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Articles > Timing


The timing of a debate is fairly straightforward, although it's a little more complex than what it appears to be on the surface. On this page, I will breakdown the timing of the entire debate and what this means.

So, as you probably know, the first four speakers each get five minutes to speak. The last two, which are the two team's rebuttalists, each get only three minutes to speak. In total, then, there are 26 minutes for people to speak in a debate, although debates usually last for 45 minutes. Why? Well, it usually takes ten minutes or even more for the judge to decide a winner, and another ten minutes for the judge to talk in front of the debaters about who won, why, speaker scores, and areas of improvement. So, a debate generally lasts around three-quarters of an hour.


Now, besides the allotted time for speakers on each team to speak, there is another entirely different set of timing that goes on in a debate that has nothing to do with speaking time. There are time limits for POIs, a.k.a. points of information. POIs are only allowed in the 1st and 2nd speakers speeches for both teams, so basically just prohibited for the rebuttalist speeches, which are already short enough. POIs can take up at most 15 seconds, and any longer than that and they are automatically disregarded. POIs can only be asked between the first and fourth minutes of the first four speeches.


So, for example, the 2nd opposition speaker stands up and talks. After one minute has elapsed, then POIs will be allowed to be asked. The 2nd opposition speaker takes a few POIs then keeps on talking. Once he reaches the four minute mark, then the other team will no longer be allowed to ask POIs to the speaker.


On top of that, heckles can be no longer than three words. Any longer and judges could deduct speaker points for obnoxious or unfair heckling. Heckles more than three words are considered "cheating" in debate.


Timing. Now, along with anything comes signals. Timing+signals= Timing signals. Yes, of course, there are timing signals in a debate, and it couldn't hurt to know them. See the table below to learn about them, and commit them to memory.


Timing Signals for 1st and 2nd Speakers for Both Teams:

Time Elapsed Judging Signal
1 minute Slap on the table
2 minutes Three fingers into the air
3 minutes Two fingers into the air
4 minutes Slap on the table
4:30 minutes A "C" shaped hand high above judge's head

As you can see, the last signal given by the judge is at the 30 second mark before your speech ends. That's why it is always helpful to carry a timer with you into every debate so that you know exactly how much time you have left.


Timing Signals for Rebuttalists for Both Teams:

Time Elapsed Judging Signal
1 minute Slap on the table
2 minutes Slap on the table
2:30 minutes A "C" shaped hand high above the judge's head