Updated: Dec 1, 2020
For me especially, confidence is something that I have struggled with for many years. From whether or not my speech in Congress was good to even day to day things like whether or not what I was wearing looked nice enough to wear out in public. As someone who is in Speech & Debate, I have found that it’s not only me who struggles with confidence in and out of rounds and is surprisingly more difficult to deal with, rather than just waking up one day and magically being confident (even though I wish it worked like that.) The fact is, it takes time to build up confidence.
Public speaking is scary, gosh my legs shake violently each time I get up to give a speech. But the fact that you are scared to get up and talk in front of people shouldn’t be a sign that you are bad at Speech & Debate. If anything it's a good sign, it shows that you are concerned about your performance. Learning to trust yourself and your speech won’t happen overnight, but it is something that you can work on and slowly learn to trust.
Firstly, there is no “how to gain confidence” guide for those who are in Speech & Debate. Everyone’s way of learning about confidence and gaining that confidence is different, these are just a few general ways that could help boost your confidence. Now, that being said, one of the first few steps of boosting confidence, that helps me the most, is understanding that you aren't alone. Fear of public speaking is a common fear across the globe that thousands of people face daily. Don’t think that you are the only one who gets scared of saying something wrong in a room full of people, I promise you, almost everyone in that same room gets nervous when they get up to speak. “Oftentimes, hearing about those stories can increase one’s confidence by knowing it’s possible to become comfortable with and succeed at public speaking.”
Just as learning and understanding that you aren't alone, one way to help is by learning from yourself. At times we are our biggest critic, by paying attention to small mistakes or even things you’ve done right in a speech (or even at practice) can help you to build up confidence. If you pay more attention to what was good and bad about your speech you can then look back to it and further make changes in your speech. Through this, it “[can bring] light [to] certain areas of improvement that are only apparent to the speaker themself.” Through this you may be able to learn what you can do better, may need to stray away from doing, what helps, and what doesn’t when it comes to speeches. I know we’ve all heard “practice makes perfect” and that isn't anything less than true here. Like I said before, it takes time, and by understanding where you need to improve and where you are excelling can try and help with confidence.
But just aside from the fact that many people may not only lack confidence in their speeches, some people may also struggle with confidence in general at tournaments. I have seen this a lot in Speech & Debate just through simple conversations with my teammates. Similarly to gaining confidence in your speeches, learning how to stop comparing yourself also starts with understanding a few simple things.
One way that I have found helps me a lot is by taking a step back and taking into account some achievements I have made in my life. For me, this helps drown out the negative thoughts that I am having about myself, it puts a light on the positive things about myself rather than the negative. Similarly, it also may help to remind yourself that no one is perfect . Those people you may be comparing yourself too may also be struggling with confidence in themselves or even their speeches... We are all human and we all make mistakes, to say that someone is “perfect” in comparison to you is unrealistic. I promise you, everyone in Speech & Debate has said something wrong in a speech at one point, didn't win a round, or embarrassed themselves.
There are thousands of different ways to deal with confidence in Speech & Debate, these are just a couple of ways to help you get started. If you ever need someone to talk to about these sorts of problems please don't be afraid to DM me on Instagram, I am always happy to try and help!
Kayleigh Langston <3
Cabot High School