This post is just a collection of issues that came up during the camp tournament this summer that I thought I would smash together into one post. A lot of this boils down to basically “be flexible” and is advice aimed at making the debate function more smoothly/efficiently. Teams that follow this kind of advice don’t necessarily win any specific debate based on it, but they do get higher points, more speaker awards, more love and adulation from crowds of fans etc.
1. Learn to speak sitting down. Having to debate in a bunch of different rooms at tournaments students often find that constructing the ideal speaking stand is difficult if not impossible. This usually results in a 20 minute jenga game as they try to balance a trash can on top of a unicycle and then place their 2k$$$ computer on top of this precarious life. Disaster ensues. This process wastes a ton of time and risks tech disaster. If you like to stand, stand. If you bring your own table tote and can set it up just how you like it every time- great. When these things are not the case, however, if you have practiced speaking sitting down and are comfortable with it you will save yourself a great deal of trouble and everyone else a great deal of wasted time. Except in the most extreme, gulag-esque rooms at the Glenbrooks you will probably always have a chair and a desk, so if you are able to speak sitting down you will always have your trusty fall back position.
This is a problem because of a related phenomenon- many students feel they cannot read unless they have the laptop exactly 7.34 inches from their face at a 43.8 degree angle at a height of…. Whether this is nerves or OCD or something else no one knows, but if you really have a problem speaking without your perfect set up, making sure your perfect set up is one that you will be able to actually “set up” in every room would be prudent.
Some judges don’t like sitting, so like all debate advice this is situational. For the most part though you will find judges don’t really mind, especially when there is no good easily set up stand.
2. Get a simple email- email chains seem to be the wave of the future, they are much faster than jumping and don’t require people to know how a jump drive works. This process can get slowed down when people’s emails are too complicated or often when people are too embarrassed to say out loud that their email is “belieber<firstname.lastname@example.org”. Make sure you have a simple gmail for doing email chains, like say “email@example.com” that is easy for people to type in and won’t be misspelled resulting in 20 minutes of “did you get it?” “no” “refresh” “still no”…..
3. Stop asking for orders. Generally this goes down like this
Debater1: stop prep
.0000000001 seconds pass
Debaterotherteam: WHATS THE ORDER???????
Chill. Rest assured they are going to give an order, you don’t have to remind them. This is more just annoying/rude than an actual time waster, but in general you should be worrying about your own self in debates instead of harassing the other team needlessly. Demanding an order the millisecond prep ends is just one example of a larger phenomenon of unnecessary student rudeness that has become commonplace. If someone ends prep and then spends 45 minutes stalling for their speech maybe then you should say something, but it should be the exception and not the rule.
4. Prep timing etiquette. I like it when people are vigilant and time prep- including the other team’s prep. However, there is no reason you need to be a jerk about this. If your time and their time are off by 3 seconds guess what- that’s not the end of the world. Being a little flexible and relaxing will make your debate experience much more enjoyable and really improve your ethos. Here are some other prep time peeves of mine
-someones speech ends. The other team starts a timer and asks a cross-ex question. The person who just gave the speech then doesn’t answer the question but instead makes everyone wait while they set their own timer and then start it thus restarting CX time and then demands the other team repeats the question.I saw this so much this summer I can only assume someone is giving a lecture based on 1990’s business best sellers like Jack Attack about how to psychological dominate the corss-ex. This doesn’t make you look dominant and in control, it makes you look like a nOOb.
-someone has 4:59 of prep left. Instead of hitting “5”, they hit the seconds button 59 times and it beeps every time. If I am judging you you just lost 59 speaker points
5. Label your arguments. Each case advantage/contention/observation whatever- should have a name. Every offcase should have a name. If you are reading a multi card turn on the case – give it a name. “next off disad, next off disad, next off k” etc is terrible. It makes every future roadmap a disaster, confuses everyone in the room, and garners no benefit for you whatsoever. Any team who is so bad that they would make a crucial mistake because you didn’t label something is so bad you will beat them anyway.
Once someone labels something-USE THE SAME LABELS. There is nothing more annoying than a debate where every speech makes up their own cute labels when giving a roadmap leaving me with no idea what issues they are actually talking about. If the other team called your advantage “soft power” there is no reason for you to call it something else, even if your advantage isn’t technically about soft power but about legitimacy.
6. Lack of impact defense does not mean your impact is “100% ” or “cold conceded”. I will go on a rant about impact defense and how stupid it is in an upcoming post, but for now I just want to point out that your impact is a function of (probability)(magnitude)=risk. When people read internal link defense like “no runaway warming”, that doesn’t mean your impact is 100% because there is no impact defense “warming doesn’t cause extinction”. This “100%” nonsense has become an epidemic. It relies on a false dichotomy about what “terminal” defense is. Let us look at an advantage
-CO2 from coal causes global warming
-global warming causes sea level rise
-sea level rise causes extinction
-off shore wind trades off with coal/solves warming
Now, what is the “terminal” impact? Warming? Sea level rise? Extinction? Back in the day when I debated “terminal” referred to impact category- i.e. if you read a hegemony impact about prolif, the “terminal” impact would be prolif. So in this case the “terminal” impact would be sea level rise. This doesn’t seem to be an agreed upon definition anymore, and I don’t really feel like mounting a rigorous defense of why it is the best way to conceive of “terminal” because it is sort of beside the point. The point is, if you win defense along any point of an internal link chain
it reduces the probability of the impact. Taking out B is the same as taking out C. So when an advantage has a variety of defense against it claiming its 100% is obviously wrong. So why are people doing this? What are they hoping to accomplish? Well at some point we became so obsessed with impact calculus and impact defense that people started thinking of debate as a contest where “the team with the most unmitigated terminal impacts wins”. This is obviously a bad model- it would incentivizing reading as many impacts as possible, and more specifically impacts that are fringe/unlikely to be met with defense due to their obscurity.