Students, these questions and answers address common concerns about finding pieces, dealing with nerves, and more. They are written by Stanimir and Violeta, our wonderful 2015-16 interns and former BEST competitors themselves. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for below, try our Coaches’ FAQ; and of course, you can always email us at email@example.com.
- The Basics
- Advice for Doing Your BEST
I’m a new competitor and I don’t know what to expect! What is competing like?
First – by competing in a BEST tournament, you are joining a wonderful community! Congratulations! As a member of this community, you will grow immensely and make amazing friends.
Competing itself takes place in a regular classroom where you will perform/debate in front of a judge (or 3-5 judges, in the semifinal and final rounds). Each round has about six competitors, or two debate teams of three people each, so you will be competing in front of the other competitors, too, and often a few other BESTies and coaches who want to watch. There are a few preliminary rounds, so you will perform/debate two or three times before you find out if you’ve broken (in BEST lingo, “breaking” means continuing on to the semifinal/final rounds). A round lasts around one hour for all events.
When should I start preparing?
As early as possible if you’re doing interp events and as soon as we release the motions if you’re doing debate. Don’t plan on memorizing your piece or researching debate topics on the train to the tournament! The sooner you start preparing, the more comfortable and confident you will be when it’s time to compete.
Can I do more than one event?
Yes! All five events (Prose, Poetry, Oratory, Debate, Duo) are grouped into two flights. Flight 1 consists of Debate and Poetry. You can pick only one event from flight 1. Flight 2 consists of Prose, Oratory, and Duo. You can pick two events from flight 2. This means that you can simultaneously do, say, Debate, Oratory, and Duo if you want. Or just Debate and Prose. Or just Prose and Oratory. All combinations are fine as long as you have picked only one event from flight 1, and two events at most from flight 2.
Can I do the same piece/speech twice?
If it is during the same season/academic year – yes! We understand that preparation for tournaments can take a lot of time so it is totally fine for you to do the same piece or speech more than once. If you do this, you will see how you improve your performance from tournament to tournament. However, we do not allow you to use pieces and speeches from previous years in a new tournament season, since we want to encourage BESTies to discover new pieces/topics, and not have them do the same speech/piece/performance all throughout their BEST competitive career.
Do I have to pay for transport and lodging myself or will it be covered?
It is absolutely possible to have everything covered through fundraising with your team and the scholarships we award for travel costs. But you should talk about this with your coach. Your coach knows how your team will fund tournament participation. If they don’t, email us and we will help you!
Can I attend a tournament alone?
Technically, yes. If your school doesn’t have a team, we encourage you to find one close by and join up with them. We can help you find a team; just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. If there’s no team close by and you decide to attend alone, we will ensure that you follow all the necessary procedures and have an awesome experience 🙂
How do I pick a good interp piece?
This is often the hardest parts of the interp events (poetry, prose, and duo), so it really helps to start looking early. In order to choose a piece that is going to make you stand out, you should think about a few things first:
- What is it that you are really passionate about? What makes you laugh? What moves you? This is important because the attitude you show towards the chosen piece is definitely one of the main things that shape the performance itself. Make sure you care about the characters/issues/story your interp piece explores and then you are very likely to give it your best shot!
- Something else to pay attention to is the language used in the piece – you should understand everything and be okay with the level of English. If the vocabulary level is very high or if the sentences are long and complex and you’re not comfortable with that, you are less likely to do well.
- Last but not least – don’t forget that it is your job to turn the interp piece into a performance! Whether you have chosen a short story, a monologue, or a whole novel, ensure that you can cut (BEST lingo for “edit”) the piece into a dynamic story arc that has the necessary features – a beginning, climax, and resolution.
Finally – have fun! Work hard and show us your passion and motivation 🙂
Where can I find good examples of prose/poetry/duo/oratory performances?
We have a couple of suggestions!
- Ask your coach and SAs if they can point you in the right direction.
- If your team has a Facebook group, ask there! You never know what gems someone from your team might have.
- Like our Facebook page! We post examples from time to time.
- Youtube is FULL of examples. Try 3PSpeech’s Youtube channel, or just search for your event (remember to search for “prose interpretation” rather than just “prose,” for example; you will get much better results).
How does duo work?
