With the exception of a few debate formats such as Lincoln-Douglas in the US, debate is a team activity. This is especially true for the WSDC format, with three speakers taking the floor for each team.
It is simply not sufficient for a speaker to go up, deliver a speech, sit down and remain silent. Active communication is necessary for the team to be on the same wavelength, especially with regards to the decisions made by the team and the approach adopted for the match. For instance, if an Opposition team has decided to challenge the definition, all three Opposition speakers will need to be aware of the decision and the rationale given for the challenge.
Active communications also ensure maximum situational awareness for the speakers. This will ensure that all the speakers will be aware of the arguments that had been delivered by both teams and upcoming speakers will not “drop” points during the debate. The following steps will help greatly in facilitating communications amongst team members during a debate.
Have a Floor Leader
It is imperative that someone, either the team captain or the appointed floor leader, has the unquestioned authority to make the critical decisions on the floor. This will allow for the teams to make decisions quickly with minimal time lost on discussion.
Communications have to be brief, especially when the opposing team is speaking. This will ensure that none of the team members will miss out on hearing what the opponents are saying and risk dropping points.
Use Notes to Communicate
Written notes should be used to pass information which is more extensive. This will reduce the amount of time needed in explaining the point to the recipient verbally. It will also provide the recipient with a reminder to incorporate the information into the upcoming speech.
Ask for Help
The advantage of being able to debate as a team is that the speakers are able to tap their teammates’ minds as and when needed. If a Debater has difficulty with a point, for instance in thinking of a rebuttal, the teammates could be asked to help think of responses. This will in turn free up the debater to continue tracking the opponent’s speech. Debaters should not abuse this privilege, however, and become over-dependent on their teammates for answers.
In order to ensure that everyone will be on the same page during the debate, every member of the team should track the debate closely to ensure that anything that is being said by the opposing team is not missed. Some debaters have a tendency to “zone out” from the debate and stop paying attention once their speeches are over. They should in fact be tracking the debate even closer since they no longer have the pressure of delivering a speech.
Check Before Delivery
It is a useful practice for the speaker who is just about to speak to communicate to the teammates what the contents of the speech will be. This will allow the teammates to point out if a critical point has been omitted. It is in fact quite common for speakers to miss out on the last point being made by the opponents as they themselves are getting ready to go up and deliver a speech. However, it should be noted that in many debates, there will not be much transition time between speeches. Thus, the upcoming speaker should check with the teammates early on what the key arguments which will need to be addressed.
Check After Delivery
During a debate, every Debater is expected to listen to the speeches delivered by both teammates. This keeps everyone on the same page on what their team has said and not said. However, a Debater who has just finished a speech should still highlight to teammates if any critical issues were missed or dropped during the speech. This will alert the next speaker accordingly and allow the point to be raised again. For instance, the Second Proposition Speaker could point out to the Third Proposition Speaker that a key rebuttal on economics was dropped, so that the latter may raise it later.
To provide ease of communications, the Debater who is slated to speak next should be seated in the middle, between the teammates. This will lead to a steady rotation throughout the debate.
Communications with Reserves
Communications with the reserve team members are not allowed during the debate, aside from time signals which are given. However, for some tournaments, the reserve team members are allowed to communicate with the three speakers prior to the start of the summary speeches. Under these circumstances, the team should establish prior to the debate how the reserve speakers can best convey key information to the summary speaker.