Hosting a Debate

This checklist provides you with a few things to keep in mind for a regular debate in Junior League or Senior League, including small tournaments. If you get a chance to host one of the more prestigious national or international tournaments, you need a different kind of guideline.

As soon as you know you’re hosting…

  • Inform your principal and vice principal! (Do you want them to welcome the visiting teams? Is there anything in particular you want them to say?)
  • Inform the person who is in charge of room allocation and timetable issues! (How many or which rooms do you need? When? For how many people?)
  • Inform the janitor! (Do you need his / her help?)
  • Inform all the debating coaches at your school, your debaters and their parents!
  • If you need sponsors, set up a kind letter to ask for donations! If your school already has a partner (many schools clubs for alumni) or funds for such purposes, talk to them way ahead of time!
  • Prepare your team for the motion!
  • If you want the local press to cover your debate, send them all the information they need – and call them.
  • If you want to make your school look fancy (or simply to impress the visiting teams), ask the school band to play an opening piece!

Two weeks prior to the debates…

  • If you have not done so, book the rooms you need for the debates (two per debate – preparation room / debate venue, large room for opening and closing procedures, possibly another separate room for the judges’ briefing)
  • Remind your principal of the impending debate! Invite all the officials who might enjoy a good debate!
  • Send an invitation letter including the respective motion and directions (include trains and busses, also add parking facilities); ask for the numbers of debaters and (experienced) judges
  • Create a schedule for the respective day!
  • Create a detailed list of tasks and ask your debaters for help! You need …
  1. your team of debaters including the “sloker” (our non-offensive term for the helpful fourth party in the preparation room)!
  2. a few debaters who can bring some food! (One cake per arriving team!)
  3. somebody to buy drinks! If it is not an extremely hot day in July, 0,5 litres per person will do – don’t forget to ask for the receipt!)
  4. some additional judges (Ask former debaters…!)
  5. one timekeeper per debate!
  6. one chairperson per team!
  7. several teams of three to prepare the rooms! The debate venues should be tidied up before the teams arrive (especially the blackboards); of course, the desks for both teams, the chairperson and the speaker should be arranged as usual (don’t forget three desks for the judges and a sufficient supply of chairs for the audience). Preparation rooms normally don’t require for a special arrangement of chairs and desks.
  8. three to four charming people to welcome the arriving teams and see the coaches and visiting teams to the venues!
  9. some people who would like to distribute all the orientation signs you need!
  10. some teams of three to tidy up all the rooms and dispose of the waste!
  • If you provide cake for the visiting teams, make sure you can offer vegan, halal and gluten-free varieties as well!

A day before …

  • Print out …
  1. the schedule (for all the teams, but also to attach them to doors and bulletin boards);
  2. welcome signs for the visiting teams;
  3. signs with directions (and don’t forget the toilets…);
  4. signs with room names and room numbers;
  5. nameplates for the visiting teams (and your own team);
  6. marksheets (2 per judge = 3 per round x number of debates);
  7. range of marks forms;
  8. guidelines for chairpersons and timekeepers;
  • Prepare blank sheets for the judges;
  • Make sure you can do the judges’ briefing;
  • Make sure dictionaries are at hand;
  • Pick up the drinks from the local store or supermarket;
  • Ask the secretaries whether they would be willing to make some coffee for the coaches!

As soon as all the teams have arrived

  • Welcome the arriving teams!
  • Give a welcoming speech:
  1. Welcome everyone, especially the officials!
  2. Inform everybody about the schedule!
  3. Tell the audience where the restrooms are!
  4. Inform the teams about the rooms assigned to them!
  5. Remind the debating team members to leave their mobile phones with their coaches!
  6. Tell the judges where the judges’ briefing will take place!
  7. Announce the motion!
  8. Hand out the motion to the team captains!
  9. Declare the buffet open!
  • A judges’ briefing should address the major issues in debating. Especially in rounds 1 and 2 of Junior League and Senior League, there may be inexperienced judges – give them a more detailed introduction to the rules of debating. Also, keep in mind that the focus in debating may change in the course of the season! If you sit down with the judges, introduce yourself and ask everyone to do so likewise.
  • When assigning judges to debates, make sure there is always one experienced chief judge. Keep in mind that judges must not judge their own teams – also, it would be better not to have the same person judge a team twice (that is, if you can avoid it).
  • If inexperienced debaters are chosen for chairing a debate (or for timekeeping), give them a briefing as well.

Immediately after the debates …

  • If necessary, see the visiting teams to the bus stop.
  • Collect all the mark sheets, verify whether everything has been filled in correctly and check if the judges have signed their sheets;
  • then, put them in an envelope and send them to the tabber.

In the next few days to come …

  • inform the principal (and everyone else) about the results of the debate;
  • ask a well-versed team member to write an article for the local paper and the school mag;
  • thank the janitor and the secretaries (and everyone else) for their contributions;
  • if you had extra expenses, your respective debating society might be able to foot the bill;
  • write another e-mail to all the teams involved and thank them for their visit.