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Things every judge wants you to know

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I've judged quite a few rounds this year and I've been noticing some trends (not just this year, but over the past few). I'm going to try and make this post as universal and non-controversial as possible... but knowing me, I'll probably fail at this.

 

Nevertheless, here we go. These are things that all judges want you to know, but usually don't have time to get into in the 5 or so minutes we are given for Oral Critiques:

 

1. Label your arguments - This one is kind of baffling to me. I don't see any sort of strategic advantage in not labeling your off case arguments (or affirmative advantages). At best you delay the other team pulling out their frontline by about 5 seconds or so, the time it takes to walk up and look over your shoulder. Judges hate to have to play "guess the argument", and the little but of context we get from you saying "First off - Politics" actually makes a huge difference in our ability to understand and flow your arguments effectively (especially at top speed). I can't tell you how many times I've sat there stonefaced having missed 95% of a CP text because I had no idea one was coming.

 

2. Number your arguments - No one even attempts to do this anymore, and it upsets me... It's lazy, and it's indefensible. Let me let you in on a little secret, Judges often miss author names at high speed... this is inevitable. When you extend Smith in 11, sometimes we know what this means and sometimes we don't. Don't get me wrong, signposting by author names is better than not signposting at all, but numbering your arguments makes this infinitely easier. On affirmative, having a good numbering system makes the 1AR much easier and more efficient.

 

Debate is a game that is played on the judge's flow. Let me say that again: Debate is a game that is played on the judge's flow. Not your flow, not in your head, not on your laptop. The better you are at keeping the flow clean and understandable for the judge, the better chance you have of winning rounds and getting speaker awards.

 

Some tips for getting better at numbering: 1. Keep count on your fingers as you go 2. Take a pen up with you and physically mark your evidence with numbers.

 

Stick to the line by line. Don't give lengthy overviews on every position, because they will likely not get flowed. Don't skip around on the line by line unless absolutely necessary. Learn to signpost in a way that is effective (use numbers) and yet word efficient. Make cross-applications crystal clear.

 

3. Don't leave messes - More often than not, I find that the 2nr and the 2ar leaves a big mess of arguments that they expect me to figure out for them. DON'T DO THIS. Judges hate doing work, if you leave it up to us, you might not like what we come up with... and thus have no justification whatsoever of being upset with the decision afterwards. In my experience, it is best to use your first 20-30 seconds of the last rebuttal telling the judge why you win. You can use the Timeframe, Magnitude, Probability framework if you want, or even "Three reasons why we win this round" or whatever... find what works for you. That first 20-30 seconds of the 2n/ar is literally the most important part of any speech in the round, practice this, make your neg/aff strategies around it.... learn to "debate backwards" (every argument is made with the 2n/ars in mind).

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I cannot emphasize how much I agree with this comment, specifically on judges HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE having to do work. tell me where and why to vote. please. i cannot remember the last time i was told where to vote and why.... (well, in any version that makes sense. I've been told multiple times to vote on the "dropped xxxxx flow" when the other side clearly answered that flow.) Please remember that judges keep flows too, and when you tell them to vote on "dropped arguments", if they aren't actually dropped, we likely won't vote on it.

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The point about numbering arguments is particularly true. Why teams don't do this absolutely mystifies me.

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The point about numbering arguments is particularly true. Why teams don't do this absolutely mystifies me.

 

Good article posted today at www.3nr.com about numbering your arguments. When I debated over one hundred years ago we said a.b.c.d. etc. Thinking about it was pretty stupid and not efficient. I don't mind the "next" as a way to direct me to the argument.

 

Teams that are rigourous on the line by line I appreciate and note that in comments. Pei/Wefald are very organized and tell you exactly where they are going and they create clash everywhere.

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Good article posted today at www.3nr.com about numbering your arguments. When I debated over one hundred years ago we said a.b.c.d. etc. Thinking about it was pretty stupid and not efficient. I don't mind the "next" as a way to direct me to the argument.

 

Teams that are rigourous on the line by line I appreciate and note that in comments. Pei/Wefald are very organized and tell you exactly where they are going and they create clash everywhere.

 

The problem is that it has gone way too far, to the point where it is actually more inefficient. Saying "next" is ok, but people aren't really even doing that anymore. More often than not, I get a big wall of cards with no differentiation between tag, cite, and text. It is critically important to incorporate slight pauses between the tag and the card. It is even more important to indicate that you are going on to the next argument.

 

I have a feeling, as the 3NR points out, that flowing is becoming an issue as well. I've seen several debates this year where the 1NC will put out a bunch of case arguments (which in and of itself is awesome) and after several are flat dropped by the 2AC... these arguments are never talked about again. This completely nullifies any sort of advantage that the negative got from going fast. Speed is a means, not an end... It's a tool that is used to win debates. Slowing down and explaining arguments is an even more valuable tool.

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I know I have only judged one tournament but I do have a tip for debaters! I think it is important to remember the communicative aspect of the activity. I really, really do. I understand that in flow rounds debaters need to focus on the technical components, but that focus will not really matter if you are incomprehensible or if you are not persuasive. I tried to give time at the beginning and end of my speeches to make eye contact with the judge and explain why I was winning. I really noticed when debaters did or did not do this when I was judging. If you can make a persuasive connection with the judge you will be more memorable. When things are really close you just might have that edge. I made my decisions based off of the flow but the debaters who communicated well definitely got better speaker ratings etc. That and it's just plain easier to get the explanations I need to make decisions when you make an effort to communicate well. Think of all the decisions when a judge says he or she just did not know what you thought you were getting with X evidence or that there was confusion as to what your point was. You can win those rounds if you communicate why that evidence matters, not just read it, and if you can explain your story so those muddier debates look less like your fault. And even if you refuse to believe that communication matters in highly technical rounds in terms of the RFD... winning speaker awards was always a goal of mine in high school and if is for you too then you can be way more likely to do that with good communication skills!

 

= ] I definitely miss Kansas high school debate!!! Definitely proud of everyone still involved!

 

--Samantha Nichols

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In my experience, it is best to use your first 20-30 seconds of the last rebuttal telling the judge why you win.

 

And every single argument you make in the 2NR/2AR better support what you said in the overview or you are wasting your time. Tie back every argument to that overview.

 

But I disagree with the using of Magnitude/Timeframe/Whatever template. I think it is more effective to tell the story of why you win. It might have something to do with those buzzwords, but I think you get get trapped into the confines of them. Sometimes it is just flat out that the risk of the DA happening (because it's link is plan action) is way more likely than the Solvency of the case happening. Hard to force that into a stock template. Might be "Probability" but why make up titles when you can just explain it better. Every round is different.

 

Your 2XR overview should be the RFD you hope the judge writes on your ballot. "Write The Ballot For The Judge" is how I explained it to my kids back in the day.

 

/bd

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