Do you want to be top speaker at the toc? Part 2- stop cutting cards, start working on craft

Part 1 discussed in detail how to work on the actual speaking to improve your points, part 2 is going to discuss a few ways to improve the things you are saying. Before doing that I will quickly address some questions I got about part 1.

Questions about part 1


1. What sort of volume should I aim for- this is tricky. It depends a lot on the room you are speaking in, but basically you need to speak so that the judge can hear you in the same way they would hear a regular conversation- not too loud, not too quiet. Speaking quietly gives you an artificial feeling of speed-since you are using less oxygen you can get more out between breaths and up your overall amount of delivery. Too loud slows you down and is really frustrating to listen to. You can figure this out easily by just having your partner or coach listen to you and let you know a good volume.


2. My voice changes xyz way when I spread- no it doesn’t. You are changing your voice when you speak for some reason. If the way you talk sounds dramatically different from the way you spread YOU are doing that, there is no part of the human brain that detects you are going fast and changes your voice. Similarly- if you wave your hands crazily and jump up and down you are in control of that as well. You have developed a “habit” of doing these things when you speak, and like all bad habits (biting your nails, picking your nose, buying Maroon 5 albums) it can be hard to break. That DOESN’T mean you don’t control it- you just need to practice not doing it by thinking about it consciously. For your voice, your spreading should sound like you sound when talking. If it doesn’t, modify your voice until it does. Your voice should not go up or down in pitch dramatically, you shouldn’t suddenly speak with a British accent.


3. Why does it matter if I stutter/double breathe/do weird things- these questions are silly. Ask ANY judge in the country if they like hearing these things. Look at the top 5 speakers at tournaments and see if they do them. Next question


4.Do I really need to speak that much? I think I have gone through the rational reasons for this in detail in the past, so I won’t beat a dead horse here. I will just say one final thing: for better or worse this is a communicative activity. Improving your ability to be understood should be the primary goal of every debater until they never hear “you were unclear” or “I didn’t get that” or “you’re ugly” (more on that later) from a judge at the end of the round.


Onto Craft. I want to address 5 main things here, but all of them rely on the fact that you should write blocks. A lot of blocks. I wrote about 3 paragraphs about why you should write blocks but I deleted them because if you don’t understand that you need to write a lot of blocks then you are not going to be the top speaker at the TOC. If you really care, you can see here .


Thing 1: Clear Argument tags.


Why is this so important? The argument tag is what the judge writes down, its how they remember your argument. You want it to be clear so they get what you are saying and get it written down. This is by far the most underrated/least focused on portion of block writing. Most people think writing a block is just listing arguments with numbers.

Extra T is a voter

1. It makes debate hard

2. come on

3. See number 1

4. We are 4 pointing them


The purpose of block writing is to be efficient, clear, and to break arguments up into manageable chunks. An (ironically) good example of this is theory. At this point, everyone knows the clear argument tags of theory debates from repetition- best policy option, most real world etc. Judges can write down this shorthand and even though the debaters are going fast on short arguments have a reasonably well flushed out record of what was said. You want to bring that element to all your blocks. So lets say you are breaking a new K. And your K has 3 main link arguments, instead of jumbling them all together into a stream of consciousness overview that looks like one paragraph of text, break them down conceptually:


We have 3 link arguments

1. No Nonsense- the aff doesn’t speak in nonsense, they used rational thought to express themselves. That means they are the opposite of our K


2. Qualif(a)i(l)cations- they read evidence from authors who know what they are talking about


3. Policy (ir)relevance- they discuss the topic- what n00bs!


You should put a lot of thought into that first part before the hyphen- it is your “slogan” if you want to think in advertising terms. You want something catchy and easy to remember. “crises focus” is a good slogan because its short and it conveys exactly what the positive peace link is. Think about each slogan for a few minutes, toss out some options. Don’t just write it and move on. These are blocks you theoretically will be using repeatedly, so make sure they are as good as you can make them. This doesn’t just apply to link arguments, any block that has more than 2 arguments should have clearly thought out slogans to make it easy to flow. When you read the slogans it should be clear something special is happening- emphasize them. Refer to these arguments later as the slogan “extend our crises focus link” – this gives the judge a clear way to refer back to earlier speeches and an easy shorthand.


