For more articles on organization, check out this list: http://debate.potentspeaking.com/category/organization/
Organization is important for these reasons:
1. It helps the judge to understand your arguments and how they tie in with the opposing team’s arguments.
2. It improves the judge’s flow, meaning when they review the round afterwards your speeches will stick out.
3. It helps the judge to pay attention. They’re more likely to listen if they frequently have something clear to write down and have numbered points to follow than if you just ramble.
Here are a few ways to get more organized.
1. Road maps
A road map is when you tell the judge what to expect in your speech.
Although beginners will often give a road map as their introduction, it’s generally better to give it right after a solid introduction. What that means is, don’t start with “In this speech we will be discussing [x]”. Instead, give a good intro and then tell the judge what you’ll be talking about.
While some debaters take the time to list every argument they will go through, this can be a waste of time. The judge isn’t going to be able to listen to a list of argument tags and say “oh, okay, I know what arguments are coming up”. Instead, just tell them something like how many arguments you’ll run, or what kinds of arguments you’ll run.
Ex 1: “We’ll be discussing three disadvantages to the affirmative case.”
Ex 2: “I’ll be going through four points in the next couple of minutes.”
Ex 3: “I’ll address some of the arguments in the last speech and bring up two of my own. My partner will respond to the rest of the affirmative arguments.”
2. Sign posting
Sign posting is the practice of telling the judge where you are in the speech, usually by pointing out which argument you’re on or what number response you’re on.
If a road map tells the judge where you’re going, sign posting tells the judge where you are at the moment.
If a pastor gives a sermon that has a handout with blanks to fill but doesn’t make it clear what goes in the blanks is practicing bad sign posting. If you’ve been the victim of this situation, then you know what it’s like to be a judge when the debater isn’t sign posting properly. 🙂
Sign post whenever you’re moving on to a different argument, or response within an argument.
Ex 1: “My first argument is Increased Politicization. You can write that down as point 1. Increased Politicization.”
Ex 2: “Let’s move on to the next point, which is that the affirmative team can’t solve this issue. You can label this point as ‘No Solution’.”
3. Four point refutation
Four point refutation is the basic framework for how you should respond to arguments in debate. The four points are:
Identify – Say what argument you’re going to respond to
Tag – Summarize your response in a simple tag that can be written down easily
Support – Provide evidence or logic that explains and bolsters your argument
Impact – Tell the judge why this argument matters
Following this structure carefully will make you much, much easier to follow.
While the framework sounds a bit stiff, it really isn’t when you actually put words around it.
Example (Obviously, leave out the bold part, that’s just for the purpose of showing you which part is which):
“IDENTIFY: In their last speech, the affirmative team said that [name] advocates their plan. TAG: But in reality, they are only using partial advocacy. SUPPORT: [read the supposed aff advocacy]. As you can see, this evidence actually includes a second part that the affirmative team left out. Their advocate also says they should do [something else]. So they don’t actually have an advocate for their specific plan. IMPACT: This is important because the affirmative plan is highly complex, and they’re leaving out part of the expert’s idea. Without this second part, the plan is highly liable to fall apart, meaning serious consequences for our country.
4. Response numbering
When you have multiple logical responses to an argument, number them so that the judge can follow you.
Some people like to tell the judge up front that they have [x] number of responses to an argument, but I take issue with this in certain circumstances. For some debaters, it can be hard to make sure they give all of the responses they promise to. Maybe they are taking too long and need to drop one response, or they accidentally covered two responses in one.
In those cases, you’ve now promised the judge something you can’t deliver, and it has the “wait, what blank do I fill!?” effect.
That’s why I try not to tell the judge the exact number of responses to expect. I might say “I have several responses” or “I have a couple of responses to that”. Sometimes, I just say “My first response is” and just start.
Whichever way you choose to go, make sure you label your responses. If you give two responses without individually labeling each one, the judge will likely only remember one of them (or neither of them).
5. Flow is everything
Your flow helps keep you organized and remind you what to say. The object of a good flow is to be easy for you to use, and easy for the judge to replicate.
You want the judge’s flow to look like yours, + some extra notes that they decide to write for their own purposes.
To accomplish that, you need to keep a good flow.
If you want some tips on flowing, look for the flowing section of this article.
6. Keep it tidy
Sometimes the disorganization doesn’t come from you, but comes from the other team.
If the other team is disorganized, it can be hard to keep your own speeches tidy.
To do so, you need to be willing to reorganize arguments into your own structure. If the other team didn’t give clear tags or sign post, assign tags to their arguments and respond to those in your speech. The judge will love you.
In a 1AR, you need to be able to clump arguments together and address multiple arguments at a time. Make sure to tidy up the flow when you do so.
In some other situations, individual arguments will get bloated and disorganized. It becomes a “he said” she said” storm of words and evidence, and can be hard to follow. When that happens, just start over. Remind the judge what the basic argument is, and tell them 1-3 things they need to know about your response. Don’t go down the rabbit hole.
Enjoy and stay organized!