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How to Improve Your Speaker Score

Author: benw


Always speak at a reasonable speed, not too fast or too slow. You can check to see if your speed is good by looking at the judge. If the judge is frantic trying to write down everything you're saying, you're probably speaking too fast. On the other hand, you don't want to speak so slowly you run out of time to finish your points. In order to achieve the right speaking speed, you need to practice your speech a few times. It's also the job of your teammates to tell you when you are speaking too fast. Even though it might feel like you're speaking very slowly, as long as you can see the judge being able to write down a point and look back up to you, you're probably going a good speed. 

Eye Contact

It's very important to look up from your paper during your speech. Make eye contact with the judge every few sentences. You should also be looking up to check if the opposing team is giving you any POIs or check time signals. In order to make good eye contact during your speech, I suggest practicing your speech multiple times. That way, you will have some parts memorized and know you can look up from your paper without forgetting anything. 

Staying Involved

The judge is looking to see how involved you are throughout the round. If all you do is give your speech and stare out into the audience for the rest of the round, you seem uninterested in the debate and will get a lower speaker score. You can participate throughout the round in multiple ways: heckling, giving POIs, writing notes to your teammates, etc. A good speaker will give a couple POIs, heckle the opposing team, and help their teammates come up with refutations. The judge notices everything you say or do, so always stay involved throughout the debate.


It's important to stay organized throughout your speech. Road maps are a great idea to help the judge organize their flow and for you to organize your speech (just try and follow the road map throughout your speech!). Additionally, when moving on to your next point or refutation, always sign post. Sign posting is when you verbally tell the judge you are moving on to the next part of your speech. Examples include, "I'm now going to refute their second point," or, "Moving onto my third point". Lastly, make sure to have all your papers in the correct order before you get up to give your speech. It wastes time and looks bad if you have to stand at the podium quickly reading through each page of notes you have to find your next point. 

Do's and Don'ts of POIs

Author: benw


  • Take at least one POI during your speech
  • Finish your sentence or thought before taking a POI
  • Stop a POI if the person saying the POI has gone over 15 seconds or you understand their point: make sure to be polite and say, "Thank you, I understand your point"
  • If you are uncertain whether you have time to take a POI, respond to the POI with, "I'll take your POI after my point" and continue reading your case
  • Answer POI's with evidence or reasoning
  • Be polite when turning a POI down: either use a hand motion to decline or say, "No thank you"


  • Wave down every POI the other team gives: if you do, it shows the judge you don't know the topic well enough to think on your feet and answer a question brought up by the opposing team
  • Immediately continue reading your case after the POI has finished: try and answer the POI with reasoning or evidence
  • Stop mid-sentence to take a POI: always finish your thought or sentence before taking a POI and let the person giving the POI know that you'll take it after you finish your point
  • Pass the POI onto your next speaker: always try and come up with an answer to a POI, but in a worst case-scenario it's ok to say your next speaker will answer the POI
  • Leave a person with a POI standing for a long time: quickly decide if you want to take their POI or decline it

Research Tips

Author: benw

Where do you start when you receive a new topic? This can be a tricky question when you're new at debate. There are many different ways to start researching a topic. Here's some advice on how to begin searching your topic:

1. Start with background information on the topic. Before you jump straight to looking for affirmative and negative points, it's important to have a firm grasp on what the actual topic is. Let's take the sample topic, "Ecotourism does more harm than good". To start, you might just put "ecotourism" in your search bar. This search will yield definitions and websites discussing the topic. Read through some websites until you understand why there's controversy surrounding the subject.

2. Once you have enough background information, start creating a basic outline for your research with claims for your three affirmative and three negative points. To do so, you might search pros and cons of the topic. Going back to the ecotourism topic example, a good search would be, "Ecotourism pros and cons". Multiple websites will pop up with points for both sides of the topic. Make sure to visit a couple of reliable websites and read through different points. This method will ensure that you choose the points you feel the strongest about. 

3. After completing an outline of your points, go back and specifically search for evidence for each point. You might do this by copying and pasting your point into the search bar, or inputting key words of your point into the search bar. This search should allow you to quickly find specified research for a specific point.

4. While doing specific research for your points, keep your eyes out for good grabbers and definitions. You'll also want to write impacts for your points and at the end think of a weighing mechanism that benefits your side. Make sure to keep track of your sources!

Hopefully, these tips will help when you're beginning to research a new topic. 

How to Efficiently Use Your Twenty Minutes of Writing

Author: benw

After the topic is announced for a round, you have twenty minutes to copy everything from your research onto the colored sheets of paper provided. That might seem like a daunting task, but here's some advice on how to efficiently use those twenty minutes.

First, find a comfortable place to sit. You're going to be speeding through your research trying to write down everything you can, so the last thing you want to worry about is having your leg cramp up because you've been lying on the ground. Try to get to a table close to your room, or even stay in the main hall and work there (though it probably will be noisy). If you go to your room and see your judge is inside, you're allowed to go in and sit at the desks to write. However, if there's no judge in the room, you're not allowed to go in. Make sure you have your pen and research ready to go once you sit down to write. Second, assign each person on your team a part of the research to copy. For example, the first speaker should write down their grabber, weighing mechanism, definitions, and first point. The second speaker should write down their grabber, the second point, and third point. Lastly, the third speaker should write down their grabber, the fourth point (if you have one), and any previously thought-out refutations. If one person finishes early, they can help their teammate finish writing down their point. You don't have to specifically follow these guidelines, but talk with your team and plan out a strategy before you get to a tournament. It's important to use the twenty minutes efficiently, so you don't want two members on your team writing down the same point. Lastly, have clear titles on the top of your pages so you don't get lost during your speech. It's better to use up some room on your paper to write a big title on the top of the page so you don't forget what point that paper has than to have a small title, making you reread that paper during your speech to figure out which point it was. When you're restating your points at the end of your speech, you'll be relieved to be able to quickly find each point you said in order. 

Try to practice writing out your research before the tournament so you don't run into any problems during the tournament.