Notes in school debating

  • For many speakers, notes are helpful to maintain structure – you can easily get carried away by emotions or get distracted by the other team’s points of information.
  • Notes make you feel more confident – they work as a safety net in case you should blackouts.
  • In a prepared debate, it can be necessary to offer facts and numbers in your substantive speech that you can impossibly remember.
  • It can always happen that team members are absent. To ensure that fellow speakers can take your place in a debate, they need a set of notes.

 General rules and strategy

  • Don’t use too many cards!
  • Share your notes with the coach or at least one other team member!
  • Practice with your real notes!
  • Use smaller cards to exchange information with your teammates during the debate (PoI, arguments…).

The layout of your notes

  • Use only one side of the card!
  • Use simple cards that don’t distract the audience!
  • Add numbers!
  • Use a color code!
  • Include stage directions – “hold up prop”, “point at OPP”!
  • Generally, use key words – you won’t feel tempted to read out the speech!
  • Write out the first words of your introduction!
  • Write out your definitions!
  • Write out transitions like “Now, let’s have a look at” …
  • Write out quotes to make sure they are accurate!
  • Write out technical phrases and everything else that must be given verbatim!
  • Write out statistics and the phrases you will use to paraphrase them!

Delivery: How to handle your notes

  • While speaking in a debate, use your notes with discretion!
  • Hold the cards in one hand – don’t change!
  • If there is a chance to place your notes on a lectern, do so!
  • Look at your audience, not at your notes!
  • Don’t memorize the lines on your notes!
  • Once you’ve used a note card, place it somewhere else – don’t rearrange them!