How important are argument tags/slogans? On a scale of 1-4, with 7 being the highest, they are a 12. One thing that people often don’t get is that they force you to start identifying and using warrants. So instead of saying “winners win, more evidence, still winning” you have to think about why are these arguments different and explain so-

Winners win

A. legislative victories build capital with base

B. Wins generate public support which translates into agenda success

C. OBAMA SMASH-ornstein 93

If you can’t think of a new slogan for a card, it probably isn’t bringing much to the table. To continue with the above example, slogans need not be super long. A lot of people have 2NC politics U blocks like

KORUS will pass

A. momentum

B. Vote counts

etc. These are fine because the arguments you are conveying aren’t complex /judges will get what you are saying. In fact they are probably better than overly long tags that obscure the point.


2. Use humor. I know I know, “you aren’t funny”. Well get over it- comedy isn’t a talent, it is a skill you can learn. I’m not going to spend any time explaining to you why this is true or how, I am just going to give you two examples of the simplest jokes you can use in any block and then encourage you to experiment/try on your own time.

A. The list twist- this joke is so simple anyone who says they can’t do it should be killed. All you do is make an argument, then provide a list of examples. In the list you give 2-3 serious examples, and then a final example that is a joke. That’s it. The first few items establish the expectation that you are giving a serious list, and then you hit them with the punchline- the joke example and the fact that you are working against expectations makes it funny. Lets say you are debating is global warming real. You are going to list the evidence that climate change is happening, so you say “Climate change is real (slogan)- this is proven by the majority of scientific evidence- ice core data, satellite temperature readings, computer models and _____” that and is where you slip in a humorous example. So think, what could be humorous examples of increasing global temperatures? Your partners BO(insulting partners is good, doesn’t come of as mean as insulting the other team, though if you can pull it off insulting the judge can be better)? Rising air conditioner sales among inuits? It doesn’t have to be great because the vast majority of debates are so boring for judges that even a small amount of effort/humor will pay off.


B. Quals jokes-these are super simple, you just find a random qual that an author of a card you are going to read frequently has. Say you were reading the Afghan cred DA with a Kagan link, you could say “Prefer our evidence- according to menand eve a dart throwing monkey is right 1/3 times” making a joke about the Kagan clans predictive track record. Or if you read a card that quotes Obama on the US ability to win Muslim hearts and minds you could say “prefer our evidence because it comes from a real live muslim”. Obviously jokes like this are not the kill shot leaving your judge in hysterics for the rest of the 2NC- but having 5-10 of them could be the difference between 28.5 and 29 in a lot of debates. And given how easy they are to come up with you really have no excuse for not making them.


Sidebar- a quick note on insulting the judge. By this I don’t mean be like “your dumb”. I mean you should know something about them and make a joke based on this personal knowledge. Coaches, friends, FBI dossiers are all good places to get these personal details. Insulting the judge creates a good dynamic because it establishes an inside joke that only you and the judge are in on- which chimp studies tell us converts easily into report. This is also an adaptation issue- you have to know where the line is for a particular judge, and gauge their reaction to the joke to see if it was a success.


One last point on humor- many people are afraid to tell a joke because they think it will bomb. If you are a fast policy debater and your joke bombs it is forgotten in 5 seconds because you have moved onto the next argument. You need to take an approach like the movie Dodgeball- if 60% of what you say is funny people will end up loving it and end up forgetting the rest.



