Sixteen-year-old Ella Michaels is from the San Fernando Valley in California where Valley Girl-speak was born, and according to Ella, is still alive and well (like, totally!). Ella also happens to be a member of this year’s USA Debate Team, made up of the best high school student debaters in the country who represent the United States in international competition. Ella has won several awards, most recently as an National Speech & Debate Association National Finalist in Congressional Debate.
I caught up with Ella while she was in the airport heading to a competition in Singapore and asked how a girl from the Valley ended up being such a fierce and competitive communicator.
“The way that you speak, and your confidence and composure, is so important. Even when you step out of a competitive environment, communicating effectively really matters.”
Coming from the Valley, and being a teenager, I wondered if ridding your speech of filler words was an issue?
“Doing debate and consciously thinking about the ways that I am communicating has helped train filler words out of me. It has helped me be a more effective communicator. I typically compete in an event called Congressional Debate where the speeches are only three minutes. You have to be very conscious of both choosing your words carefully and using your time effectively – so filler words are never a good thing. Even if you have eight minutes to speak, every word still matters.”
You say that you love debate. Can you tell me why?
“I’ve been interested in policy/politics for a really long time and participated in Model UN during middle school. In 9th grade, I joined my high school’s debate team and have loved it ever since.
Considering two sides of an issue, valuing other people’s ideas and learning more about alternative viewpoints is important. No issue is black and white. And, debate allows you to learn about issues you may not otherwise know about. For example, I just had to debate ‘Algorithmic Discrimination.’ I didn’t know that computer programs can be discriminatory!”
What are your top 3 reasons why you think debate is important?
Consideration of alternative perspectives. Debate is a really important method to get people to consider different viewpoints and learn how to have reasoned and open arguments.
Debate helps you become a better, more confident and effective communicator which is always helpful whether giving a school presentation, in a job interview, college interview, etc.
The way that you speak matters, especially as a girl. I am often the only girl at these debate competitions. The perception of assertiveness and confidence is key. And filler words are never a good thing.
Last question. As an expert debater and communicator, I was wondering what you think of the app, LikeSo: Your Personal Speech Coach?
“I have fun using LikeSo! Last time i played I was in the car with my mom and I was so happy because I got a high score! LikeSo gives me an outlet to be competitive and argumentative. It is a tool to find out how I stand on so many issues. To practice speaking on the fly, I like the TalkAbout mode. Even though in many forms of debate, topics are given out ahead of time, when it comes down to it, it is all about speaking extemporaneously and being articulate in the moment!