How Linden's Prime Minister's Speeches Helped His Team Become World Champions

Linden's Story


Won the World Schools Debating Championship

Stanford University

"Because the PM speech is the first speech in a debate, a common problem with PM speeches is that they are too abstract or systematic."

- Linden Li, 2018 World Debating Champion


HubSpot Video


Linden Li is a former Team China member who won numerous accolades, including the 2018 WSDC World Championship, Oldham Cup 2019 International Group Champion and Best Debater, EurOpen 2017 Finalist. Linden was with the LearningLeaders Elite program for a number of years and currently studies at Stanford University.
In his time, Linden specialized in the first speech of the debate, the so-called Prime Minister's PM speech, which is one of the most difficult but important speeches to pull off. Here are Linden's seven pieces of advice for strong PM speeches.

How do you make a strong Prime Minister Speech?

PM speaking can be one of the most challenging experiences you will have in your debating career.
You only have a little prep time to come up with good arguments. You don't have any analysis on your paper that you think makes sense. After losing a debate, you blame yourself and feel like the fault is all on you for not completing a good plan.


Step 1 - Opening

Every good PM speech starts with a very effective opening. There are two ways you can achieve this effect.
The first method is to start with an iconic and memorable opening sentence. There are many things you can do: quote a famous speech; quote a famous poem; or use a catchy figure of speech; clever use of words or puns.
The second method is very suitable for policy debates. This type of debate forces you to think about a problem and come up with a solution. Identify what the real problem is. Consider the details of the background of the debate in your speech so that the second half of your speech, where you talk about how to solve the problem, is clearly shown to the referee as to how your policies are having an impact.


Step 2 - Model

Next, depending on the type of motion you are debating, the PM may go into building a "model" section - describing in more detail what the policy looks like and how it will work. In some cases, your model may be strategic. Because of the way the debate topic is set, it is likely that the opposing party will put forward some targeted arguments. So what you have to do is to list some policy details to pre-empt them.
For example, a debate topic in WSDC a few years ago was about voters passing a political knowledge test to be eligible to vote.
The Opposition has the potential to present several arguments against your model depending on how you approach it. So, you need to preempt these attacks by proposing a suitable model. So, for example, you could stipulate that this is a multiple-choice test, to reduce sources of error and make the test more objective. Second, you could say that if you fail the test the first time, you can retake it later. Finally, you might give some context of the sort of questions that would be posed in the test.
Fleshing out your model, in this way, helps you to shape and control the debate.

Step 3 - Keep it General

As you build your models, remember to avoid unnecessary detail. If you give an overly specific model, you spend less time analyzing the argument. Debaters are not policy makers; all you have to do is outline how your policy will be implemented, not give all the nuance that you would need if you were standing in a real Parliament or Congress to propose it as law.



Step 4 - Definitions

Define some specific nouns in the proposition, rather than all words, because both the debater and the judge need to have a clear agreement on the policy or some terms in the debate topic in order to have an effective debate.
For example, consider the debate topic This House would introduce an education voucher system. The PM should not assume that the judge knows what a voucher system is, even though it is a prepared debate. Rather, you should ensure you define what it is, give examples, and explain what it would look like when applied in real life.


Step 5 - Judging Criteria

A crucial thing you need to do when preparing your PM speech is set clear standards. This way the adjudicator will understand the criteria by which arguments are to be weighed in the debate.
For example, imagine the topic is: This House Believes that the feminist movement should strive to bring conservative women into the movement.
In this example, the PM speech has the task, among other things, of defining what goals of the feminist movement need to be prioritized. Should increasing influence be the priority to bring about a change in law or perception? Or stick to the principles of the feminist movement and not allow women who are conservative and do not agree with feminist concepts to join?




Step 6 - Constructive

After building your model, you should now move on to the constructive part of your presentation.
This is the part where you're delivering an argument with substance, and it's very helpful if the PM speech gives you an indication of what the argument is going to be before you start expressing it. In this way, the judges can grasp the content more clearly. Typically, this means numbering your arguments, summarizing your arguments at the end, and stating what the argument is trying to prove - Why is this fair in principle? Why does this achieve valid results?


Step 7 - Two Important Suggestions

Finally, I have two suggestions. First, because the PM speech is the first speech in a debate, a common problem with PM speeches is that they are too abstract or systematic. To avoid this, you can clearly picture your envisioned world in the judges' minds, using illustrative examples and scenarios to effect.
Second, after important points, it is vital to clearly describe the impact and goals of your argument. In this way, the adjudicator will know what the benefits or trade-offs are for the other party.
PM speaking can seem intimidating while you're giving it. But remember, like a real prime minister in politics, your role is very important. While your voice is heard first, remember to give this debate a clear setting when conveying your constructive arguments. Remember to stay organized and think critically.




Students Success Stories

HubSpot Video
HubSpot Video

Request Your Free Placement Test Today

Our Admissions Team will contact you within a day.