Time management in debating

  • A regular 1st, 2nd or 3rd speech in Junior League takes about 6 minutes, a reply speech takes 3 minutes.
  • In Senior League, debaters will talk for 8 minutes or 4 minutes (reply).
  • Don’t stay below the minimum of 5:30 (7:30) and don’t exceed the maximum speaking time by going beyond 6:30 (8:30).
  • If you do so, the judges will usually subtract from your overall result for poor strategy.

How to make sure your speech is short enough

  • The other team is expected to offer PoI. So, include a buffer of 30 seconds for PoI when you compose your speech.
  • It is essential to draft a schedule. Start with 00:00, then take down the expected duration of each part of your speech on your palm cards (00:00, 01:00, 03:20...).
  • When composing a speech, make sure you can drop one layer of your argument without doing any damage to your speech. If you use extra layers, do not announce them. They should be connected to a main argument and refer to the same topic.
  • Keep in mind that role fulfilment and time management go hand in hand. First speakers OPP should not rebut for five minutes until they start with their substantive speeches.
  • Make sure you have practised your speech before you debate. Generally speaking, speeches may take a little longer during rehearsal than when you are to deliver them in a debate. If you tend to increase your pace in a critical situation (such as a regular debate), make your speech by 5-10 per cent longer than necessary.

How to make sure your speech is long enough

  • Your speech should by any means be complete. Don’t forget vital parts of your speech, such as a short introduction or the final summary.
  • It is also advisable to have more examples in store so that you can use them when no PoI are being offered.

Time management during a speech: saving time

  • Increase your general words-per-minute ratio.
  • Don’t let the other team steal precious time from you by expanding their PoI to never-ending stories. Signal to them that you wish to go on: “Thanks, I got your point.”
  • Answer the other team’s PoI as briefly as possible.
  • During the speech, use a (smart) watch or the the timer on your mobile phone – if permitted, ask a friend in the audience or your team mates to signal the time to you.

Time management during a speech: winning time

  • Of course, you can always reduce your pace and talk more slowly.
  • You may also repeat your message in other words.
  • Sharing personal experience might also help you to win time, such as telling stories that serve as examples.
  • You may ask questions or even a series of questions to introduce your next point.

Example: Schedule of a first speech (OPP) in Junior League

00:00: Protected time

00:00-00:20: Introduction

00:20-00:30: Tackling the definition

00:30-00:50: Teamline

00:50-01:00: Structure

01:00: Protected Time is over, Team Prop can offer PoI

01:00-1:20: Signposting: Adressing the number and content of Side Prop’s 1st speaker’s arguments

01:20-03:00: Rebuttal

03:00-05:00: Substantive Speech

03:00-04:00: Argument 1

04:00-05:00: Argument 2

05:00-6:00: Protected time

5:00-5:30: Summary

05:30-06:00: Buffer

06:30: Final time limit