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The year- 2020. The tournament- A Regional District Qualifier(the last one before our season catapulted into nothingness.) The round- Finals.

 In the hours leading up to debate breaks for finals, the new National Research Labs case was in the forefront of my mind. If we broke- the chances of us hitting the case almost no one had even heard before were extremely high. I gathered all two arguments I could glean for us, and waited for the dreaded news. 

If I broke- I would be in Finals impromptu neg (unless a miracle occurred and the underdog novices took the win in the other Semis round.) If I didn’t break, well, I suppose I could live with that? It would be better than going Impromptu against one of the top teams in the region. 

The moment came and passed. Before I knew it I sat perched behind the black tablecloth of the official NCFCA Finals table. Time to panic. 

For nearly all sane debaters, debating with little to no evidence or arguments against a case is a daunting task. Impromptu neg is not for the faint of heart. In hopes of preparing all debaters for the likely inevitable future of this in-round disadvantage, I have prepared some go-to tips to avoid, and/or cope with this situation. 

Before Round:

  1. The Blind Mouse Gets the Crown

Practice going into a round blind. Don’t always ask for a 1AC before a practice round. You need practice. Getting comfortable with confronting the unknown in-round will build your ability to think quickly and still perform at a Finals-worthy level. This will soothe your nerves when preparing for a real tournament impromptu round, plus just boost your confidence that you CAN actually debate this way!!

  1. Those Who Read, Succeed

Yup. I have indeed resorted to childish rhymes. Research on the resolution, simply knowing about the organizations that might come up, recent bills up for a vote in Congress, and keeping your ear to the ground about new cases popping up around the nation are ways you can be ready for the unknown. Feed your mind with knowledge and you’ll get a huge payoff. With this background knowledge, you’ll be ready when the Aff team brings up the name of an organization. 

  1. Know Your Arsenal

Read all of the Negative evidence and arguments that you have collected before tournaments. Know your arsenal backwards and forwards so that you remember if something might apply to an argument you’re hearing in round. Collect your favorite generic arguments and Disadvantages in one place so you’re ready to peruse them and select one to use during your few moments of prep time. 

During Round:

  1. The Goal is to Meet your Goals

My tags get worse as we progress, but the good news is this point is still very valid. Set goals for each debate round. Will you use a new intro, make an analogy, try to make your partner laugh, use 3 pieces of evidence, use all your cross-ex time? Whatever it is, having a specific goal for the round will allow you to cross things off your improvement list and still feel successful even if you have a not-so-great impromptu neg round. 

  1. Don’t Worry, Be Happy

The key to impromptu neg is to remember not to panic! This is only a debate round, after all. We all need to take time to remember that every once in a while. Just because you’re impromptu neg doesn’t mean your chance to take the round is completely gone. 

In that Finals round in 2020, my partner and I ran a total of maybe 4 points. 2 of which were Topicality points. We nearly contradicted each other, and by the end all I was feeling was the desire for one hardcore nap session. Little did I know, I would soon be crossing the awards stage with my partner for 1st place Team Policy Debate Team. 

Although impromptu neg is intimidating, these tips will refine your preparation, and mindset, paving the way for, at the very least- a fun round full of personal improvement.

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