How to Start Your Speech in Debate Rounds – 3 Suggestions

1. Assess Why You Are Winning, and Why You Are NOT Losing-

So many debaters start their speeches with an overview of arguments rather than an assessment of why they are winning the debate. One of my favorite techniques is one recommended by Dallas Jesuit debate coach Dan Lingel. His suggestion is to point out three mistakes the other How to construct great arguments team made. Obviously this is hard to do in the first affirmative and negative constructives- these speeches generally introduce the major arguments into the debate. Rebuttals are the best moment to use this tactic- particularly in the last two rebuttals. An example might be, instead of the 2nc saying “Extend my uniqueness evidence- the economy is strong- Extend my link- the plan eliminates fiscal discipline,” a much more effective overview would be “The 2ac has no answer to our fiscal discipline evidence, which answers their ‘plan saves money’ argument.” This overview and start to a speech integrates assuming a world where you might be wrong. What are the opponents BEST CHANCE of winning, and why are they losing those issues. “Even if I lose this argument I still win because” is one of the most important phrases a debater can ever use. Why not start there? These comparisons win debates.

2. Talk About the Stuff Your Opponents Are Not Talking About-

As a judge it’s incredibly frustrating to watch debates  where people only respond to what the opponent says. Too often debaters just engage in “line by line” debate and extend their arguments from previous speeches poorly. In at least half of these debates, people’s overviews are the SAME ARGUMENT made on the line by line. I’ve come up with a simple formula that solves this dilemma. If the affirmative link turns an argument, talk about the impact in the overview. If the affirmative impact turns, talk about the link. My philosophy is simple: if the affirmative makes a bunch of offense to one of those levels, then you have to answer that section in the line by line. If the affirmative impact turns, you have to extend your impacts on the line by line. Do you time frame, magnitude, probability, and turns on the line by line. This greatly reduces redundancy and guarantees that debaters extend all parts of their arguments.