British Parliamentary Debate Competitions - Top 5 Effective Prepping Tips (Part II)

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike
British Parliamentary Debate Competitions - Top 5 Effective Prepping Tips (Part II)

In part one of this article, you learned that to use your prep time in BP effectively, you need to read the motion carefully, identify your burdens and the comparative, and select your key arguments strategically. Let’s take a look at steps four and five of prep time.

Step 4: Discuss with Your Partner

The fourth step is discussing these points with your partner. Ideally step number three, identifying arguments, and step number four, discussing with your partner, should happen at the same time. Both you and your partner should be building arguments together, and writing them down as you share your thoughts. When you share your arguments, be concise and specific. What, exactly, are you suggesting that your team should argue in the debate? Make sure that your claim is clear and distinct from your reasoning, and that you have reasons and impacts for each argument. If you don’t have all of these parts, keep discussing them until you have a fully-developed argument. After this discussion, you and your partner should “filter” the arguments. Filtering is quick, and based on common sense. You can ask yourself these questions:

· Would this make sense and be persuasive to an average person?

· Is the case based on a controversy or some niche facts? If so, it may not be persuasive to a judge.

· Is there a single line of rebuttal or a POI that could defeat the case?

· Are you wasting time making arguments about things that the other team will agree with?

Remember, just because an argument can be rebutted doesn’t mean that it’s not worth running. However, if you’re answering “yes” to one or more of the questions that we just discussed, then that’s an alarm bell that a particular argument may not be your strongest. Building and filtering arguments should take four to seven minutes if you are in Opening, and longer if you are in Closing, as you want to come up with many ideas, rather than merely developing three arguments fully. If you are in the second half of the debate, you should consider a fifth question:

· Are these arguments likely to be made in the first half? If so, can we find ways to analyze them more deeply? And how can we find new clashes to cover?

If you think that an argument is extremely likely to be made by your Opening team, you should try to focus on developing other arguments instead – but don’t completely toss the idea away, just in case your Opening doesn’t run it at all! If you do choose to stick with an argument that you think your Opening will run, make sure in prep time to think about what the Opening team will likely miss in the analysis, where the case will be attacked by the other side, and where you can build upon it.

Remember, unless you do a significantly better job than your Opening on the argument, it’s unlikely that you’ll beat them!

Step 5: Write the Case

The fifth and final step in preparation time is to write the case. This means taking the discussion you had and making sure that it’s clearly separated into distinct arguments with reasoning and impacts. There are some useful tips that you can use for case writing. First, make sure that your notes are clear. You should put different arguments on different sheets of paper to make it easier to transition and fully finish each argument. Second, you can use shorthand and abbreviations to save time writing. There’s no need to write your speech word-for-word once you understand your own notes. For Opening, you can use your remaining time at this stage, but if you took better notes during the discussion, you may need less time. If you have spare time, continue to develop the arguments as much as you can, and try to identify what your opponents will say, and how you could respond to it.

However, if you are in Closing, you should not be writing the case in the same level of detail. Instead, you should be continuing to generate as many ideas as possible. Think about different stakeholders, principles, timeframes, or any other way that could make your arguments unique. Don’t get too attached to any of them though: you’re trying to expand your possible options so that you have plenty of room to extend. During the debate, you’ll need to listen carefully to your Opening, so you can see exactly where they leave you room to extend during the debate. If you are the whip speaker, you can help your extension speaker during prep by trying to identify what the likely clashes will be, so that you can identify an extension that builds off of one of them. The whip speaker shouldn’t try and write anything during prep, but instead, help the extension speaker develop lots of options for the round.

By the end of your prep time, you should have settled on both your team’s strategy and the specific arguments that you’ll be making if you’re in Opening, or left yourself with plenty of extension options if you’re in Closing. As you’ve seen, like a skateboarder before a trick, you want to look at the motion from all angles so that you can craft a speech that will give you an advantage over the other teams. Following these five steps will set you up for success in British Parliamentary debates by helping you write complete cases that engage with your opponents.

Ready to start competing? Join hundreds of students around Asia at one of our competitions run in partnership with Harvard College Debating Union, and Cambridge Union Society!

Join our Competitions »

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike