YOUR OWN DEBATE.


In order to hold your own debate you will need to have the following. If you click on any of these it will take you to a small explanatory note about each concept..


Click in the title bar of each section to return here

What you need for a debate
A topic
An affirmative team.
A negative team.
A chairperson
A timekeeper
An adjudicator
A venue
An audience


AFFIRMATIVE TEAM.


The job of the affirmative team is to agree with (or 'affirm') the topic. It will consist of three speakers. The affirmative team will speak first in the debate. Each speaker in the team should fulfill the role of that speaker. At the end of the debate the team should observe debating etiquette . The team should sit on the right hand of the chairperson in order (from nearest the chair): 1st, 3rd, 2nd. This is to make it easier for the first and second speakers to pass rebuttal material to the third speaker. If there is a fourth speaker he or she should sit between the third and second speakers.


NEGATIVE TEAM.


The job of the negative team is to disagree with (or 'negate') the topic. It will consist of three speakers. The negative team will speak last in the debate. Each speaker in the team should fulfill the role of that speaker. At the end of the debate the team should observe debating etiquette . The team should sit on the left hand of the chairperson in order (from nearest the chair): 1st, 3rd, 2nd. This is to make it easier for the first and second speakers to pass rebuttal material to the third speaker. If there is a fourth speaker he or she should sit between the third and second speakers.


CHAIRPERSON.


The role of the chairperson is to control the debate. She or he should sit between the two teams as illustrated in the plan.

The first duty of the chairperson is to call the debate to order and to welcome all that are present. He or she should then proceed to announce the topic of the debate, the name of the adjudicator, and the names of the teams which are participating.

Next she or he should tell the speakers and the audience how long each speech will be for, giving the minimum and maximum times, and calling upon the timekeeper to demonstrate the sound of the bell.

The chairperson should then introduce the first speaker of the affirmative to open the debate, then sit down.

After that speaker has concluded his or her speech the chairperson should then wait for the adjudictor's (if there is only one adjudicator) or Chief Adjudicator's (if there is a panel of adjudicators) nod to proceed and then announce the first speaker of the negative team.

This process should continue throughout the debate calling the speakers in the following order:

At the end of the debate the chairperson should do one of the following.

If there is only one adjudicator she or he should wait until that adjudicator indicates his or her readiness and then announce the adjudicator to give the result of the debate.

If there is a panel of adjudicators she or he should announce that the adjudicators will retire to consider their decision. The adjudicators will then leave the room. When they return the chairperson should call the room to order and announce that the adjudicators will now present their decision.

The chairperson's role in the debate is now over.


A typical chairperson's presentation might go as follows:

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to tonight's debate. The topic for this debate is "(fill in the blank)". For the affirmative this evening we have (team name) and for the negative this evening we have (team name). Our adjudictor for this evening is (adjudicator's name)."

"The speaking times this evening will be (minimum speaking time) to (maximum speaking time). There will be a bell at (minimum speaking time) minutes [timekeeper demonstrates the bell] and a second bell at (maximum speaking time) minutes [timekeeper demonstrates the bell]."

"I would now like to call upon the first speaker of the affirmative (speaker's name) to open the debate."

[after speech and adjudicator's nod]

"I would now like to call upon the first speaker of the negative (speaker's name) to open the case for the negative."

[continue in a similar manner throughout the debate]

[at the end of the debate]

"I would now like to call upon the adjudicator (adjudicator's name) to give the decision on tonight's debate."

[Obviously this would be varied for different circumstances.]


TIMEKEEPER.


As the name suggests the timekeeper keeps the time in a debate. This means that he or she times how long each speakers speaks and rings a bell to indicate that certain amounts of time have passed.

To ensure fairness in a debate each speaker is given a minimum time which she or he is expected to speak for and a maximum time that he or she is allowed to speak for. This is generally expressed as a X to Y minute speech, where X is the minimum time and Y is the maximum time. For example "the speaking times for tonight's debate will be 4 to 6 minutes".


