Debaters spend most of their time preparing for a debate tournament by researching and writing their cases. However, this type of preparation does not guarantee success in Public Forum rounds, where debaters will face a variety of challenges. Debaters should spend time practicing so they are ready for these challenges. Here are four strategies to effectively practice for debate tournaments.
1. Practice giving your first constructive speech.
Even though they spend considerable time writing their case, many debaters may only give their speech out loud once or twice before a tournament. Practicing the first constructive speech out loud, as it will be given at the tournament, is a great exercise to become a more confident and effective speaker. The repetition will help with word pronunciation, the ability to use more eye contact while speaking, and the proper speaking speed. Also, debaters should use a timer to check the time of the speech. If a speech is too long or too short, it can be adjusted before the tournament. Overall, this exercise will make debaters more confident and prepared.
2. Think about counter-arguments against your own case.
Every contention always has a counter-argument; there would be no point in debating if contentions were always perfect. Thus, it is important for a debater to think about the ways their own contentions may be attacked during a debate tournament. This exercise serves two purposes. First, it allows debaters to change or remove contentions from their case that are easily rebutted. Second, it allows debaters to prepare answers to common contentions their opponents will likely make. During a round, having prepared responses also saves preparation time.
3. Practice crossfire with a partner.
Just like preparing for counter-arguments, practicing crossfire can help prepare for questions that may be asked in a tournament. This is similar to the previous strategy for practicing rebuttal, that asking questions about a debater’s own contentions can lead to a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of those contentions. Have one partner use the pro case, and the other use the con case, and ask each other questions just like in the first crossfire period during a debate. Save the good questions, as these can be used against opponents at the tournament. This saves valuable preparation time and will lead to more specific and better questions in tournament rounds.
Many debaters read some evidence to put in their constructive cases, and good debaters even prepare additional evidence to introduce later in the debate. But the best debaters read about the assigned topic even if they do not necessarily use the articles as quoted evidence in a round. Reading as much about a topic as possible has multiple benefits, including a broader understanding of the perspectives and historical context of an issue. This can help debaters better explain an issue or argument, especially in the later speeches of a round.