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Before the debate season began last summer, I informed my partner there was one item I could not debate without. I had to have my Pilot G2 Gel Pens.  As quirky as it sounds, there was something comforting about having my pens lined up neatly next to my flowpad. I always felt that I could handle anything in a round as long as I had those pens.

As a debater, I found other things to help me improve my debate rounds besides my trusty pens. These things couldn’t be bought at a Staples store; they had to be learned and practiced. Now, I want to share them with you. I can’t promise that by following them you’ll win every debate, but I can say that they will help you refine your round and become a better debater.

  1. Understand the Resolution

Having a solid understanding of the resolution is an invaluable asset in any debate round. No matter what case comes up, or what questions are asked, having a comprehensive knowledge of the resolution will boost your confidence and increase your credibility with the judge. One way I liked to do this was by reading all the books I could find on the subject at my local library. I also created a folder for significant details, important facts, and general statistics about the resolution. Having these on hand during the rounds made me look more prepared and improved my argumentation. Although it may require some initial time to gain a thorough knowledge of the resolution, it will be well worth your effort.

  1. Keep Things Organized

There is nothing quite so stressful and frustrating as knowing you have a brief against a case, and not knowing where it may be hiding in the deep recesses of your debate box. Work out a system of organization with your partner so that you both understand where everything is. I also found it helpful to review my briefs before a tournament so I was familiar with what I had. Knowing what you have, and where it is, will help you be confident and at ease during the round.

  1. Maintain Partner Communication

Team Policy debate is, not surprisingly, a team effort, and it’s important to communicate with your partner throughout the round. A unified team looks both polished and professional, and it will also have deeper, more cohesive argumentation. For my partner and I, we always found it easiest to use sticky notes to keep that level of communication open. However you choose to do it, making partner communication a top priority will result in a much smoother and more successful round.

  1. Stay Calm (and carry breath mints)

You can do all of these things perfectly, and stuff you don’t expect will still happen. You hit a squirrel case you’ve never heard before. You lose your voice in the middle of the round. The judge falls asleep during your speech. Your timer thought you were giving a rebuttal instead of a constructive and only gave you five minutes. The building next to yours decides that cross-examination is a perfect time for a fire drill. In situations like these, it can be easy to let nerves affect your communication and your focus. Instead, take a deep breath, and remember that panicking won’t help you. Debate can be unpredictable, and staying calm in unexpected situations shows that you have the maturity and poise to handle anything that comes your way.

So there you have it. From one debater to another, these four things are what I’ve found to be most helpful in refining my round and improving my game. These, and some G2 gel pens.

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