Regional/National Pro Tip- Declutter Your Debate Briefs by: Isabelle Clausen

I’m sure you’ve all had one of those debate rounds where you are listening to your opponent’s case and he or she is just spreading the debate round, sharing argument after argument. This happened to me at Desert Gem in California a few years ago. My opponent was sharing countless applications and responses, it was so hard for me to keep them all straight. I was on the affirmative side about to give my last speech. During prep time, I looked down at the flow and realized that I had 3 minutes to refute 29 arguments. Yes, you read that right: 29 arguments! One of the many reasons why I was in such a dilemma by the end of that round was because I didn’t have clear responses in my debate briefs!

Yes, I responded to all of my opponent’s applications with evidence, however, the evidence wasn’t even useful because I didn’t communicate properly. I was trying to read the evidence citation, think about the analysis of what I was reading, and make eye contact with the judge all at the same time! I’m so glad no one came to watch or flow that round… cause it was pretty dang embarrassing!

After that round, however, I made a promise to myself that I would revamp all of my debate briefs. I would simplify them and make them look clean and professional. I would have specific responses laid out word-for-word, so that I could just pull out the brief from my binder and start reading. Let me tell you, I was a lot more calm and relaxed in my debate rounds moving forward because my refutations were clearer.

The main idea you have to keep in mind when revamping your debate brief is to understand that less is more. Now, I’m not saying that you should have only 2 pieces of evidence; you should have as much evidence as you can! What I am saying is that you should be very intentional of every word you put down on your brief. You need to keep it as simple as possible so that you are not overwhelmed in the round!

Here are my top 4 tips on how to revamp your debate briefs!

1: Focus on the mindset

When you are writing your brief, put yourself in debate mode. Try to picture yourself in prep time and try to feel the pressure of the clock. Ask yourself, “What will I focus on in prep time?” You probably want to focus on the direct citation from your article of evidence. You will most likely want to know how your response directly links to the resolution. You will want to know what the impact of your response is. When writing your brief, don’t focus on all the fluff. Don’t add extra words that are unnecessary. Realize that when you are in a debate round, your level of concentration is lower because you have so many other things going on in your head. In order to focus on the debate mindset, you have to make your brief simple and to the point.

2: Color coordination

One way to simplify your brief is by color coordinating certain items. For example, when I create briefs, I always put the name of the response in red font, the name of the source in blue font, the direct quote in purple font, and I highlight the impact in light blue. If you want an example of what my color coordinated brief looks like, then scroll down to the bottom of this post and you can download my free downloadable debate brief template. You can just copy and paste the template into your debate brief and use it to simplify your information. The main two reasons why color coordination is so useful is that first, it makes specific information stand out; and second, it develops a habit. If you keep on writing your direct quote in purple font and highlighting your impact in blue, your brain will, over time, automatically remember what each color means. The more you create your briefs and spend time reading them, the more effective you will be in your debate round.

3 Read them outloud

I remember when I first came to college. I wrote my first APA college style essay… and I got a pretty bad grade! Why? Because I was used to writing in what I call “speech style”. In speech and debate, I got used to writing a speech that sounded nice to the ears. Using words such as “additionally”, “furthermore”, and “essentially” sound great in a speech! However, in APA college papers, it is kind of a no-no! Anyway, the reason I am sharing this story, is that oftentimes, briefs can seem like writing a boring college paper. People think it is just a boring sheet of evidence. However, I beg to differ. A brief is just like a speech. You need to use “speech style” when you write a brief because when you read words off the brief during your round, you still want to sound eloquent and persuasive. You don’t want your delivery quality to go down. It’s because of this reason that I recommend that you read your brief outloud when you write it. Record yourself, too, so that you can listen to it later and figure out if you sound conversational and interesting. Although you will have to write in boring APA style when you go to college, keep using “speech style” in your debate briefs!

4 Review them often

My final tip for you is to review your briefs often. Yes, you will feel so accomplished when you write out your brief, print it, and put your beautiful work of art in your debate binder. However, the work doesn’t stop there, my friend! As you complete your briefs, it is a good idea to read each one a few times a week so that they will be familiar to you when you are actually using them in a round. So many times, I would come to a tournament, here a random application, and I would forget that I had a brief on it! After the round, I would go through my binder and realize I had a perfectly good brief I could have used! However, since I didn’t make a habit of reviewing my briefs, i was not familiar with which ones I had.

I hope these tips have helped you learn how to update your briefs and simplify them! Attached below is the free template you can download and use as you reconstruct your briefs! Have so much fun! 🙂

Also, while we are on the topic of debate briefs, I am making an LD brief book! It will include briefs on numerous popular applications in this year’s resolution along with videos that explains the analysis behind each brief. I will also be including tips on voting issues, refutation, and debate theories! This Lincoln Douglas resource will be in the form of an online course that you can easily purchase on my website! Every brief and resource will be in the form of a printable PDF that you can download.

Check out Isabelle’s new website, Created to Speak…

I love how God brought us together and how we can work together. Some people may think we our in competition with each other, and that’s just not the case! She is an awesome resource that God has given to us! She is also developing a new course, which will be released on April 20th (one month before NITOC)! If you want to pre-order this course, visit the pre-order page!

I wish you all the luck in your speech and debate prep! Never forget that you were created to speak!

If you want to hear more from Isabelle and how to advance your skills before going to NITOC … join her TONIGHT! in her Online Workshop! For NCFCA families, Eric Meinerding will be breaking down TP before you head to Regionals/Nationals. Check out your opportunities…