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I just got back last week from the first annual National Invitational Tournament of Champions (aka NITOC). Since it was a national tournament, I had the opportunity to watch & debate several excellent teams who will also be going to the NCFCA national championship. With that in mind, I think it’s fair to generalize that mistakes debaters at NITOC make are also common at NCFCA nats. One such mistake is nonstrategic use of prep time.

Debaters often make the assumption that their prep time belongs exclusively to them. It doesn’t. A good affirmative team can often take advantage of neg prep time, especially during the neg block. Consider this situation: after the C-X of the 2AC, the 2N immediately stands up & gives the speech he/she has been prepping during the previous speeches. The 1N is very meticulous & flows the 2NC, so by the time the C-X of the 2NC is over, the 1N isn’t ready to speak, & the neg uses another 1-2 minutes of prep. No big deal right?

Wrong. During those 1-2 minutes, not only is the 1N prepping, but the 1A is also able to use that time to prep against the 2NC arguments. It’s important to realize that every minute of prep you use before the 1NR is a minute of prep that you’re giving to the aff.

I’m speaking from experience here. As the 1A I secretly whisper a big thank you to the neg whenever this happens. On numerous occasions I’ve been able to get up after the neg block without using any prep time & give a full 1AR, as a result of this mistake.

So what’s the solution? Partner communication. If you’re the 2N, instead of rushing up to give your constructive, ask your partner if he/she’s going to need prep time for the 1NR, & if so use it before the 2NC. Aff won’t be able to take advantage of it because they’ve just given a speech & have nothing to prep for at this point.

At the national level, you need to act strategically, & part of that is effective use of prep time. It may seem like a small part of the debate (only 10 minutes total) but it can have a major effect. Use it to your advantage, not the other team’s.

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