This event is really unique and it’s hard to understand what it’s all about until you see it for yourself. Youtube is full of great duo performances (just search for “duo interpretation”); also check out the 3PSpeech Youtube channel, and our speech events handbook for a full explanation of the rules. Briefly, there are a couple of things you need to know in order to understand duo:
- This is the only interp event which involves TWO people.
- The duo team perform a short piece which they have to memorize.
- The time limit for this event is 10 minutes.
- No eye contact or touching between the performers are allowed.
Generally, duo is a way for contestants to showcase their creativity in a dramatic performance of their own choice. We seek creativity and originality through the story you tell with your movements and voices. Experiment till you have a great result and don’t forget to have lots of fun!
Advice for Doing Your BEST
I’m doing Оratory. What do I do if I forget my speech??
Violeta here! This has been my biggest fear because my thoughts are super disorganized. I have always been afraid that if I forget my speech, I won’t be able to improvise it because it just wouldn’t be comprehensive and organized, and I would just repeat things and have no idea how to verbalize my thoughts. I’m giving this background because I think one of the first steps to overcoming this fear is to analyze WHY you are afraid. This will help you think of solutions that will work for you.
Now this might sound obvious, but don’t learn your speech at the last minute. If you learn it by heart at least two weeks before the tournament and practice a LOT, you will definitely decrease your chances of forgetting your speech. I did the same speech for three tournaments and I learned that the first time, because I had memorized it last minute, I was extremely anxious; the next two tournaments, I was still anxious, but I was so much more confident and chill because I just knew that I wouldn’t forget it. Time and repetition are your friends.
There are also some habits and exercises you can try which may help. Talk to your coach, tell them your fears, and see if they have some ideas. For example, I think trying improv in our team meetings would have been really helpful. Also, check out this TEDtalk on body language and power poses. There’s a lot of recent research which shows that power posing (practising strong, confident postures even when you don’t feel strong) really changes your brain chemistry and makes you feel less anxious.
So you’ve analyzed your fear and taken steps beforehand to improve your confidence. What about the actual moment when it does happen?
It has happened to me. Sometimes I managed to find my way back without anyone noticing. Once I just repeated the same sentence over and over until I remembered the next one. The point is, it just happens, and it happens to everyone. Don’t be hard on yourself and let it define you. I think it’s a good idea to talk to your coach about this seriously so that you can discuss it as a team and establish a safe environment to make mistakes in. Everyone will mess up at some point, and everyone needs to feel supported when they do.
Finally – this is a good opportunity to think about your mortality positively! You and everyone who saw you forget your speech will die one day, and when you think about how big the universe is and how short our lives are in the grand scheme of time and space… who cares? Just walk into the room and go for it.
I have terrible stage fright. Help.
Here’s Violeta again! First, scroll up and read my advice for what to do if you forget your oratory. It’s applicable to all performance-related anxieties. I also want to add a few things:
I have terrible stage fright. But I also really, really wanted to do oratory because I realized that 1. for what I want in life I will have to deal with this, and 2. I had (and still have) a lot of things to say. I thought that BEST would dispel my stage fright. Nine tournaments later, it’s still here, but I’ve learned how to fake it and how to not let it overtake me. You can learn how to pretend it’s not there and just do your job. Fake it till you make it DOES work!
I also remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. I did oratory because I wanted to talk about certain social issues to help others and spread my knowledge. So I told myself, “you are doing this for others, just get over yourself; even if it helps/inspires just one person it’s worth it, regardless of how nervous you feel, regardless of how much other participants could tell you were scared.” This gave me a lot of confidence.
Even if you don’t feel like you’re doing this because it’s incredibly important – if you’re doing it just because it’s fun and you like it – this is great, too. Do it because it’s fun and don’t focus on being “good enough.” Talent is overrated! You don’t have to be good at something to do it; maybe you will never be really good at it, but so what? You will definitely improve from one tournament to the next. And as long as you’re having fun, who cares?
Finally, remember that everyone in the room is probably as scared and anxious as you are. No one will laugh at you because EVERYONE knows the feeling of “oh my god I have to perform in front of people what if I fail what if they laugh noooo.” In my experience, most people will be super supportive and understanding. We’re all in this together.