Tips for a virtual debate season!

We know we are entering new territory this season. Jayanne Forrest has offered 10 tips for doing your best during this debate season.

  1. Focus on clarity of your speeches more than you normally would. If you are spreading, the quality of your microphone and your internet connection can distort the sound a lot. Be mindful of speed and over-articulate as much as possible to ensure the judge can hear you. Also, check-in before each speech to make sure the judge and your opponent can hear you and are ready to flow before you start. It might help to invest in a high-quality microphone that can plug into your computer.
  2. Faulty internet connection? Keep a local recording of your speeches. If you have bad internet connection, your speech might cut out and there is no way for the Judge to verify what you said. One quick fix to this problem is recording your speeches on your phone (e.g. a Voice Memo) in order to have access to the full speech if your connection messes up.
  3. Be patient but keep in mind the restrictions of the tournament schedule. Online debate can be unpredictable because there are so many different variables involved (e.g. location of debaters and judges, time zones, internet connection). So be patient with your judges and opponents. However, also be mindful of the time limits for each round and how long it is taking to send speech documents and start the round on time.
  4. Take care of yourself and wake up in time for tournaments. We know that the grind is real the night before the tournament but it is very necessary to get some sleep and plan ahead for tournaments. Tournaments are virtual and the start time depends on your time zone, so make sure to check the schedule ahead of time to avoid confusion.
  5. Be smart and focused with your technology. There are so many different things to do during tournaments but try to stay focused on the task at hand: persuading your judge to vote for you in the debate round. Close the unnecessary tabs open in your browser, close any unnecessary documents open, and brush up on how to use Verbatim so you use your prep efficiently when compiling speech docs.
  6. Have an alternative prepared if email is not working. Sometimes people experience delays in receiving emails in the email chain due to random variables such as internet connection. Unfortunately, you cannot wait all day for people to receive that message with your speech documents. Try something like sending the file over Zoom, messaging it to them by some other means, or using online file transfer websites such as for some smooth doc exchanges during the round.
  7. Eat and stay hydrated throughout the day. The meal times that are allotted in the tournament schedule (if there are any) may not be consistent with when you are used to eating. Make sure to drink a lot of water and eat throughout the day when you can. Your body and your brain cannot function at its best when you don’t nourish yourself properly!
  8. Set alarms before debate rounds. It is easy to get caught up doing something and forget how time passes when you are debating from home! Set alarms when your pairings come out so you can get to round and start on time!
  9. You are not alone, stay in touch with friends and teammates. One major benefit of in-person debate tournaments is seeing your friends! That’s totally understandable. However, your debate friends and your coaches are experiencing the same thing as you! Reach out to your friends and teammates and coaches throughout the season, especially during tournaments to check in with them. Send a text or a message, maybe even can call them between rounds!
  10.  Utilize your coaches, or any mentors available to you. Debating from home is different, but your coaches and the educators in your lives are still here to help you. Do not hesitate to utilize them before rounds, and make sure to keep them updated on how you are doing! Be mindful of the time at which you are contacting them though. Reminder that they have lives and need sleep too!

Have a great season!

Jayanne Forrest