How to debate

Every debate tournament, or a meeting of a debate club needs a debate topic. I'm speaking here about debate topics, because I see a difference between a debate motion and a debate topic. The topic is more general, and could be "War in Iraq". From one debate topic you can get different debate motions like "THW nuke Iraq" (probably not the best one) or "THW pull out of Iraq" or others.

The most important thing, that you should think about, when you think of a topic for your debate meeting is probably what people will like. Or on the other hand, what you would like people to think about. Yes, you can be the Puppet master, giving the young fresh brains topics, that they should think about, but do not. Do you think, that human trafficing is a big problem? Make them debate it. 

What you should also consider is that the topic is relevant in the time and place. Debating about using swords in battle could make an interesting debate, but it is not as relevant as using tactical nuclear bombs.

Finding the right topics for your debate club is really important, because if people will be bored week after week, after week, they will probably stop showing up. On the other hand, a lot of times people will not be really keen on the motion, that you give them, but will enjoy the debate anyway.

 If you feel lost, just open up cnn.com and check out the featured topics, and you will find out, what are the important things right now, and you will be all set to find a good topic, and make a good motion out of it.

Or at the end of the day, just come to this site, and pick a topic. Something from any debate tournament. People will enjoy it.

I was thinking about how to prepare for the upcoming Euros in Tallinn and got to the conclusion that doing more and more debates, as we did in the past is not going to give me all the results that I would like to see until I get to Tallinn.

I spoke to different important and successful debaters in the past and got ideas what else I can do to prepare. The most interesting thing I heard was probably two guys (of course I forgot their names) got together for a beer or two every week and prepared for different motions while drinking beer. This could work for me but on the other hand I really can not stop on the one beer, so being an alcoholic after the EUDC is not one of the benefits from the prep that I would like to see.

But still it is the best idea what to do next to read all the things that you can find, but this is a thing that you should be doing all the time. As people say, the prep for a tournament starts a couple of years before it. But we are too late for that, I'm as smart as I am.

So I'll be preping for debate motions that I expect to see on the WUDC. For the start I believe that preping all the motions from past years WUDC's and EUDC's will be enough. And then using motions from other debate tournaments (well, that's why I made this website in the first place ;) ).

So why does the topic of this article say "help the community?". Well I believe that if we share ideas, we all get smarter a bit. So if you are going to do similar stuff to prepare for EUDC or any other debate tournament, I would be really glad if you send me the ideas that you get. If you would like to stay anonymous for any reason, I won't list your name, but I would like to thank you for your contribution by posting your name at the end of the article.

Feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions or ideas.

Since debate is not only a tournament sport for me, I try to read different books, related to debate, to get ideas how to debate from them. Of course, all the books, that I read are not associated with debate directly, but most of them give me an extra added value to my debating skills. I'm just finishing a great book, that I have been hearing about for a longer time from different debaters. The book was written by Stephen J. Dubner and is called Freakonomics [Revised and Expanded]: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything .

It is one of the books, that  is not really related to debate, and probably does not even mention debate as we know it. But the idea in the book is to post questions, that already have an answer, but the answer is wrong. Thinking the different was is the main idea, and the author presents a coupe of questions, that we believe, that we know about, but he presents us new answers, that were gained by new studies. Not really new sudies, but a new usage of information.

One of the examples is the question, why do crack dealers still live at home? Assuming, that selling crack should be a great business, what we see are a lot of dealers that are not really rich, and still live at home. The answer in the book tells us all about the organizing structure of the dealers where the street dealers get only a small amount of the money, often even less than the minimum wage. So probably this is not the profitable future for you.

There are a couple of other answers in the book, just read it, and if you had, what is your opinion on it?

The second article in the series speaks about the eye contact. You have probably heard before, that 'the eyes are the window of the soul'. I do not believe in souls, but that doesn't believe that I do not believe into eye contact. And I do. Extremely actually.
Well lets see why. One of the most important things again is, that people hear, what we have to tell them, and that they believe us that.
Well, if you have been a small child (and I presume you have), probably not only once, you heard from your parents "Look me in the eyes and tell me...". Obviously we believe, that if people look us in the essay , they are more sincere to us than if they don't. And you should really give your audience a feeling, that you are as sincere as possible. Of course you should be, you shouldn't lie to your audience, and because you don't, make it obvious to them.
The next thing that you are going to achieve if you maintain good eye contact is, that everyone in the audience will feel personally involved into your speech. You can achieve that with looking everyone in the eyes. If you go from one person to the other and tell them a sentence or two, they will feel, if only for a second, that they are important to you and that you are telling all that stuff only for them. This way they will pay more attention to your speech and the chance that their brain wanders off is smaller.

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But if it does, you can get them back to listen to you with the eye contact. If you have someone in the audience, that is disturbing your speech/lecture, you can use the eye contact, to make him/her to shut up or even to listen to what you are saying. You just need to stare into the person for a while. The person will feel, that you are looking at her and he will feel bad about disturbing, and maybe at least try to be less disturbing. Hopefully. Of course this little trick does not work always, but it works most of the time.
At the end I need to answer a question, what is a 'good eye contact'. Well, while you speak, you should not look into the wall behind the class, or to the floor in front of you. If you are nervous and not really sure what you should speak about this can happen to you, but you need to control that. A lot of people look outside thought a window while they speak. Don't do that, because you give a 'I don't care about what I'm saying' attitude. What you should be doing is slowly wander from one person to the other in the audience. As I previously mentioned, tell a sentence or two to each person in the room, and move on. If your audience is too big and you are not able to do that, don't worry, all you need to do is sort of scan through the audience, and every person will fill as if you are looking straight at them, even if you are looking a group of 4, 5 at once.
So to sum up. Look at the people while you speak and they will listen to you instead of doing other things and they will believe you more.

This article is about how to TAB a tournament, if you do not want to use any software, if you do not know how to use it or you just like to depend only on yourself.

It is detailed, to go through the whole TAB process and it even gives you the excel documents, that I use for tabbing. You are welcome to download and share all the info that you find in this post.

We all know, that there are a coupe of different TAB programs out there, that really work, I usually still use paper cards to TAB BP tournaments. The main reason for this is that the tournaments that I tab are rather small. With small tournaments, that have, 3, 4, 5 rooms only, it can be a problem, to tab them with the software. The first problem that I see is the power pair. If you do 5 rounds of power pair, you will have teams constantly debating each other, and this is REALLY boring for them. That's why I normally make first two or three rounds randomly paired, and go to power pair later. 

Before you start a tournament, you should make sure, that you have all that you need for the TAB. The TAB room should be only the TAB room. It will be much harder for you to TAB, if people are coming in and out of the TAB all the time. I always put a "Come in if you dare" sign on the door. The judges, if they need to bring you their ballots, should knock and wait for you to come out. You will also need a large table and a computer with a printer. A copy machine is a great thing, but you can go without it.

What you do need for a manual TAB are the TAB cards. TAB cards

If you use these cards, you can see that you have a space to enter the team points. What I normally do, is write team points for each round in two steps. If a team gets 2 points in the first round, I write down 2/2. First number represents the number of points, that the team received in the present round, and the second number is the total number of team points. That means if the team gets 1 point in the second round, I write down 1/3 points in the "round 2" space. This is how you always know, how many points a team has all together, and you can check fast how many points they received in this round.

The same thing goes for speaker points (or speaks). You will need the total number of speaker points when you will determine, witch team should go in witch room at power pair. 

You should always fill in all the other parts of the TAB cards, like the judge, position in the debate (I use 1G, 2G, 1O or 2O) and the opponents.

A very important part of the TAB cards is not even there. Because you need to make the pairing that way that every team debates all four positions in the debate, I always make a cross on the right side of each team card. The cross represents the positions in the debate and I write down a number for the round where the team had to debate that position. So the upper left part of the cross is 1st gov, up right is 1st opp, down left is 2nd gov and down right is 2nd opp. If you use this system, it will be much easier for you to determine, in witch position the team should debate next.

