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If I mentioned the book of Ecclesiastes, what’s the first thing that would spring to your mind? For me, and I believe most others, your first thought would be Solomon’s famous words: vanity, vanity, all is vanity. This famous phrase is memorable for a reason: it’s short, simple, repeated throughout the book, and an excellent summary of Solomon’s main point. Because of this, it sticks in your mind, making it easy to remember the argument he was making. Hopefully, you see where I’m going with this. Having a “catchphrase” that sums up your case is an incredible tool to help judges remember your point.

Why They Work

Why are catchphrases so effective? Why are they something that you need to be doing every single round? Well, there’s a couple of main reasons

  1. They Stick

Catchphrases help because they stick in your judges’ mind. In a team policy debate round, a judge has to sit through more than an hour of speaking, and there’s no powerpoint slides for them to take home. As a result, they are going to remember barely anything that you said. What the judge writes down on the flow is the biggest thing that they will take out of the round… unless you use a catchphrase.

If you’re clever and have a short sentence that is either witty or thought provoking (“Mend it, don’t end it,” “Good intentions, bad result,” “No migrant left behind”), and you repeat it throughout the round, the judge will remember it. When they are filling out the ballot and trying to determine the winner, you won’t have to worry about them remembering every single argument or writing down your impacts. The judge should only have to think about the catchphrase for them to remember your main point.

Almost every company knows this trick, and they take advantage of it. We know what insurance company is there like a good neighbor, because they want us to remember. The fact that we can remember jingles from commercials that are years old is proof that our minds love to latch onto these little phrases.

2. They Summarize

Can you imagine how horrible it would be to judge a round where no one tagged their arguments? In a way, a negative or affirmative case with no clear idea is like an argument with no tag. Giving a tag or catchphrase isn’t a substitute for having an argument, it’s simply a way to condense the main idea into a single sentence that the judge can easily grasp.

Having a catchphrase removes the concern that the judge will misunderstand your point. When they understand your overarching narrative, they pay attention to see how each individual argument plays it’s part in that narrative. It eliminates the risk that they will perceive your arguments as conflicting.

Tips for an Effective Catchphrase

There’s a few ways you can improve the quality of your catchphrase and increase the likelihood of your judge remembering.

1. Make sure your catchphrase is catchy. Make it rhyme, make it an analogy, make it unique, make it powerful. These are all ways that you can increase the chance of the phrase “catching.”

2. Introduce it early. If you’re aff, make sure the phrase is somewhere in your 1AC. If you’re neg, it should be one of the first things to come out of your mouth in the 1NC. Remember, the catchphrase provides the foundation for your narrative. The sooner you present it, the sooner your judge has a roadmap.

3. Impact, impact, impact. Every single argument should be tied back to your big idea. This solidifies the phrase in your judges mind, and ensures that they understand how each argument ties in. If you’re starting to sound like a broken record, change up your wording a little. The important part is that your judge knows how your argument relates to your catchphrase, not that you say your catchphrase 600 times per speech.

Take this to heart, and I guarantee that it will show up in your ballots– it certainly did for me. Making your big idea crystal clear is unbelievably helpful for making you sound organized and put together. Hope this was helpful!

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