What is Public Speaking and Competitive Debate? (Part II)

Coach Andy
Post by Coach Andy
What is Public Speaking and Competitive Debate? (Part II)

What Does a Competition Look Like?

We hope you enjoyed Part I of this blog series! If you haven't got a chance to read it yet you can do so here: What is Public Speaking and Competitive Debate? (Part I).

In this series of articles, you will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of competitions.
  • Understand what a competition/tournament looks like (including but not limited to evaluation criteria, registration need-to-know, tournament journeys).
  • Learn ways that parents can help students for competitions.


There is a lot of information on a tournament’s website/post. How do you read through them to get the most accurate information in a short time? Let’s break them down:

  • Title: What this tournament is, some tournaments are widely recognized, some tournaments are lesser-known. For example, if a tournament is hosting its 15 competition, maybe this tournament is highly appreciated by its participants.

  • Venue: The place where the tournament is hosted, is it online or offline? If it is an online tournament, what software will it use?
  • Convenor: The organizers of the tournament and people who you go to when you have any questions relating to the tournament!

  • Debate/public speaking format: What format will it use? Is it something that students have learned before? If not, it does not prevent the students from registering, but students need to know more about that formats and their rules before the tournament

  • Date: When will it be hosted? Will there be any time conflict with other events students are participating in? Most of the time, tournaments will be hosted during weekends, but big tournaments sometimes extend to three or four days or even last for a whole week!

  • Preliminary Rounds: How many rounds are students required to complete before the elimination rounds? Usually, bigger tournaments have more preliminary rounds.

  • Elimination Rounds: Not everyone will be competing in elimination rounds, only those (teams in debate settings/individuals in public speaking settings) who have been filtered based on preliminary rounds scores.

  • Adjudication core: Who will be the group of people deciding on topics? These people will be some of the judges as well. Depending on their experience, you can tell the quality of a tournament.

  • IA: Invited Adjudicators, who have been invited to judge?

  • Capacity: How many competitors are accepted to compete? It decides the scale of a tournament.

  • Eligibility: Who can compete? Are young students able to compete as well?

  • Team judge: Are competitors required to bring a team judge? The judge they brought will not judge their own teams. However, it will enlarge the judge pool the tournament has. The judge will obviously be judging but not competing in rounds. N=1/2/3 means teams are required to bring 1/2/3 team judge(s) to the tournament.

  • Registration Fee: How much does it cost?

  • Payment Period: When is the deadline for payment? Sometimes there are different phases of payment periods, early bird payment, regular payment, and late payment.

  • Schedule: What are the schedule breakdowns for each day?

  • Dress Code: What dress code are participants supposed to follow.

  • Topic: For non-impromptu formats (for example, Public Forum Debate, Speech competition with a specific theme), students will receive the topic in advance. For other formats, there may or may not be instruction on the topic.

  • Prompt: An object/keywords given to students where they need to construct a speech based on the prompt given.

  • TBA: To be announced

  • TBD: to be decided

Tournament Journey

Different formats of Debate have different processes. If you are unclear about public speaking and Debate formats, please refer here.

Let’s take British Parliamentary debate tournament as an example:

Sam and his partner Cici have registered for a BP tournament. They arrive at the competition venue -> check-in -> wait for the opening ceremony, interact with other participants -> wait for draws (room assignments, team assignments, judge/judges in the room)

(this is what a draw looks like)

  OG OO CG CO Judge

Team Name

Here’s the Draw My Time Starts Now Time to Sleep Harvard A Andrew Hume©, Lillian Zha
Team Name Team A Team B Team C Team D Ivan Velentey©, Jonathan Zhang, Enya Yang


-> Announce debate topic -> Prepare for 15 minutes (OG teams prepare inside the room) -> Debate (around an hour) -> Wait outside of the room -> Listen to Judge feedback (© means chair, those judges have a bigger say in a round, panelists can convince the chair to change decisions, or if they have the same decisions they can change the result, trainee judges can try to convince other judges, but their decision will not affect the result)

After several preliminary rounds, Sam and Cici break into the Quarterfinal round! And are competing with more competitive opponents. After several rounds, they are the champion of the IBP (Imagined BP) tournament! Cici has been granted the 1st overall best speaker (based on preliminary rounds speaker points), and Sam has been ranked the 6th overall best speaker! Congrats!

Keep reading for Part III below!

Part III: How to Help Students Prepare?

You can also get involved in competitions with LearningLeaders. Check out our availbe competitions below!

Compete at LL

Coach Andy
Post by Coach Andy