If you need to do power pair, you should lay down the cards in a descending order. The team with most team points first then the second team and so on. Now you just lay down the cards in groups of four and you have your power paired rooms. If there are two or more teams, that have an equal amount of points, the team with the bigger speaker points should go to the stronger room (this is why you always count the speaks for all the rounds).

Because you would like to give out the results for the rounds right after the finals end, you need to enter all the results into a excel spreadsheet, so that you can check, if you entered everything right and you can print out all the results and disseminate them after the tournament. I use this xls Excel file for it. There is not much to explain, maybe just a hint. When you finish adding the team points for a round, make him SUM up all the points. There is always the same number of points given in every round, so you can check if you made any mistakes.

You will also need Judge ballots, so doc download it here.

If you like this article, please comment. 

 

1. Government:

- defines the motion whichever way they like, do not complain about it!

 

- unreasonable definitions and bad debates which come from them go

  against them

 

- expectable cases are rewarded

 
1- OPEN MOTIONS:

THB that coke is it (you could debate 1. American culture and US policy, 2. Globalization and the spread of popular culture, 3. Cocaine, …)

 2- SEMI CLOSED MOTIONS:

THW send the boats back (you could debate 1. Immigration, 2. Fishing rights, …)

 3- CLOSED MOTIONS:

THB representative government has failed (you could debate: 1. The European Parliament (EP), 2. The house of commons, 3. US Congress, …)

THW get tough on crime (you could debate: 1. Mandatory prison sentences, 2. The 3 strike rule, 3. The death penalty, …)

 

Roles of each team/speaker:

First Table:

1.      Government:

-         Defines the topic and provides a debatable case, not a truism,

-         Should predict the oppositions arguments,

-         Should cover as much controversy as possible,

-         Should have the best possible arguments you can come up with.

Prime minister:

-         Defines the motion,

-         States the case division/split between the speakers,

-         Produces his positive matter (2 to 3 arguments)
→1 sentence to state your position

→explain it further

→2 major forms of support (examples, philosophical points, quotes, …)

→develop your arguments

→summarize this

-         A powerful rhetorical conclusion

→so because we need to confront this challenge … we are proud to propose …

Deputy prime minister:

-         Rhetorical introduction,

-         Preview your speech,

-         Answer the oppositions criticism,

-         Point out what part of their case they didn’t deal with,

-         Don’t be polite to the oppositions arguments,

-         Continue with your part of the constructive case

-         spend a half of your time on your constructive matter

 

1.      Opposition:

-         Responds to the governments case,

-         Creates its own positive matter,

-         Covers as many of the opposing arguments as possible.

Leader of opposition:

-         A powerful introduction

-         Mention that you accept the governments definition, if you do,

-         Preview your case,

-         Rebut the government’s case,

-         You need to be specific and organized,

-         Spend no more than half of your speech on the governments arguments,

-         Develop at least two of your arguments,

-         Do not use defensive arguments (such as: not everyone will cooperate), but offensive ones (it is dangerous and harmful),

-         Conclusion.

Deputy leader of opposition:

-         Answer the governments defense (defend your attack),

-         Spend more time on their new argument (rebut it),

-         Sustain your speakers arguments,

-         Present your new constructive matter.

Second Table:

-         Plan but be flexible,

-         Prepare for as many contingencies as possible,

-         The government and the opposition both need an extension.

Extension:

-         Produce a new positive case,

-         Is consistent with the first table, but provides a different perspective,

-         It cannot contradict the first table (do not backstab),


 

This article is the first in the series called “what to do to be a good speaker”. The articles are going to speak about different aspects of what is a good thing to do and what isn't while making a public speech.

This article is going to speak about the hand gestures.

Everyone is using hand gestures while speaking in the every day life. The gestures that we already use are those, that we should use while having a public speech. But there should be some modifications to what we do.

But before we go there, we should ask the question, why do we want to make gestures. It will make your speech more interesting, because if you hold still while having a speech, well why do we need a real person up there? Just bring a recording and play it. The other a bit more serious thing is, that you need to support your words with the body language. Some of the research has shown, that 70-80% of the message that the audience receives, is the non-verbal message, and a big part of it comes from the gestures. So don't forget to send the biggest part of your speech with your hands.

The gestures that we use are normally done in the narrow place in front of our stomach. They are ok, but if we have a public speech, the gestures are not going to be visible enough. That is why we have to lift them, so that we make them in front of our lunges. The other thing is, that we should make them a bit wider, that means that we should use more space in front of us.

The other thing that we should think about while having a public speech is that you should use different gestures. If you are going to use only a coupe of gestures, than the audience will get bored with the gestures and you will not be able to transmit your message efficiently.

Let me say, that there is nothing wrong, is there is a time, when you do not use gestures. You don't have to look like a bird that is trying to fly, because you make gestures all the time. Your gestures should say the same as your words do. If you are excited any so is your speech, you should use more gestures. If not, don't gesture that much.

There are a couple of things, that you should not do with your hand. Don't touch your head or face, or scratch it. It stops the transmittion of the sound, and the audience will not be able to hear you clearly and the won't be able to see the expression on your face, so again the message won't be transmitted in the best way.

Don't and I mean don't, like ever, take a pen with you when you go and start speaking. You will play with the pen and this is going to distract your audience, and they won't pay attention as much as you would like them to. You will have the pen in your hand, you will swirl it around, or you will drop it etc. And next to all the distraction it will make you look nervous. And even if you are, you shouldn't show that to the audience.

The other thing that you should leave on the desk are the papers, if you have any. And you should have something written down, so that if you get lost, you can remember fast, what is the next thing that you should say. But don't hold the papers in your hand. You will make less gestures, if you will hold the paper in your hand and we don't want that. If you hold your papers in your hand, the shaking of your hands will be more visible to your audience, and they should not know, that you are nervous.

Im going to do two articles in one, because the both things, that I'm going to write about, talk about what you should do in your speech.

A good time allocation means that you will do all of the roles, that you need to fulfill within your speech. Being the first government speaker means, that you have to present a problem, a solution, a model and arguments. If you plan your speech good, you will use around four minutes for your arguments, and the other time will be used to present the problem/solution/plan, and a half minute closing of your speech. The time allocation gets more interesting, when you need to do more in your speech. First opp speaker has to present own arguments and negate what the frist speaker has presented. For the first opp speaker it is more important to present own arguments than to negate. That means, that in a seven minute speech you will use up to four minutes for presenting your own arguments and the other time will be used for negation and for other things that you do in your speech (introduction, closing).

The same goes for the next two speakers. You need to think about your time allocation before you start your speech. You need to know at what moment you would like to be where. Plan, that you need to be at the start of the second argument at 4,5 minutes, and if you are not, you need to finish whatever you are doing and go to the next argument. Time allocation gets more interesting on the second table. Third government speaker has a lot to do, because presenting an extension will take a lot of time of her speech, and he also needs to take time to go through the first tables and make some more rebuttal of the previous opp speaker. The best way to do it is that you start with your most important stuff, in this case you need to start with your extension. After you finish, you will have time to do the rebuttal. You can decide to do it the opposite way, but it happens often, that people get just too much involved into negation, and with that they do not present the extension clear enough, and this will cost you a good placement in the debate.

The most important thing, that you need to do is the extension, and if you waste time on the other things, that are not that important, you will show, that its not you, who makes the decisions on the speaker floor, its the speech, that takes you, where it wants and that is not a good sign. As Im just at the extension speaker of the government, this is a good place to explain the sign posting idea. Sign posting means, that you should always explain the judge, what you will do in your speech. You need to do it at least three times. In your introduction you have to tell the judge, how your speech is going to look like. That does not mean, that you need to come up and start "Ladies and gentleman, I am the third speaker of the government and my role in the debate is to negate what was already said in the debate and to present an extension". Most judges have a good idea about what your role in the debate is, so don't repeat that, because you will bore the judge, and you don't want to do that in the first sentence that you make. What you need to do is that you, while make your introduction tell the judge what your arguments will be about.

