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Making the Most of Debate Tournament Down Time

· Resources

At a debate tournament, debaters often have multiple periods of free time, usually during flights off each round. These long periods of free time between rounds are great opportunities to improve in order to be more successful during the next round. Here are two ways to get the most of out of flights off.

1. Case Improvements

Each round will teach debaters new information about the topic. Opponents might have unique arguments, different ways of arguing a certain point, or new statistics to help support their arguments. After each round, it is beneficial to review the arguments from each side. A debater can take note of their opponents’ logical analysis and evidence, and determine what parts can be used for their own purposes, and can help their own case. In the situation where a debater failed to explain their own arguments in a logical way, lacked evidence to support their own arguments, or if an opponent asked for a piece of information that they did not know, they should try to find this information before the next debate.

2. Speech Redos

When a debate finishes, debaters often think of arguments or responses they should have mentioned but failed to do so in their speeches. Debaters are encouraged to learn from these problems by redoing their speeches so they are better next time. When redoing a speech, they should focus on two things, time allocation and word efficiency. First, the debater can review their flow in the last round, figure out the arguments that mattered the most and the arguments that were less important. Then they can use this information to reallocate time on each argument in their speeches, spending more time on the arguments that are strategically more important and less time on more less important points. For example, if both sides have similar frameworks, the debater should spend no more than 20 seconds addressing the framework in their rebuttal speech. Secondly, debaters should try their best to avoid filling words or phrases in their speeches. By continually practicing, debaters will become better at identifying the importance of different contentions in a debate round, and communicating their ideas in an effective way.

3. Working with a partner

Often, improving communication with a debate partner can be just as important as the arguments a debater makes individually. Consistent argumentation and strategy within a team is important to make the most of each speech and provide a clear and consistent case to the judge. After each round, debaters should take time to discuss with their partner what weaknesses to fix, and what strengths to maintain. This will help both members of the team know what issues to focus on in the next round, and have more clear expectations of what their role is in the team. It can be very difficult to do this during a round due to limited preparation time, so discussing strategy and division of responsibility can be accomplished in between rounds. This allows more time during rounds to focus on one’s own speeches, and know more clearly what partners should focus on themselves.

Finally, remember that every tournament is different. If a debater feels tired, they might benefit more from focusing on physical stamina by eating, drinking water and resting. If a debater has not preflowed their rounds, maybe they should take a few minutes to preflow their own case instead. Debate is always a learning process, requiring continuous learning and improvement. By adding communication and constant improvement during a tournament, debaters will see even more success in their future debates.

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