How to Prepare for a Public Forum Tournament

Debating at a public forum tournament can seem overwhelming at first. Thankfully, the component parts of preparation are relatively simple. The more tournaments you attend, the easier time you will have competing at tournaments. I’ll divide pre-tournament prep up into several parts in-order.

Step one: figure out logistics. Tournaments require registration, judging coordination, and the payment of fees. This is something that usually needs to be completed at least a couple months in advance of the tournament. If you have a coach or experienced debaters on your team, you can turn to them for help & advice in the registration process.

Step two: conduct background research on the topic. Before you begin writing your case or blocks, it is generally a good idea to obtain a working understanding of the critical points on the topic. That’s because knowing the lay of the topical land will help you find better case positions and rebuttal arguments. Google is your friend: conducting research online about the resolution is the best way to prepare yourself with knowledge on the resolution.

Step three: write the cases. Your case is the four-minute long speech that you will deliver in the “constructive” component of the debate. The constructives are the first two speeches in the round. At any given tournament, you will (likely) have to go both aff and neg, so having two completed cases (one for each side) is a must.

Step four: write the block file. The “block file” is a file of evidence and arguments you can use to refute common case positions. Any good rebuttal makes intelligent use of the block file because of the need for evidence in responding to case positions. In addition, debaters should prepare “frontlines,” which is a word to describe responses to responses made to the case.

Step five: practice! As they say, practice makes perfect, and no-one should go into a tournament without having the experience of debating/giving speeches on the topic in question. There are several great ways to get comfortable with your cases/blocks in pre-tournament practice. You can compete against teammates or other school members in practice rounds. Alternatively, you could give individual speeches (rebuttals or summaries) based on imaginary round scenarios. Overall, the goal of pre-tournament practices should be to obtain a lot of familiarity and comfort surrounding the topic at hand.