It is easier for the judges to follow, and it is fair to the opposite teams, so that have an idea, what you will speak about up front. In your speech, you should always tell, when you from one argument to the other, when you go from the negation to your own substantive material, when you go to your extension. Most of the judges wait for you to do your job, so they will react on you saying to them, what you are doing. So this is the second sign posting,that you need to do. The third sign posting that you need to do is at the end of your speech. You should sum up, what you have said in the debate. Do not repeat it too much, just go through the one most important thing for each argument.

To make the sign posting clear in one sentence: You need to tell, what you are going to do, than do it and tell what you are doing, and at the end you need to tell, what you have done in your speech. If you follow the ideas presented in this article, you will have a better structure, you will do your job as a speaker and the judges will follow what you speak about and it won't happen, that you think you said something, but the judge just won't get it. Comments to this article are welcome!

This article will give you some basic ideas about how to construct the 1st government's case. I will later also post some systems, that I received from different people that are kind of a check list on what to do when you make an 1st gov's case.

The first and most important thing that you have to do is the main question. “What is this debate really about”. The answer on this question should be your problem, your plan and your biggest argument. And the answer should be something big. A value. An idea or similar.

Next, you need to identify the problem. Do not be airfreight to identify a too big of a problem. What normally happens is, that the government's debaters find a small problem, that they would like to solve and then they can't really find good arguments for that. Find an obvious problem that is a problem in more than one state. Don't go “We in my country of Butan we have a problem because 3 young children can not get a pink pencil as they would like. This is why we will use the U.N. And change legislation on the whole world”... hrmm. Don't. Really :D

After you have a good problem, you need an even better solution. That is not the plan yet. You need to know, what the goal, or the end product of your policy is going to be. And you need to tell that to the judges. And after you have done that you need to come out with a proposal. Or a plan. Or a model. All three words mean the same, just that debaters with a GB background normally use the word model. In the model be specific, but no too much. Tell the judge who is going to do what and how. Don't go into the details, how you are going to get the right wing party in Poland to vote for abortion. This is not important. What is important is, if the idea that is behind your plan (remember, the first question) is good or no, if its going to do good to the world.

And now its time for the arguments and benefits. As I said, I believe that the great value that you have identified at the start should be your first and biggest argument. Explain to the judge, why is it important that a woman has control over her own body. And after that you go to the other smaller arguments. Find a line, on which you and your partner are going to present the arguments. You can speak about the theoretical background, your partner about the practical implications. And theres nothing left for the 2nd gov :D (yeah right, they always find something) ...

Do not forget to link each and every argument to your problem/plan... “ And the breach of the right to control your own body is the problem in the status quo and the problem that we have identified, and the plan that we are proposing is giving this great right back to women.” And better Im sure you can do better. And that's it... Yeah right.. Theres many more to come, like argumentation, structure, time allocation and else. I will write about that in other articles.

Well, it is interesting, when I go to a company, to ask for a sponsorship,and explain it all to them, they look me weird, and often I get the question "Should we give you the money to go and speak with people????".

Well it is not really like that, and let me give you some of the differences about why debate is something else.

1. You do not argue what you believe in Well the debate topic or the debate motion, as we call them is provided to you by the organiser of the tournament or any other debate activity. That means, that you can not influence what you will debate about. And more than that, you will have to argue the side, that you are delegated to. Again, you are not able to choose, witch side you argue. That means, that even if you are strongly against abortion, you will have to debate for abortion. This is sometimes hard, but on the other hand, good debaters will always find ways to argue something, and not to get too much against their own personal believe.
2. You have a time limit The time limits in the British parliamentary debate are 5 or 7 minutes. And no, you can not extend your time. Ok, you can, but only for 15 or maximum, and for real maximum 30 seconds. There will be always someone that will keep your time, and the judge will stop your speaking, if you will go on too long. This normally doesn't happen in real life.

