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Thaddeus TagueWhat exactly is the 1AR? Take a second to think. Before you can learn how to use it to win, you must first understand what the 1AR truly is. Is it the most important speech in the round? Is it the compensation for Aff’s right to be the first and last word in the round? There are numerous questions to ask, and only a few of them will be answered here. The 1AR is quite frankly the most undervalued and under appreciated speech in the round. No one speech is necessarily the “most important” speech in the round. I have seen judges vote based on almost any speech in the round, provided it was and excellent and persuasive speech.

The 1AR is a very winnable speech. I might add, “at a regular pace” to the end of that last sentence. 13 minutes of neg material should not be an extremely hard challenge after you have applied what we give you. Some of the best speeches ever, have been quite short. Think Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. It was over before some people in the crowd had known it began. A witty one liner, and single persuasive response can overcome a mountain of sub points. So without further ado, let us talk about what creates a Glorious 1AR.

1) Word economy. Saying more with less.

This is among the one of the biggest pieces of advice you will receive anywhere, as a speaker, debater, public presenter et…You should be able to respond and rebuild with a quarter of the words your opponent uses. Delete verbal fillers from your speaking patters ( um, uh, like, just, that, hmm, etc…) Make sure you speak in full sentences without using these words to help you. Boost your vocabulary. You will find many things that express what you want to say, in a single word.


2) Clump and Dump

In 13 minutes, it is hard to find ALL unique points. The Neg will crossover sometime, and when they do, you have the chance to clump arguments and respond to them as a group. Saves you time and words. Many times, neg teams will have several points that all lead to the same impact. Disprove the impact, or prove an alternate and less harmful one and neg just wasted time putting all their arguments behind one single inference or impact.

3) Agreement

Many times a winning debate is not about the disagreement, but rather about the agreement. Judges like to see commonalities, and in reality, both sides share many assumptions. It assures them of cordiality in the round, and it shows that you the debater are taking steps to understand your opponent, not just beat them. In the 1AR, concede a few of the lesser important arguments. You can agree to them, or just plain tell the judge that you will not be responding to them. Make sure to follow up and say you outweigh on a net beneficial scale, or simply that you don’t have time.

4) Link the 1AR to the 1AC.

Technically, you should have your best evidence in the 1AC. So link your 1AR responses back to un-responded to material in the 1AC. Remind your judge of the criterion or the goal. If you run a background/justification case, then the entire 1AR can be a huge weighing match between your justification and their impacts. Pull through the WARRANTS in your 1AC. Don’t just pull through the evidence, but pull through the material reasons for why your evidence is true, and why it proves your right at the end of the day.

5) Do not be overly passionate

Steven Johnson, a very effective and successful college debate coach says this about hard speeches

“There’s something to be said for the credibility of those who appear nonpartisan in a heated conflict. These people, be they impartial third parties, objective expert witnesses, or neutral bystanders, are those to whom we turn when we want the actual truth in a situation sorely lack “unspun” positions. In much the same way, adjudicators are aware of the effect of partisanship on the arguments debaters make: they know that debaters will often say what they must to win a round. They realize that debaters are trained to make even questionable positions sound compelling. And as such, they are necessarily (and correctly) suspicious of the quality of any debater’s arguments. Successful debaters may overcome this inherent suspicion by presenting arguments that appear more objective than positional. By presenting the foundation of a controversial argument in a point separated from that argument, these positions can give the appearance of objectivity to the analysis and, therefore, make the argument more credible.

Moreover, by acknowledging that a particular piece of evidence may be interpreted in ways both favorable to and contrary to your position, you may deflect some of the adjudicators’ natural suspicion of that argument, not to mention undercutting your opponents by being the first to point out a possible alternate interpretation. In short, rather than attempting to hide from anticipated opposition attacks, and thereby appearing scared of, ignorant of, or unwilling to face such attacks, you can gain in a debate by acknowledging the other side of the issue. This principle also applies to your conduct and demeanor in a round. Far from the raging demagogue persona most people associate with successful debaters, winning debaters frequently benefit from adoption of a more cool, detached style.”

The 1AR has the biggest temptation to go fast, and get heated. Be calm, collected, and use your good word economy to defeat your opponents arguments

6) Be simplistic

The 1AR should be simple. A lot your time well, dont dwell on one issue too much, and make your responses very simple, witty, and well supported. A simple 1AR is a 1AR that is very well understood. Good debaters understand that in order to get complex ideas across, you need to simplify them. Same with the 1AR, in order to cover a lot of ground and in order to discuss a lot of material, you need to make it simplistic. It is more persuasive that way.

Thaddeus Tague is a Patrick Henry College debater with a long track record of success in highschool forensics, including a 1st place in persuasive speaking and many debate awards. In February 2015, he won the American Enterprise Institute parliamentary debate tournament.

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