Resources for Students

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Tips and Tricks

Habits to Grow Out Of

As younger debaters, we develop habits when we’re first learning. While they were effective in beginner debate, once you’re in intermediate, the time has come to say goodbye to our old habits. 

“Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.”

We’ve all been there. As beginners, thanking everyone in the room and reintroducing the motion seemed like the thing to do when starting a speech. It worked back then because judges have low expectations for beginners attempting to create an introduction. But now that you’re more advanced, it’s time to say goodbye to restating the resolution at the beginning of every speech. 

So what’s the solution? Learning to create a solid introduction. Many opening government speakers choose to spend the first 20-30 seconds establishing the problem and defining the government position. Being able to weave your case stance and model seamlessly into your introduction is a great skill for any first to have. Other speakers often identify a key failure from the previous speech as their introduction. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it has an impact in the round. Those first 30 seconds matter just as much as the rest of your speech. 

The straw man

The frequent enemy of good refutation. Debaters of all age groups are guilty of the straw man. It involves incorrectly representing an argument and refuting that material rather than dealing with the actual material in the round. When flowing the debate, make sure to accurately record your opponent’s material. Interpret their material as fairly as possible. As a victim of the straw man, make sure to alert your judges when it happens, and clarify why your material still stands. 

“In my reply I will summarize what both teams said.”

For less experienced debaters, summarizing what were the arguments in the round is the first step to creating a reply. But it quickly becomes a poor use of time and doesn’t further your case at all. The goal of a reply should be to reframe the material, compare the cases, and explain why you won. Highlighting a point in the round should always be followed by crystallization of the idea, and impacting it. Try framing your reply using questions or themes. That way when you discuss the contents of the round, it will encourage you to summarize less. 

Debate is about growth. This list is just a few examples of things to alter. Watch other debaters in your division, and in divisions above you to learn new tricks. Always look for new ways to improve your skills. 

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