Have you ever witnessed a round where you can practically feel the mic-drop potential after the last speech? That’s what every single round should be like. You should be able to step away and say with a confident smile, “I rest my case.”
The balance of defending and also representing your side in a 2AR or 2NR is nearly impossible to nail. The good news is, it’s definitely not impossible and is a super fun thing to work with!
The first thing I think a lot of people forget about is that you need to have a mantra for each round. (Some people might call this a thesis, but I decided to rename it because it’s cooler.) This is going to be the judge’s mini roadmap to the arguments on their flow. You’ll want to establish whatever your mantra is super early in the round. Most Aff teams include some sort of thesis statement in the 1AC, eg. Whichever team best upholds Justice, or We want to prevent such-and-such rather than reacting. However, more than half the time this mantra dies out even before the 1AR, without a single attempt to bring it back in the last speech of the round. That is what I would confidently label a missed opportunity. As far as Negative mantras go, some of the best I’ve heard go like this; The current system addresses the problem better than the proposed plan, the plan is fundamentally flawed and Unconstitutional, even setting forward an alternative goal could be a Negative mantra. Every round naturally develops its own track based on an Aff or Neg mantra. The key is to state this course for the judge and then point back to it at the end to help you dissect the events of the round. Whatever your thesis may be, don’t forget to identify it in the 1AC or 1NC (even in the 2NC or 2AC wouldn’t be too late!), and then reintroduce it in the last speech.
- Reduce and Respond
Otherwise known as the art of the “Clump and Dump” most people are familiar with this step, but lots of them struggle with the execution. Throughout the round, you need to be asking yourself the question, “What does my team need to prove/say/do right now to win the round?” Answering this question requires that you’re very carefully noting the other team’s arguments and can identify whether or not they’ve responded, as well as knowing if you even provided a good argument in the first place. This is a tricky step because it often requires just reading your judge’s mind. What will they find most important in the round? Of course, this can often be unpredictable, which is why it requires practice, but ultimately if you can identify the crux issues in debates it will help you respond adequately only to the things you need to, and then be able to properly dissect the round.
- Dissecting the Round
After a long couple of days of judging, and sitting through your entire debate round, hopefully clinging to your every word, judges are extremely exhausted, so dissecting and diagnosing the round for them will be your best chance of winning. This is also your chance to show off just how much you were listening and flowing throughout the rest of the round. Dissecting the round can also be described as tracking arguments through speeches, and then tagging on one last response to sway it to your side. It’s what an experienced judge with enough time on their hands would do in the Reason for Decision box at the bottom of their ballot. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t be wasting 4 minutes of your Rebuttal just tracking arguments, but especially if there was a contested Fact from your 1AC, the other team has failed to give an adequate response, or perhaps they dropped the argument altogether, this is where you should mention it to the judge. A few very short sentences will do the trick here, and then don’t forget to bring it all back around to your mantra!
- Rehash your Strengths
Either while you dissect the round, or right after, you’ll want to restate some of your strongest points from your 1AC/1NC. You know the ones I’m talking about, the statistics about significance, that one super credible Advocate. Whatever it is, know your strengths and be sure to a) use them in the round and b) ensure your judge remembers them in your last speech. This will go a long way in your responses, especially if there has been a lot of clash about significance, but you think you’ve brought up everything you need to.
A quick warning here: Don’t spend all of your speech rereading evidence or explaining once again what everything said. Restate the author, the point they were making, or a key phrase they introduced, and quickly move on. Give your judges just enough to grasp and remember what you have already said.
- Bring it Right Around
The last step is just to strengthen your position as much as possible by bringing up Voting Issues. These arguments will rely on the arguments you identified as most important for your case. This is where you will probably bring up your mantra again. Be sure these really are crucial issues. Impact them all the way. Craft catchy tags to help them stick in your judge’s mind. Have fun, and then rest your case.
Overall, these tips will help you realign your strategy for the last two speeches of the round. With Nationals coming up soon, practice identifying the crucial issues of rounds, either by doing practice rounds yourself, judging other’s practice rounds, or watching past debates on Youtube. Finish every round as if it was the best round you’ve ever participated in because at the end of the day, one good closing speech could sway the entire round.