One of the best ways to be memorable is to have a permanent record of the great things you said in the judge’s hands. Not only are you trying to persuade the judge, you’re trying to get their notes to look like yours. I’ll keep it simple: here’s how to get your judge to write down stuff.
1. Glance down at their paper
I find this tip really cool because I found it out accidentally, and because it’s basically a Jedi mind trick.
If you are saying the tag of an argument and the judge is staring at you, make meaningful eye contact and then look down briefly at their notepaper. They will usually follow your eyes and see the paper, then realize they should write down what you are saying.
It works extremely well, and you don’t even have to interrupt what you’re saying or doing to get them to write down this way.
2. Tell them to write it down
If glancing at their paper doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to suggest that they write it down.
Here are a few example phrases you can use.
- “My next point is that [insert tag]. You can write that down as [give small tag for writing down].”
- “This next point is extremely important, so go ahead and write it down. [insert tag]”
- “[insert tag] … (you notice they haven’t written it down) and you can write that down, since it will be an important point in this round.”
- “I will have three major points for you to write down throughout this speech… the first of which is [insert tag]”
- “Go ahead and write this in big letters because it’s the main point I want to bring everything back to.”
As you can see, there are many tactful ways to get the judge to write stuff.
Just don’t do this if they don’t even have any paper or a pen. It will hurt your rapport with the judge since they probably won’t dig around for a pen, and this means they in effect said “no” to you. Bad place to be.
3. Repeat your tags slowly
I find that judges will usually write a tag down if you repeat the tag. Why else would you repeat it if they weren’t expected to write it down?
If you combine this with glancing down at their paper, 90% of judges will write your important words down.
- Keep your tags really short. Four words is the absolute maximum in most instances, with 2-3 preferable. Instead of “Iran will close the strait of hormuz”, say “Oil Catastrophe”.
- This is a subject for another post about using power words, but notice how much better the tag “Oil Catastrophe” is. If you use memorable tags, the judge is more likely to write them down. But even more importantly, it will stick out on their flow when they re-read it later. If all they remember about the argument is that tag, you want them to remember how good your argument was.
- Make sure you argue in points. I have seen some debaters that are so focused on rhetoric that they forget to organize themselves. They often win debate rounds because they’re convincing, but they would be so much better if the judge could actually flow their speeches.
- Don’t use brief/sourcebook tags by default. Hint: sourcebooks are kind of bad most of the time. Also, even if it’s not a bad sourcebook, those tags are often written for you to find the evidence you want. It’s not written to be read out-loud.
- If you think your judge got a much better flow of your speeches than the other team’s, and your tags are better, you can point them to their flow at the end of the round. Something like this will suffice as negative: “The affirmative team has one last speech now, where they’ll try to convince you that [insert something]. I invite you to look back at your notes when making your decision and you will see that our points still stand.”
- Don’t call their sheet a flow. They don’t know what on earth a flow is.
- Don’t say “you can flow this as”
- In fact just pretend the word flow in the context of debate doesn’t exist when in-round.
Judges rarely have their mind made up at the end of a round. They will pore over their notes in the judging room while eating tasty treats that you don’t get because you’re a measly competitor.
And if you win the battle for their notes, you might just win the round.
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