Every region has “that one team.” That one team that, when you see their name on postings next to yours, makes your heart sink a bit. No, we’re not talking about the team that goes 6-0 and wins the tournament every time, we’re talking about the one that, yes, may make for a difficult opponent, but also sure is annoying as heck to debate. Their speeches (especially on neg) tend to go something like this:
“…sub-point D under this point I’d like you to write down as ‘no solvency,’ and under this sub-point we’ll be having three sub-sub-points, the first of which is sub-sub-point 1, no advocacy…”
It’s at moments like these when one begins to contemplate the benefits of the Swiss Gambit. However, I’ve come to the realization that maybe it’s time we took a step back. Maybe it’s time that we reconsider why we hate these teams that seemingly overstructure their speeches to an absurd degree. Is it because we’re annoyed with all their sub-points? Or is it really because we’re annoyed at the possibility of losing, as always? Most would agree that there’s nothing wrong with using sub-points from time to time, but they would also argue that they make one’s speech seem very stilted and therefore should generally be avoided, and I too held this view at one time. *Switches into debater mode* Today, however, we’ll be exploring the merits of the sub-point gospel through two main points, the first of which is
Advantage 1: Increased speaker points
We’ll be examining this in two subpoints (you may laugh now), starting with
Sub-point A: Organization
Nothing screams “organized” like a well-composed outline, and subpoints help with this. Put yourself in the judge’s shoes: if a debater is consistently double-tagging in addition to having a remarkably well thought out speech structure (as facilitated by sub-points), is there any reason at all you wouldn’t give them a 5? As long as they weren’t dropping evidence on the floor or committing some other similar mistake, the obvious answer is no. Subpoints give off the impression that you know what you’re doing, and judges pick up on this. But even more significant is
Sub-point B: Persuasiveness
Whether you’re competing in debate or quite literally any other forensics event (aside from interps), any old-timer will tell you that you should roadmap your speeches and then come back to that roadmap at the end. In most events, this isn’t too hard; in impromptu, for example, you might say something like, “The topic I’ve drawn today is Shrek, and I’ll be exploring this idea through three main points today: first, the movie, second, pop culture, and third, its legacy.” In debate, it’s not so clear cut. If you have, for example, six arguments you want to get across in a 1NC, the roadmap is going to be difficult; beginning a speech by saying that you’ll “first be covering how the plan is about to be passed, second at how the economic harm is insignificant, third at how the aff plan has insufficient funding, fourth at how other laws prevent the plan from being passed, fifth at how the environmental advantage doesn’t come about, and sixth at how the plan harms national security” will almost certainly cause your judge to fall asleep, throw their pen at you, or both. Recognizing this issue, many have turned to the generic “I’ll be going down the flow of the 1AC” outline, which, as Patrick covered here comes with its own set of problems. However, if you restructure that same speech with, say, two main points (using elements of the burden of proof works well), each with two or three subpoints, roadmapping becomes infinitely easier, as does tying back that roadmap at the end of the speech. But not only do sub-points increase your speaker points, they also increase your win rate, as seen in
Advantage 2: More ballots
By default, most debaters are going to deal with arguments containing multiple sub-points by grouping all the sub-points into a single response, which at first glance certainly makes sense; knocking out two birds with one stone saves time and preserves clarity. And in many instances, grouping certainly is the way to go. However, assuming that each of your sub-points could theoretically stand as its own independent argument, opposing teams will fail to respond to the specific analysis in each sub-point, allowing you to pull across that uncontested logic in the last rebuttal.
In short, there’s a reason that we all get annoyed when we’re paired against that one team that’s addicted to sub-points. But if you can learn to use their own weapon against both them and other debaters, I firmly believe that you’ll see both your speaker points and win rate increase.
Hope you guys found this helpful!