it to be and again are they doing great

characters and voices and all that so

yeah then you rank them alright

informative speaking is relatively new

event but it's being pushed a little

more since the NS da has come out with

it informative speaking is a ten minute

presentation written and performed by

the student informative requires

students to balance that content with

delivery and style students and

informative must be articulate engaging

and smooth with their delivery at both

vocal and physical level the purpose is

to inform and educate the audience of a

topic of significance they may actually

use visual aids in their performance so

oratory they never use visual aids they

shouldn't use visual aids informative

they are allowed to they don't have to

but they're allowed to so research is

really important in an informative all

claims should be backed up with evidence

that verifies the information the

speakers conveying so three ways you're

going to evaluate first relevance look

at it is this a relevant topic that

they're that they're talking about is it

timely second relatable relatability is

how the speaker connects the audience to

the topic does it help you to really

understand it and connect that and third

originality when evaluating it's

important to know that there are they're

just there are a few very original ideas

so don't mark them down but you know how

inventive are they getting with this

topic so that you are learning something

new we hope program oral interpretation

which we also call POI program oral

interpret in minute performance that can

include a combination of prose and

poetry and drama they have to have at

least two out of the three genres that I

just said though

a prose poetry or drama they actually

have to have a manuscript in their hand

that's part of the rules so that would

be one of the only speaking events where

they bring a manuscript up and they must

have it in their hand there are three

key areas of POI first piecing all of

the different types of literature into

one cool cohesive performance so it

should be a really nice compelling

performance centered around a theme or

an idea

second blocking are the movements that

they that they make to convey space

emotion and action

blocking should enhance the performance

not distract from the story in poi the

students allowed to use the manuscript

as a prop to enhance blocking if they

want to do that as long as they still

hanging on to the manuscript at all

times and then third characterization

which is the thing we're also looking at

in the regular in terms it reveals the

personality of the character through how

they deliver lines and that sort of

thing okay so hopefully it is

beautifully done it's a fun addition to

the speech events alright and that's it

so you rock for listening to this and

this PowerPoint I'm going to make it

available to all of the coaches as well

if you just want to have this PowerPoint

just make sure to fill out the ballots

as quickly as you can to return them to

the ballot table and you are a mentor as

much as a judge so remember kindness

comes first encourage our students

they're gaining really valuable skills

for life so we don't want them to quit

over what a judge has said we want you

want to be the kind of judge that they

go this judge said this about me and I

am going to remember that for the rest

of my life every debater speaker

remembers a kind ballot that was really

really complimentary of them and every

debater speaker remembers a mean ballot

where the judge was like very awful so

be the kind judge enjoy their brilliance

you will suddenly have a lot of faith

and hope in our future because the

kids are brilliant so again thank you

for listening

you rock the end