How and why
Depending on what you choose to compliment, you can get several benefits.
1. The judge will probably like you
This is pretty obvious, but judges like nice people. Not fake people, but nice people. Bias is impossible to fully remove, and if the judge likes you, you’re on the right track.
2. You identify and destroy the opponent’s advantage
If your opponent has something they do much better than yourself, it can be hard to figure out how to beat them. If they’re just a better speaker, how can you possibly convince the judge?
If you compliment whatever they’re doing right, but then redirect the judge to what you are doing right, it helps the judge to realize the importance of what you’re doing.
3. It makes the round more fun
When both teams are courteous but firm, the round is much better. Very few people enjoy heated debate rounds in which both teams are at each others throats.
There are pretty obvious benefits to compliments. But the main one I want to point you to is benefit #2: you identify and destroy the opponent’s advantage.
I think the best use for compliments is to guide the judge to prefer you over the other team.
If the other team is better at speaking than you are, you might want to make it clear to the judge that speaking is not the most important thing. I used this against the team Funkhouser/Sefzik (the favorite to win Nationals that year in the NCFCA).
“Throughout this round it has become clear that the affirmative team is consisted of two very effective communicators. Ryan and Samuel are particularly persuasive and good at speaking. However, I want you to take a glance at your ballot. On there you see two sections: speaker points, and checkboxes for who won the round. These are separate for a reason: you decide who is the better speaker and who actually won the rounds separately.
So although the affirmative team is very good at speaking, I request that you review the points that have been brought forth so far. We’ve provided more solid evidence and logic to back up our points…” etc.
This shows kindness to the other team, while also reminding the judge that they should vote for who wins the arguments.
If the other team has a particularly good piece of evidence that defies logic…
“I applaud the negative team for their research ability in finding this quote. It truly sounds like a great piece of evidence that proves their point.
However, I want to remind you to think through the logic for yourself. Ask yourself: does this evidence actually make sense? Not only have we provided numerous sources to contradict their one source, our side also has the most logical explanation.” etc.
Compliments are a great way of identifying what the other team is doing that might make the judge vote for them—then showing the judge why it’s not as important as they think.
I tend to compliment teams once a round or more, that’s how often I use it.
Just remember not to be fake!