Last year, I wrote a post entitled Debate Team: What I’ll Do Better Next Year with advice for next year’s me. Well, I guess you can say that it worked, because when ISKL’s SEA Forensics Tournament came back around this year, our debate team won bronze!
Our entire school did really well–as a school we won 3rd place for participation overall, and most of us made it to semifinals if not the final rounds. I made Oral Interpretation finals (though I didn’t place, just like last year) and our very talented Solo and Duet actresses Lexi and Yzzy placed in their events! I’m so proud of how far we’ve all come as a team.
Ah, yes. Advice.
I’d better address some of the tips I gave last year, then move onto advice for the coming one.
I can get a couple points out of the way pretty easily: bring colorful pens and prepare for the crappiest topics first. Aight–first off, regular old pencils worked just fine for me this year. I actually didn’t use anything other than my 0.7 mechanical from Tesco, so that point’s a no-go. Also… it doesn’t really matter what order you prepare the topics in, so long as you have a good grasp on all of them by the time the competition rolls around.
Also, POIs. They were my weakest point last year, but I feel like I did a lot better this year. The only real way to get better at these is to 1) know your topics really well, and 2) practice with your team. Getting a feel for pointing out logical fallacies or defending your own points just takes time and practice.
Alright. Onto forensics advice for next year’s competition. 😀
1. Prep, prep, prep! It was an issue last year, and while we did a much better job this year, we still weren’t entirely on top of the ball. Hindsight is 20/20, and I can definitely see where we needed to do more planning. More Christmas Break work, more weekend Starbucks meetings, actually getting on Skype *coughAndrewcough*. We still ended up doing prep on the van ride down–though none of us actually minded–but it all turned out okay. Next year, though, we need to try not to cut it so close again (so as not to have a Politicians repeat.)
2. Stats, stats, stats! Another repeat point from last year, but oh-so-important! We had way more stats this year (special thanks to Malcolm Gladwell and the CIA World Factbook!) but once again–we could have had more. Applicable examples are crazy important, and they’ve consistently been a weak spot for our team over the years. We’ve gotten so much better at this–we’re quoting MIT studies and country GDPs!–but there’s always room for improvement.
3. Be confident (without banging on the table.) My teammates know this point is pretty much only for me–but when you get up to the podium, don’t be nervous… and at the same time, don’t just try to channel your inner fury and pound on the table, even if you’re trying to highlight the force of the word “demand”. (Ahem. Sorry about that, Hong Kong.) Nervous habits suck, and I’ve been known to get pretty sick before debates out of anxiety, but remember that your teammates have your back, and your opponent is merely a dissenting voice to the truth that you speak. I came out of this year’s competition with the ability to work under pressure and a bucket-load of confidence; and that has made all the difference in how I carry myself, at the podium and away from it.
4. Memorize contentions! I still can’t believe that we didn’t fully memorize our contentions the first year of debate. We just sort of went, “eh, we’ve got the main ideas down, we’ll just wing the specifics in the prep room.” This time around, we memorized each contention and quizzed each other on them regularly. Waiting for our topic in the prep room? Quick, what’re the three prop arguments for drugs? Sitting around the lunch table? Same thing. I can still list off most of our contentions, and it’s been a week or two since the competition! We did so much better by doing this; it’s non-negotiable for next year.
5. Use prep time wisely! I remember the prep time in 2015 going by quite fast, which is funny–this year, we’d be nearly done prepping, look up, and go, “oh, we still have like 20 minutes left!” It was great. One of the keys to this success was probably grabbing the quiet study rooms in the library instead of the tables outside–those were really nice–but a big thing I remember saying before the competition was, “we need to communicate better during prep,” and we did just that. When we prepped, we didn’t just stare at our separate papers and develop points ourselves–we bounced ideas off of each other, practiced our opening lines (well, I did, anyways), and played Devil’s Advocate to help each other get ready for the opposing team.
We also had two rituals at the end of every prep session: prayer and reciting a quote from The Great Debaters. Prayer gave us all God’s peace and strength; and the quote just made us feel like we could conquer the world!
Who is the judge?
The Judge is God.
Why is he God?
Because he decides who wins or loses, not my opponent.
Who is my opponent?
He doesn’t exist.
Why doesn’t he exist?
Because he is merely a dissenting voice to the truth that I speak.
Heck yeah. Still one of my favorite quotes to this day. 🙂
We had a great run this year, and I couldn’t be prouder of everyone. We worked our tails off, and boy, did it pay off. This team will always hold a special place in my heart, and our trip to ISKL this year was one full of memories I’ll always treasure. We’ve come so far–here’s to hoping we’ll go even farther, whether on the debate team or off into the wilderness of Texas. 😉
And if you’re a budding debater reading this for some advice, I have seven words for you: stay organized, stay logical, and stay awesome. Debate is a game–albeit a sometimes stressful one–and the best way to play it is with a clear head and some insatiable wit. Ignore the dissenting voices and go for it!