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Speaker Points: The Ultimate Guide

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

By: Parlicademy Staff


They stare up at you from your tournament ballots. They sometimes can get you an extra trophy. But do they mean anything?


Here's a little guide to the world of 'speaks.'

Most tournaments have systems for scoring competitors beyond the "win/lose" or ranking system that typically composes the competition. These are speaker points, or speaks. However, there is no standardized set of rules for using speaks, so it varies heavily depending on the tournament and the judge.


This post will make the world of speaker points more understandable and hopefully help make it easier to win them!


#1: What are Speaker Points?

#2: Speaker Points in Speech and Debate

#3: So...How Do I Get Speaks?


 

#1: What are Speaker Points?


The first rule of speaker points is that there are none. Speaker points are awarded entirely at the judge's discretion, with a few suggestions given as to each number's meaning. Traditionally, speaker points are awarded from 24-30, with 27 being average.

Number of speaks

Meaning

24

Horrible. The speaker has done something particularly egregious.

25

Poor. The speaker is considerably worse than others.

26

​Below average. The speaker is less competent than others.

27

Average. The speaker is about the same than others.

28

Above average. The speaker is more competent than others.

29

​Exceptional. The speaker displays considerable ability and is highly skillful.

30

​Unparalleled. The speaker demonstrates extremely rare talent and has conducted a masterful performance.

However, it is worth noting that judges do not necessarily stick to this format. Technically, scores of 30 should only be awarded once or twice in an entire tournament, but some judges hand them out freely. Meanwhile, scores below 26 are generally unheard of, though they can occur.


Ultimately, speaks are almost completely judge-dependent. For instance, I have come across judges who say, "I give speaks ranging from 29 to 29.5" to "I think speaks are stupid and give everyone a 27 automatically."


Some tournaments give speaker awards for those with the highest scores or use speaker points to break ties for outrounds.


#2: Speaker Points in Speech and Debate


Speech

In a lot of speech tournaments, the range of speaks is from 19-25 instead of 24-30.


Speaker points in speech events are designed to create a more nuanced view of each competitor compared to the entire tournament rather than just that room. For example, if seven amazing speakers face off, one must come in last. Giving that competitor speaker points reflecting the excellence of their performance helps demonstrate their overall proficiency instead of how stiff their competition was.


Some speech competitions have speaker awards. However, they are most often used to break ties when breaking into elims.


Debate

Debate speaker points are often more important than speech because two teams face off against one another. Even two excellent teams who debate must come out with one as a winner, so speaker points help reward exceptional competitors.


On the other hand, if one team is less engaging/creative than another team but still manages to pull a victory, the judge could assign a low-point win. This is when the winning team has lower speaker points than the losers.


Speaks also help individual debaters to be compared to everyone in the round. If one debater is stronger than their partner, they could be awarded higher points.


Speaker awards more commonly are given at debate tournaments.


#3: So...How Do I Get Speaks?


It all comes down to judging paradigms (read our comprehensive guide.) Aside from an explicit explanation of how that judge uses speaker points, focus on things they would like to see in round. While this may be less useful for pre-prepped events, limited-preparation speech or debate can really benefit from these adjustments.


Paying attention to what your judge likes is a good idea in general.


If there's nothing specific or the judge does not have a paradigm, ensure you are speaking confidently and eloquently (easy, am I right?) While it is difficult to master speaking on the fly, practice is the number one way to improve.


Last Words


In the end, it is somewhat unclear whether or not speaks mean anything. They depend mostly on your judge and their personal methods, as well as a lack of standardization across the forensics board. We have honestly seen a tournament which did away with the 24-30 system entirely and instead used 1-100 points.


In reality, speaks are secondary to the main system of the tournament (ranking or wins/losses.) Don't judge your performance simply on the number of points you receive! Instead, use them as a guide and another form of feedback.


Don't forget to fill out the poll and tell us what you think of speaker points!


Speaks: Yay or Nay?

  • Yaaaaaay! 😊

  • Nope.

  • I don't know.


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