It is possible to prepare with the wrong goal in mind, resulting in a disastrous round.
The kid in the picture is probably more likely to drown with so many encumbrances, when he could have just used a couple of floaties.
So what does it mean to be over-prepared, and why is it bad?
Some cases are big. There are a lot of arguments that could be run, perhaps many that even conflict with each other.
You can always find enough arguments on a case that you’ll have to choose between them.
That becomes a problem when you get into the round and pull out your massive negative brief. What points are you planning to run? If you haven’t decided a cohesive strategy ahead of time, your preparation might end up hurting you.If you don't have a cohesive strategy, your preparation might end up hurting you. Click To Tweet
I’ve seen teams lose rounds simply because they prepared so well against a case that they stumbled over their words trying to say everything they had thought about.
They would end up ranting, because their brain was making connections between all the thoughts and arguments they had brainstormed against the case, and the judge ended up getting confused.
In fact, I’ve been in that boat myself.
Even worse, some teams will get into the round and run contradicting arguments, because they had a lot of arguments but not a well-planned strategy or position.
Being over prepared looks like this:
How to avoid it
As you can see, preparation itself isn’t really the problem. It’s just the wrong type of preparation, combined with the false sense of security that you’re prepared.
1. When you write your briefs, make a one page strategy sheet.
Note: For an example one page strategy sheet, look at page 5 and 6 of this file.
A one page strategy sheet is a detailed plan for approaching an affirmative case. A good one page strategy sheet will:
- Include a section for the 1NC and the 2NC, planning out both speeches.
- Include the specific arguments, numbered in order, that each speech should bring up.
- Include indications of what specific evidence should be read. (This is why I like automatic numbering in briefs, so I can refer to the cards by number).
- Include catchphrases or rhetoric ideas that can be used in the speech.
- Include a general theme for the speech to follow (eg. “Aff case is ineffective”). This doesn’t have to be something you say out loud to the judge, just a simple summary of what the speech should convince the judge of.
- Be short enough to fit in one page… duh.
- Have key words or things to remember in bold. I personally like to include just enough bold stuff so that if someone were to read it in the middle of a heated round, they could get everything important by just reading the bold parts.
This is not the part of the brief to write “strategy notes”, or explain the argument/cards. It’s a minimal representation of exactly what should be run in each speech.
The end goal of a one page strategy sheet is to give the reader a clear blueprint for the round. If done correctly, someone who has never read your brief before can pick it up, look at the strategy sheet and read the cards ahead of time, and give a 1NC without any prep time.
That is the #1 thing you can do to prepare for a negative round.
2. Don’t settle for anything less.
Your brain is wired to make excuses.
You’ll rationalize, “well this team isn’t very good” or “this case is easy to take down, we’ve beat it three times now.”
Good luck being a champion with that attitude.
There is no exception—always have a planned strategy.There is no exception—always have a planned strategy. Click To Tweet
3. Have realistic expectations.
Sometimes when you research against a case, it’s easy to get caught up in how bad it seems to be.
Keep in mind, you’re only reading one side.
Are you aware of what kind of evidence and arguments the affirmative team has at their disposal?
If so, are you ready to swat down any of those arguments?
It can be easy to plan out a strategy while thinking about a weaker version of the case that you made up in your head, then have an unpleasant surprise waiting for you when the team is actually very effective.Research both sides of each case, not just the negative side. Click To Tweet
4. Use a spreadsheet
The easiest way to prepare for a big tournament is to make a spreadsheet of all the teams going, and their cases.
If you don’t have a list of cases already, make one. The club I was part of would always write down the cases/teams they hit and then we’d collaborate and make a case list.
Before Nationals, there’s usually a national case list that shows all the teams’ cases. It’s not 100% reliable, but it’s better than nothing.
Once you have a spreadsheet with the team name and case name, categorize with color or order to make it easier to manage. For example, I’d have different shades of, say, red for threat, green for in progress/partially done, and blue for done. Then maybe no color for those that I had already printed.
The point isn’t necessarily in the details, the idea is just to have a way of keeping track of all the teams and cases and keeping yourself accountable to having a one page strategy against every case.
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