There are three classes of motions which a debater may encounter over at various debate tournaments, namely Loose-Link, Tight-Link and Straight Link. Each class signals how much freedom the Proposition teams will have in their definitions.
Even with the most dynamic of speakers and the most interesting of motions, the energy levels in a debate could still be quite low if the participants merely delivered their speeches and sat back down. Thus, debate formats usually incorporate a more interactive element in order to liven up the event
For the World Schools Debating format, this purpose is served by the use of the “Point of Information” (POI).
The best teams in the WSDC are made up of Debaters who understand the roles and responsibilities as well as the complexities associated with each speaker position. With this understanding, the speakers can appreciate how the roles complement each other and put the team in the best position to win.
Within the World School Debating format, teams may be given months to prepare for a topic or as little as one hour prior to the debate. The latter can prove to be a challenge for debaters and many frequently find that 60 minutes is woefully inadequate when trying to develop a cohesive team stance, a range of arguments addressing the motion, anticipation of the opponent’s arguments, a range of examples to be applied, writing the arguments and practicing their speeches. Debaters may wish to consider the following approach when entering a short preparation round…
What is an argument? We know that arguments form the backbone of a debater’s stand on a particular motion. We also know that the arguments are directed to the judges with the intent of making them agree with a particular stance on the motion. Thus, arguments are communications directed at judges with the intent of influencing them. An argument is best opened with a label, which highlights what the argument is about. Next, the speakers would have to give an explanation, using logical links, as to why their position is correct. Next, they would have to use examples to prove that their explanation and links apply to real life.
The many debating formats around the world bring with them some very interesting aspects. For instance, Lincoln-Douglas Debate in the USA is contested by individual speakers instead of teams and features a lively cross-examination section. American Policy Debates feature debaters speaking at incredible speeds of up to 600 words per minute. British Parliamentary Debate is unusual in that it has 4 teams contesting a motion instead of just 2. American Parliamentary Debate largely allows for Proposition teams to run whatever case they want, including those where the Opposition teams are allowed to choose which side they would prefer! The common denominator for all of these formats, however, is that the Debaters would need to argue strongly, rebut effectively and speak persuasively in their speeches.
Debate, without rebuttals, would be a series of speeches with no relation to each other. Like ships passing in the night, there will be no clash, no conflict and ultimately, no debate. Rebuttal, like argumentation, is one of the foundations of debate. What is rebuttal then? It is a speaker saying that an argument is not valid and showing why it is not valid. If argument is about building logic links in a case, then rebuttal is about the breaking of these links.
The set up provides the foundation for the debate. Consisting of the definitions, clarifications, parameter and the yardstick, the set up plays a critical role in establishing what the grounds for the debate are. Without a good set up, both sets of debaters and the judges could easily because confused over the course of the debate. Good proposition teams will ensure that their set up helps their case as much as possible (while being fair) and good opposition teams will have to check, expand and if necessary, challenge the definitions to get an edge. Failure to do the set up properly could lead to teams debating on their opponents’ terms, which is usually a recipe for defeat.
Style refers to the way debaters speak and deliver their speeches. To get higher style marks, speakers would need to make their communication effective and impactful. The following are a few tips which could be of use to speakers looking to improve the stylistic aspects of their speeches.
Speech and oratory competitions: A very useful way for debaters to improve their style is to attend speech and oratory competitions. These events will allow the debaters to focus purely on their vocal and visual presentation without the need to worry about argument and rebuttals. Some events, such as the National Forensic League’s Extemporaneous Speaking event, goes as far as to ask speakers to integrate argumentative skills into their speeches and even requires the speakers to go without written notes!