3. You have a role to fulfill Well, the basic role, that you have as a debater is kinda similar to what you should do in a real life (RL) argument. You need to provide some arguments, material why you believe something is true or not. But sadly in RL people mostly do not do that. But in debate you have a judge, that will closely listen to your speech and will examine, if you had any arguments in your debate.

4. You have a judge Well this is kind of similar to a RL situation, because when trying to convince someone in RL, then you also get some feedback, because you will see, if the person is going to agree with you or not. But in the debate the judge won't look only into that, but will look also on other stuff, like other role fulfilment, cooperation with your team partner and other teams, time allocation and maner of your speech.

5. You will learn something from it Well, this is not true for every debate, but I can say, that there are topics, that I learned much about while having a debate. That of course means, that I lost the debate, but gained some knowledge, that I was able to use later in another debate. Also, when you discover a topic, that you don't know much about, you probably will go and start reading about. And will gain knowledge.

And this is good, because, you remember, the best thing that we know is what we do not know :D

Points of information are, if you ask me, the thing that makes the British parliamentary debate interesting.

But let me start at the start.

A point of information (POI) is a question or a statement, that is raised while a speaker of the opposing team is speaking. You are allowed to raise a POI at any time in the speech, but not during the protected time. Protected are the first and the last minute of the speech. You will hear a bang on the table (or a similar sound) after the first minute of a speech and before the last minute of the speech. Now its the time to raise your POI.

So you stand up and say “Point of information” or “On this point”. This is almost everything that you are allowed to say, when raising a POI (stating what your point is going to be about is not allowed and you will get penalised for a point like “On the poit of China”). Now you wait. The speaker has to decide if she is taking your point or not. If yes, the speaker is going to allow you to state your point. If not, she is going to say “no”, “no thanks” or similar, and you will see that some speakers will just sit you down with a hand motion. If you got an OK, now you have 15 seconds, not more, to raise one point. So think about what you are going to say. And with that I mean that you have to know what exactly you are going to say even before you stand up. If you dont, it is very possible that you will mess it up. The point is going to be too long or you will not be clear. When I say that you are allowed to make one point, I mean one point, that means that you are not allowed to speak about two problems that they have, even if you believe that they are both equal important.

When to raise a point? Well there are different tactics. But if you would like to make your point, than you need to stand up, when the speaker makes a break. That means, before he/she is going to start to speak about a new argument, or a new issue. Otherwise you are likely not to get the point. But you also need to stand up if the speaker is in the middle of something, but you would like to make something obvious to the judges. That means, that if the speaker is saying something really weird, you stand up immediately, even if you know that she is not going to take the point. You will make it obvious to the judges that you know that the point that the speaker made, is not a valid one. Some speakers stand up at the last 10-5 seconds because they know that they are not going to be taken, but they have offered one more point. Most judges are going to record how many points you are going to offer.

You should offer at least 5 points in every speech of the opposing side, so that the judges see, that you are involved in the debate even if you are not speaking. This is even more important if you are one of the first speakers, because there will be almost an hour of the debate, but you will not speak any more. But don't make too many points. That means that you should not be standing up and sitting down all the time, because you are going to disturb the speaker and the judges can penalise you for that.

I can also advise you, to try to make a point about the argument, that you are going to make. That means if you are the first speaker of the second government, you should make a POI about the argument that is going to be your extension, so that the argument gets into the debate early, and that way you can make it more important.

A good idea is, that you have a paper on the table on witch you write down the points that you would like to make and with that you share your points with your debate partner, and with that your debate partner is going to get an idea about what you think and about what things you are going to use in your speech.

At the end, let me say this. Use your points wisely. Be funny but on the point. Short but kill their argument with the point.

Here are more resources, if you have more questions about points of information in different debate formats:

Lecture on Points of information in debate - Sarina Selleck
Video lecture about Points of information by Rhydian Morgan on World Debate Institute
Lecture by Alfred C. Snider "Points of information class"

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