It’s (almost) resolution day! If the Twitter-verse is to be believed, many of you were anxiously anticipating the publication of the new Public Forum and Lincoln Douglas topics. We were right there with you:
This is an overwhelming and exciting time – exciting because the season is starting but overwhelming because a new topic demands a lot of in-depth attention and preparation. It’s particularly difficult to feel ready when you have so little time to put together a case and some generic negative arguments. Today, we’ve got 5 quick efficiency strategies to ease the transition and ramp up the excitement while managing the stress.
1. Divide and conquer. If you have teammates, use them. This is not the time to retreat into your own personal bubble. Schedule a squad meeting for the day the resolution is released or for soon after. Set an agenda for the meeting, including:
- Brainstorming. Go around the room and get out every possible idea for an affirmative or negative argument you can think of, and then put them in a Cloud-based document via Google Drive or Medium so everyone can update it in real-time as they uncover new information while researching. Don’t worry too much about quality – just get it on paper and keep the ideas flowing. You’ll sort it in a moment.
- Taking assignments and building a to-do list. Using the argument list you’ve built, go through and assign these arguments. Prioritize, putting the most important things in wave 1, next most important in wave 2, etc. Chances are, you won’t get to everything on the to-do list before the topic is over, but it’s useful to assign them anyway in case you get through more than you thought you would.
- Set deadlines. Set a clear deadline for each wave of research so you can remember to regularly check in.
- Bonus pro-tip: You can build a free, share-able to-do list for your entire team using a cloud-based productivity app like Wunderlist. That way you know in real-time where your teammates are on their assignments plus can add and subtract group tasks. Also, as silly as it sounds, it’s motivating to be able to cross things off of your digital to-do list. Sometimes a little digital motivation is all it takes.
2. Find your angle. Think about your connection to the topic from both ends. You can do this in a number of ways, but the easiest is to revisit your to-do list and pick out your favorite argument on both sides of the resolution. The argument that appeals to you the most will naturally be the easiest for you to explain to a judge and, as a result, you should have an easy time winning it. You’ll also be excited to stay up-to-date on it. Try to claim this as your assignment and personalize it as much as possible. If it’s not your assignment, try to at least lobby for it to be in wave 1 so you can get your hands on it quickly.
3. Use RSS and other tools to stay up to date. Immerse yourself in the topic in small ways. Set some Google alerts for key terms. Follow germane columnists on Twitter (and @Debate_Central for our curated topic Tweets!). Add some of the relevant publications and blogs to your Feedly or other blog reader. In other words, do what you can to put this information in front of you in as many ways as possible by making it a part of your routine. This works well because a big part of staying on top of topics that shift quickly is to learn a little something about them every day, This keeps you involved in the conversation and thinking about the important core issues.
Just remember: When the new topic comes out, delete these and start over. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a clogged mailbox and a crazy Twitter feed. This only works if you stay on top of it.
4. Practice as soon as you can. As soon as you have enough evidence to have a debate, have one. Debating makes you better at a new topic faster than any other practice technique. Without some practice rounds under your belt, it’s hard to envision how you’ll handle an argument in the context of all the challenges of a debate – time management, delivery, impact calculus, etc. Try to have at least 2-3 rounds on a topic before you debate it live at a tournament. It keeps you speaking, gets the rust out, and overall helps you visualize success.
5. Use our free case critique service. Finally, take advantage of our free case critique service! We’ll give you our honest take on your arguments before you have to expose them to real-life feedback at tournaments. For more information on how to use them, check out our FAQ here.