Public Speaking Tournaments Go Virtual

Paige Mays, Online News Editor

March 31, the National Speech and Debate Association or NSDA announced a plan to hold the National Speech and Debate tournament online for the first time. Now all public speaking tournaments will be held virtually, until further notice, because of the coronavirus pandemic. Students enrolled in the public speaking class at Miramonte may be affected by the decided changes. Sept. 26 marks one of the first tournaments coming up, which is the Golden Gate Speech Association, or GGSA, Congress 1 Tournament, and Oct. 10 marks the second public speaking and debate tournament, which is the GGSA Public Forum Debate 1 Tournament. These tournaments will be held on Zoom, and Miramonte’s public speaking team will be attending these tournaments.

 “The National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) helped lead the way in navigating competitions online by successfully moving the National tournament to a virtual platform in June! Their success inspired the state and local organizations, run by volunteer teachers and coaches like me, to persevere finding a way to run tournaments online. The first priority for the officers who run our league, The Golden Gate Speech Association (GGSA), is to try to help eliminate barriers to access for our students and their families,” public speaking Head Coach and Teacher, Kristen Plant said. Plant believes the online tournaments will give students a chance to compete while perfecting and refining their skills. “It’s exciting that in a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has folks canceling and postponing so many activities, students can continue to improve as speakers and listeners through online speech and debate tournaments.” 

These tournaments plan on being held like a standard competition would be. Each speaker goes and gets reviewed by the judges. Once the tournament is over, the speakers receive their scores. Depending on what the speaker is competing in, this may vary. Although competing online is new to most students, some students who are enrolled in the class plan to attend online tournaments. “I am planning on attending virtual Public Speaking tournaments. I’m nervous about competing in a new way, but also excited,” public speaking veteran and junior Lily Wood said.

Some students already participated in an online competition. They competed in the virtual NSDA national tournament in June because they advanced to the next round. To advance to the next round you must complete a series of competitions.  

“It felt great for the most part, the tournament ran surprisingly smoothly, and I was still able to perform well. However, the only downside was that I didn’t get all the adrenaline of really being there in person, and I didn’t get the cool experience of going to another state and meeting a bunch of new people while competing,” extemporaneous speaking captain, veteran, and senior, Josh Morganstein said.

For seniors, this may be their last year to attend public speaking and debate tournaments with the Miramonte public speaking class.  “I am definitely sad I won’t be able to complete my public speaking journey in person at tournaments. While every debate and speech tournament is stressful, there is nothing more special than traveling and spending sleepless weekends with the Miramonte public speaking team in various cities and even different states. Gathering together in large gyms for awards ceremonies is something I will definitely miss, as well as getting to interact with students from around the country who share the exact same interests,” one of three public speaking presidents, veteran, and senior, Grace Barmer said.

The Speech and Debate Associations, and others, believe virtual public speaking and debate competitions are the ideal solution for participants’ safety and health, but technology might affect participants’ performance. According to USA Today, “Across the nation, many internet providers have agreed to waive late fees and end disconnects for families in financial hardship. But millions without high-speed internet at home have been left to fend for themselves as governments shut down their school buildings and mandate distance learning.”

Some students who attended tournaments in the past believe the best parts were interacting with people from different backgrounds. If the competitions aren’t in person, some fear that aspect might not be possible anymore. “I definitely have mixed feelings about attending virtual public speaking tournaments. Many of the public speaking tournaments last year that I had worked all semester for were canceled in the spring, so I’m excited to get back in the groove of competing. However, one of the best parts of attending tournaments was getting to hang out with my ‘pub buddies’ and meet kids from across the Bay Area, so that is an element of competitions that I will really miss,” public speaking veteran and junior, Thomas Quinnild stated.