3. Don’t make arguments, resolve arguments. Many of your speaker points are decided by your rebuttal. In your rebuttal (the 1NR largely excluded since it is part of the block)you need to transition away from making arguments and move towards resolving arguments. There are a few ways you should think about doing this


A. making impact assessments comparative- don’t say “heg solves all wars” say ” a reduced risk of our hegemony advantage outweighs the mitigated politics disad because…”

Several issues need to be addressed when making comparative impact assessments

-does the disad turn the case or does the case turn the disad- if you said KORUS is k2 heg and they said overstretch hurts heg which is more important and why- is one faster, more probable etc. This gets more complicated the more impacts you have, so think about comparisons you could make in this hypothetical


Aff Advantages: Hegemony (overstretch) , Terrorism(bw)

Neg DA: Free trade impact, Asia stability impact, turns heg, turns terrorism


If you were neg, many people would just go “turns the case” and be done. But realistically- does your disad really turn the whole case? If not then you need to explain why your external impact outweighs the reduced risk of case (from the DA turning it). For the aff- you need to spend time explaining why the DA doesn’t turn the case and why the large risk of your advantages outweighs the external impact.


These are things you can start thinking about in advance- you know what your advantages are, you know what the major politics disad is. Thinking through ahead of time also makes it easier when you have to make up these kind of comparisons on the spot. Particularly in a 2Ar or 2NR you cant get detailed enough or give too many even if statements in this regard.


I will give one example: Lets say the aff is Afghanistan /heg/thayer impact card. The neg is KORUS DA with trade solves war, and KORUS k2 leadership. (the korus impact debate has been discussed in previous posts you should check out for additional insight). In a 2AR I would make some of the following arguments


-KORUS doesn’t turn the case- we havent passed it for years and it hasn’t collapsed leadership- their impact is empirically denied. KORUS may contribute to leadership, but its not necessary for leadership. AND our internal link to hegemony is bigger and more meaningful- the eyes of the world are on Afghanistan- most countries don’t even care about South Korea. Visible overextension of our ground forces is percieved in a certain way by Russia, China, Iran, and the AEI (list humor) that failure to pass KORUS is not. It may be true failure of KORUS would diminish our leadership in Asia- but their evidence is about economic leadership not military hardpower- we access the most immediate internal link to leadership

-Hegemony turns trade, not vice versa- economic growth may have been critical to US leadership at one point but we are increasing defense spending in a recession for the 4th straight year- no one cares anymore- 911 has us so afraid of terrorists hating our freedom no one will turn isolationist. Now the only question is can we maintain military strength necessary to keep sea lanes open, and give us leverage in future negotiations about trade- India and China won’t agree to WTO reform because of the KORUS, they will agree because US dominance still makes the world go round- hegemony is a longer lasting and more sustainable impetus for global trade than a minor FTA between the US and Korea. This makes defense vs the disad more persuasive- there are alternative routes to preventing a collapse of trade leadership diminishing the likelihood that KORUS is key

-External impacts to hegemony outweigh the disad -trade doesn’t interact with proliferation or terrorism, two impacts discussed in Thayer- we’re all adults here, their turns the case arg is laughable. Trade may create incentives to keep the peace, but those aren’t persuasive to religious fanatics, nor to nuclear weapons accidentally launched by new and unstable nuclear regimes.


Isn’t this a lot of impact arguments/time to spend here? Yes it is, but if this is the crux of the debate you need to spend the time. You make that time available by collapsing other areas of the debate/going for less arguments-i.e. by making choices.


4. Refer to specific pieces of evidence- FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. I am not the only judge who is getting tired of getting handed 50 cards to read through and find the one that makes the warrant you are referencing. This is indicative of 2 things: people are reading too many repetitive cards, and people don’t know their evidence well enough. Don’t be one of these people- prep ahead of time/write blocks, or use your time during the debate to get together the most important cards /warrants and reference them.

5. Use CX effectively- stop using lines of questioning that can’t go anywhere. 2 things I have noticed recently fit this mold the most

-the ol read parts of their evidence in cx trick – no matter what it says, they aren’t going to agree with you on this. Reading the other teams evidence is a good way to set up a multi part question, or to setup an argument you want to make later in a speech. It’s not a good way to get the other team to concede.

-Don’t ask questions that are totally irrelevant to your strategy/the arguments you are going to make. Grilling the 1AC for 3 mn on their economy impact when you are going for consult Japan is a total waste of time no matter how brilliant your questioning was.






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