Treat your opponent with respect. Aside from that, what basic rules (do’s and don’ts) apply? This post applies to TP and LD specific rounds – but also to any debate style or format. Here is a simple starter list of things to be aware of. It is not a comprehensive guide, but rather a conversation starter.
Before the debate:
Do be well prepped on your subject. Do as much prep and research as time allows.
Do dress better than your opponent.
Do greet your opponent and wish them good luck. Smile and shake hands.
Do acknowledge and address your judge (or moderator), introduce yourself, and maybe shake hands.
Do look around the room and smile before you start your speech (briefly).
Do not feel bad to make small talk with your judge(moderator) or opponent if things are running behind schedule.
Do have all your materials and notes easily accessible in case you need to search through them.
During the Debate:
Do refer to your opponent respectfully. EX. “My opponent” “My honorable interlocutor.” In certain cases, using their name is ok, as it shows you are familiar with them.
Do look at the person currently speaking, and look engaged, or pretend to be engaged.
Do not attack your opponents or make comments about their appearance, personality, or style.
Do not converse with your opponent during the debate round, unless it is during cross-examination, an announcement of prep time, or exchange of evidence. This is not a hard rule, but rather a suggestion.
Do not use your phone.
Do not fall asleep (I have seen this happen before).
Do not commit ad hominem, by attacking your opponent’s character or name calling.
Do not misquote evidence (by using words your sources didn’t). Summarizing, explanation or paraphrasing is ok.
After the Debate
Do shake your opponent’s hands, and tell them “good job” or “great debate”
Do shake your judges(moderator’s) hand, and tell them thank you.
Do look engaged and make eye contact if your judge gives you feedback.
Do hide your emotion after the debate, until you are sufficiently distanced from your opponent.
Do not blame the judge or the audience if you lose a hard round.
Do not verbalize or threaten adjudication if rules have been violated, simply walk over and present your issue to the adjudication authority or tournament director after the round has concluded.
Do not take your opponent to adjudication based on perceived slights or regional standards. Only bring an issue to adjudication when it has violated the rules as laid out by the league.
This list is by no means comprehensive, and when debating competitively, make sure to adhere to that league’s guidelines and standards. Otherwise, have fun, and make sure to treat your opponent as respectfully as you can.
Have any you’d like to add or take issue with? Comment down below, or email us if you have questions regarding specific leagues or debate styles.
- Ethos Team
i am cool
In a debate that is allowed to go to-and-fro, i.e. A, B, A, B and so on, if A believes that B has said untrue things, is it acceptable for A to accuse B of ‘telling lies’, whilst NOT suggesting that B is ‘a liar’?
David, I think person A would definitely need to be careful about accusing the opponent of “lying” in a round simply because A thinks that they’ve said untrue things. In general I think the words “lying” and “liar” are really charged since they typically imply a degree of intent (e.g., “you knew what you were saying was false, but you said it anyway with the intent to cause people to believe something false”), and since you can’t typically know someone’s intent it’s generally better to avoid those terms—especially in a debate round. Additionally, this only applies in cases where something is clearly false (e.g., misquoting a source, saying you dropped an argument which you very clearly responded to), NOT “they said their plan would solve but that is false for these three reasons” (which may be the whole point in contention).
That being said, it might be reasonable/acceptable to say that someone was “very negligent or careless with regards to the truth” in certain circumstances. For example, I once faced a team running a case to export natural gas. Their plan mandate only approved export applications that designated a specific country as the recipient. However, I pointed out that they had no evidence showing that the applications do not designate recipient countries, and I brought up some quotes from sources that (indirectly) seemed to indicate that recipient countries were not designated on applications. After the round I found sources that more-explicitly stated this, yet in a round at the next tournament the team still had not changed their plan and made the same flawed arguments that they had previously made against us against a novice team.