Competition Events

Students benefit from a wide variety of speech and debate events. To create standards for national competition, the National Speech & Debate Association has defined a number of main events, described below. These events are prevalent in the United States, and many states adopt the Association’s rules and guidelines for each event; however, the events offered, and the rules for each event, do vary from state to state. Please consult with your state speech and debate organization or a local contact for more information on event rules in your area.

For additional information on the events our organization offers:

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Middle School Competition Events Guide

Download

High School Supplemental & Consolation Events Guide

Download

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Speech Events

Commentary

Students are presented with prompts related to societal, political, historic or popular culture and, in 20 minutes, prepare a five-minute speech responding to the prompt. Students may consult articles and evidence they gather prior to the contest, but may not use the Internet during preparation. The speech is delivered from memory and no notes are allowed.

About Commentary

Extemp Commentary, often simply called Commentary, is an original 5-minute speech created as a result of a prompt such as a question, statement, or single word/short phrase. Topics for the prompt are drawn from historic, social, political, and popular contexts. Students may access research brought with them to the tournament during the 20-minute preparation period. Research may take paper or electronic form. During preparation time, students review their files on the prompt selected and outline arguments that will be made throughout the speech.

Students must present from a seated position and typically speak with a table or desk in front of them. The emphasis of Commentary is centered upon advocacy and argumentation. Much like a TV news commentary or editorial, students present an opinion or viewpoint which takes a position on the topic presented and defends that position with analysis and supporting material. The speech is presented from memory.

Through extemporaneous commentary, I was provided an experience that taught artful presentation and intense competition, and introduced me to countless brilliant individuals – an experience that culminated in one of the grandest moments of my life, a national championship.

Will Thompson

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Extemp Speaking Textbook

Find More

More Commentary Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Declamation (Middle School)

Students bring history to life- literally- by delivering a speech that has been delivered by someone else. From the historical greats to contemporary public orations, students have 10 minutes to perform a memorized speech with an introduction. Topics can vary widely based on the interest of the student. The goal of Declamation is for the student to perform another speaker’s message in their own voice.

About Declamation

Declamation is a public speaking event where students deliver a portion or portions of a speech previously delivered. The speech the student delivers can be any publicly delivered speech. Commencement addresses, historical speeches, political speeches, and celebrity speeches are common examples that students may use to select their declamation. Speeches are up to 10 minutes in length. As a result, students typically shorten the text of the speech to meet time requirements.

The goal of a declamation is to convey a message with clarity, emotion, and persuasiveness. The event is not designed for students to mimic the original author of the speech. Instead, speakers are to develop an oration that delivers the message of the author in an original and engaging manner.

Declamation was the first speech event I did as a freshman. It removed some of the pressure because the words were already written (very well written at that, usually by famous people), but I still had to find the right way to deliver them. Playing with different ways to deliver the speech allowed me to explore speech patterns, breathing methods, and all of the other devices important in speech delivery. It helped create a foundation for my success in other speech events.

Sarah Gordon

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Interpretation Textbook

Find More

More Declamation Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Dramatic Interpretation

Using a play, short story, or other published work, students perform a selection of one or more portions of a piece up to ten minutes in length. With a spotlight on character development and depth, this event focuses on the student’s ability to convey emotion through the use of a dramatic text. Competitors may portray one or multiple characters. No props or costumes may be used. Performances can also include an introduction written by the student to contextualize the performance, and state the title and the author.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Dramatic Interpretation from Ohio student Rachel Rothschild.

About Dramatic Interpretation

Dramatic Interpretation, contrary to its name, is not all about drama. While dramatic elements are key aspects of the event, melodramatic, or overly-sad selections are not ideal choices for performance. DI lacks props, costuming, sets, and other luxuries seen in various forms of performance art. There is a set time limit of ten minutes, with a thirty second grace period. Students who choose to compete in Dramatic Interpretation should focus on suspending the disbelief of the audience by portraying a realistic, emotional journey of a character(s). The performance should connect to the audience.

Students who do Dramatic Interpretation may perform selections on topics of serious social subject matter such as coping with terminal illness; significant historical situations, events, and figures; as well as racial and gender discrimination, suppression, and oppression. Students should select pieces that are appropriate for them. Considerations for selecting a DI topic should include the student’s age, maturity, and school standards.

