Dealing with Short Speeches

By: Russell Leibowitz, Brandeis University 2014

Being able to get good speaks against an undertime speech is a valuable skill on APDA. It enables you to move higher in the bracket and avoid hitting stronger teams until later in the tournament and helps boost your chances of getting speaker awards and breaking high. Below are several tips to dealing with speeches that aren’t deep in their analysis and don’t make it to time:

  1. Don’t complain: The most important thing to do in a round is to never give the impression that it’s a bad round. If it’s clear you’re bored or angry, the judge will be bored and angry too. Debate is a performance and you should make sure to never stop acting. You can carefully explain to the judge that the undertime speech isn’t your fault, but it’s a fine line.
  2. Build up the other team’s case: If you think that you’re in a position where you will clearly win the round, you can build up the analysis given by the other team and then knock it back down. This makes the round more contentious, gives you more material to deal with and pleases judges because it shows that you are really debating at a high level. A simple way to do this is to write down the strongest form of that argument — essentially, what the argument would be with 30 seconds more development. Address the argument in that stronger form.
  3. Enhance your partner’s arguments: If you’re an MO or MG, utilize the fact that many of your partner’s arguments were likely unresponded to. Spend time flowing them across and then don’t just reiterate them, but rather turn them into potential RFDs. By building the analysis from your partner’s speech, you create a consistent advocacy through your speeches and make sure that your case is becoming stronger as the round goes on. This is crucial, because you never know how strong the next speech from the other team will be, so you want to make sure that you’re still using your speech to solidify your position. If you’re an LO, you can use the extra time from an underdeveloped PMC to really shift the round towards your advocacy by building a more extensive off-case. If the round is about your offense and not theirs, you’re in a good position to win the round.
  4. Go Deeper: When the other side only gives a few responses to your arguments, it gives you the opportunity to layer deeper analysis in response to theirs. Pick out the strongest arguments they made, build them up as noted earlier and then thoroughly take them apart. By increasing the depth of your analysis, you can ensure you speak to time and that you win the round. An easy way to do this is to continually ask “Why is this true?” and “Why is this important?” and then answer the rhetorical questions yourself. Essentially, adding more warrants and impacts is key.
  5. Start weighing: When the other team doesn’t respond to a lot of your arguments or does so poorly, you have extra time to start building towards the rebuttal speech. Don’t just reiterate your partner’s arguments, but show why they’re round winning. Compare them to the arguments the other team made. Essentially, create the framework so that the rebuttal speech has some of its work done already.
  6. Be clear: Undertime speeches often correlate with analysis that can get muddling or confusing for the judge. Make sure that you’re very clear about what their argument was and what your response is. If their argument is unclear, make sure to respond to both what they actually said and how it could be interpreted in the next speech. Essentially, debate on every level so there are no potential RFDs left for the other side. Judges will appreciate the thoroughness and the anticipation of the potential that their analysis could change later on in the round.
  7. For LOs: If you’re LOing and the PMC goes significantly undertime, it’s often difficult to fully develop your off-case to the extent you would like. In this case, a quick line at the top saying “Thanks Mr. Speaker, thanks to side gov for an interesting case, PMC was quite a bit undertime, but we’ve got a lot interesting analysis for you” is sufficient to make sure the judge recognizes the fact that you had less time to prepare. Never say the round is going to be bad, make sure to always be positive. The other thing that is helpfully is to rhetorically ask yourself “Why?” while giving your speech. Answering that question will help you make sure you’re still achieving the depth of analysis you were hoping to give even though it isn’t all written down. 
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