By: Adele Zhang, Barnard College 2015
The “Overview” at the top of the Member speeches is a stylistic choice that many debaters on APDA tend to favor. It is a short, usually not longer than 2 minutes, spiel summarizing some aspects of the round that you want the judge to focus on. There are multiple ways that you make the overview, and it is completely optional, but I find that it helps solidify the round in your mind, so sketching one out, even if you’re not going to say one is extremely helpful.
One way you can take the overview is to “reframe the round”. Let’s say that the LO has brought on some surprising advocacy that you haven’t seen before, but it moves away from the core of the question that you want to debate. For example, let’s say that PM was largely about freedom of speech but then LO’s main thrust of argumentation was grounded in economics. MG therefore can reclaim the round in the overview to tell you why freedom of speech questions are more important than economics and why those arguments ought be brought out in the forefront. Remember to always try and debate on your ground which means that MG has to tell us why the LO messed up by not focusing on the issues that PM brought up. The MO can use this tactic as well to tell the judge why Gov’s ground is BS, and why you should favor Opp’s ground or focus instead.
Another way to “reframe the round” would be to actually take the round in a different direction from the PM and LO. If the LO decided to take the ground that the PM laid out, offer some new line of argumentation (eg, if the round has been largely political, reframe it in an economic sense) to try and catch the MO off guard. Remember though to always link the new lines of argumentation back to the original ground that PM established (if you’re the MG). It needs to catch the opposition by surprise, but not come way out of left field. The MO doing this is a little bit more sketch, as it can be called an MO-dump, and highlighting new things in an overview is not really great strategy. It has to be sneakily done, so it seems like LO mentioned it all along but the MG just failed to address it.
Another way you can take the overview is to basically highlight or make explicit what the round is about. Rounds usually boil down to 3 main questions that fall under a big umbrella theme or have a common thread linking them. The Member can therefore use this overview to highlight this theme or thread to remind the judge how to think of the round. It makes it clear and allows for you to define the round in your eyes.
Overviews can also be “rebuttals of the case” in that if you notice one or two things that is wrong with all of the advocacy, then mentioning that in your overview will take all that advocacy out, or at least weaken it substantially at the beginning of your speech, putting more weight on your arguments in the judges eyes. For example, if the other team completely missed the question of the debate, mention that in your overview. Or if their entire advocacy would be completely impossible realize, that should be at the top of your speech. If their arguments can be taken out with one or two arguments then make that your overview.
Specifically, the MO should be looking for drops, mishandled POIs, and contradictions on the other side to blow up and make into a big deal. Make it sound like the most important thing in the round and why it’s damning for Gov to have messed that up. If done successfully, the PM won’t have enough time to explain away the issue and LOR can collapse on it hard destroying the momentum of the PMR speech.
At the end of the day, the overview serves as an easy way for the judge to summarize and contextualize your speech. That can be a very effective tool but be careful because an overview can sometimes be overpowering and instead the judge will just remember the overview and not the nuance of your argumentation later on. Just be careful to make sure that the overview serves as a supplement and not the main attraction of your speech.