The standard equipment of the timekeeper is:

1 digital stopwatch
(an analogue one will do but it is much more difficult to use).

1 bell.
(if a bell is not available a glass and spoon is good, although hit the glass with care. Or rapping something hard, for example knuckles, against a desk is also good. Whatever is chosen it should be very clear and obvious, many a nervous speaker has failed to hear a bell because it was too soft.)

Pen and paper.
(at the end of the debate the adjudicator will need to know exactly how long each speaker spoke for. This should be recorded during the debate and handed to the adjudicator after the last speaker has spoken.)


At the start of the debate the chairperson will call upon the timekeeper to demonstrate the bell. The indication of minimum time having expired should be given by one ring of the bell (tap of the desk etc.) and the indication of maximum time expired should be given by two rings of the bell (taps of the desk etc.). Whatever is given as the sample during the chairperson's introductory remarks should be used consistently throughout the debate.


VENUE.


A debate can be held just about anywhere from a school classroom to the Sydney Opera House. In all cases the actual part of the room used for the participants in the debate is the same and is layed out according to the following diagram:

If you don't have this diagram handy then an easy way to remember this is to think of the House of Representatives in the Australian Federal Parliament. If you look at it from the back the government (affirmative) sits on the left, the opposition (negative) sits on the right and the speaker (chairperson and timekeeper) sits in the middle.

The adjudicator will sit with the audience (at the bottom of the diagram) as she or he is supposed to see the debate as the audience does. When the adjudication is delivered, however, the adjudicator will come to the front of the room and address all present.

When speaking speakers should come out from behind the desk and stand in front of, and with their backs to, the chairperson and timekeeper.


ADJUDICATOR.


The adjudicator decides the outcome of the debate. There may be one adjudicator or adjudicators may sit as a panel (always an odd number). The adjudicator does not bring with him or her any expert knowledge of the topic, always presuming the average knowledge of the average person, but will bring expert knowledge of debating. The adjudicator will mark each speaker according to the prescribed marking scheme and will announce at the end not only who has won but why.

Like any competition it is considered poor sportsmanship to argue the decision with the adjudicator. If you feel that the adjudicator has grossly broken the rules of debating then an appeal can be lodged in accordance with ACTDU's formal complaints procedure.

This does not mean, however, that debaters should not take time after the debate to clear up any points they did not understand with the adjudicator(s) or ask for some pointers with debating. Adjudicators are very happy to help in this respect.

If you would like to learn how to adjudicate there are courses available. If you have no need to go that far then there is a wealth of quality printed information available, including the Australian Debating Federation Handbook which can be purchased from ACTDU for the price of $10. In time there may be more material available here on-line.


AUDIENCE.


The role of the audience is to enjoy the debate. The audience should applaud as each speaker is announced, as each speaker finishes speaking and when the result of the debate is announced. The audience should participate as any polite audience would, applauding, laughing and so on at appropriate times. The chairperson may ask any poorly behaved audience member to leave the room.


ETIQUETTE.


Like many similar activities, there are established forms of good behaviour in debating.

While a speaker is speaking she or he has the floor and, unless debating in a Parliamentary style, should not be interrupted. This includes comments interjected by the audience or other speakers as well as disruptive behaviour from the other team or the audience.

In order that fairness be protected speakers should sit down soon after their maximum time has expired. In some competitions a bell is rung continuously after the speaker is 30 seconds overtime but this should not be necessary.

At the end of the debate the losing team's captain should stand and congratulate the winning team publically, thanking them for the debate. The winning team's captain should thank the other team, the debating officials (chairperson, timekeeper and adjudicator(s) ) and the audience. Both teams should then shake hands.

It is considered poor sportsmanship to argue with the adjudicator about the result. If a gross breach of debating rules has been enacted then a formal appeal can be given, in writing, to the Chief Adjudicator of ACTDU. Otherwise discussions with the adjudicator should be to clear up any unclear points or to get some debating tips. Adjudicators are very happy to give such advice.