DI helped me develop a better understanding of the world in which I live. To be able to create a narrative that portrays a person you have never known or a situation you’ve never been in so others can learn from it is worth everything.

Jamaque Newberry

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Interpretation Textbook

Find More

More Dramatic Interpretation Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Duo Interpretation

Two competitors team up to deliver a ten-minute performance of a published play or story. Using off-stage focus, competitors convey emotion and environment through a variety of performance techniques focusing on the relationships and interactions between the characters. No props or costumes are used. Performances can also include an introduction written by the students to contextualize the performance and state the title and the author.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Duo Interpretation from New Jersey student Julia Thompson.

About Duo Interpretation

Duo. The event everyone wants to do with a best friend. In truth, while the appeal of duo might be performing with a friend, this approach may not be best. Duo is about balance. Partners need to compliment one another stylistically, have a similar skill set and work ethic. Chemistry is an important element of duo, but chemistry outside of a practice/performance setting does not always translate to chemistry when practicing or performing at a tournament. Be sure to share your goals with your coach as they help you through the process of getting started in duo.

Duo is an event that can be dramatic, comedic, or a combination of the two. With a ten minute time cap, and a requirement of an off-stage focus, Duo is one of the most unique forms of performance. The main objective is to maintain a sense of balance between performers that focuses on the relationship(s) between the characters they create.

Duo Interpretation is an excellent crash course on creativity. The process of cutting, blocking, and refining a script really encourages young artists to think differently and create form and empty space. I think the best part of Duo was the opportunity to meet so many talented, creative people who turn words on a page into phenomenal showcases of artistry, and to have the ability to do it all with my best friend.

Zach Snow

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Interpretation Textbook

Find More

More Duo Interpretation Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Expository

Crafting an original speech, Expository students should describe, clarify, illustrate, or define an object, idea, concept, or process. The speech includes research and is aimed at informing the audience; the goal is to educate, not to advocate. No visual aids are permitted. The time limit is five minutes. The speech is delivered from memory.

About Expository

Expository speaking is an informative speech that is five minutes long without the use of a visual aid (note: some tournaments permit the use of visual aids but at Nationals none are used). Students who participate in Expository provide unique and interesting information to the audience. An effective Expository introduces them to either a completely new topic or something new about a topic people may know a lot about.

The speaker should provide unique insights and explore interesting implications. At its core, Expository Speaking is an informative speech. Students doing Expository may cover topics ranging from an organization to a product , a process or concept.

I enjoyed Expository because it didn’t require the speaker to convince the audience of anything other than how exciting their topic was. Any speech that explores implications usually involves some level of individualized analysis, which keeps topics that are otherwise redundant fresh.

Josh Planos

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Original Oratory Textbook

Find More

More Expository Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Humorous Interpretation

Using a play, short story, or other published work, students perform a selection of one or more portions of a piece up to ten minutes in length. Humorous Interpretation is designed to test a student’s comedic skills through script analysis, delivery, timing, and character development. Competitors may portray one or multiple characters. No props or costumes may be used. Performances can also include an introduction written by the student to contextualize the performance and state the title and the author.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Humorous Interpretation from Florida student Jordan Singer.

About Humorous Interpretation

Humorous Interpretation, as its name indicates, is humorous. Competitors often use multi-character selections to tell relatable stories using humor as a device to connect with the audience. Think about your favorite comedian’s latest stand up routine, or something funny that recently happened. Ask yourself why it’s funny. Then ask yourself if that joke would be funny to, say, your mom, or great-great Uncle Joe. Humor is a complex human quirk. Each individual’s sense of humor is unique. However, other aspects of humor are more universal in nature. So, when choosing an HI, it is imperative to consider not only the humorous elements of the selection, but also to keep in mind how the story itself will appeal to the audience. Not everyone will laugh at the same joke, but if a character’s plight is relatable, the audience will identify with him or her. Humor in a Humorous Interpretation should be tasteful and motivated.

Robin Williams said, ‘You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.’ HI was my way of keeping and exercising my madness muscle, because we all need a little madness to keep the insanity away. HI, and speech in general, helped to cultivate a sense of fearlessness, not only in my performances, but also in my life.

Dan Johnson

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Interpretation Textbook

Find More

More Humorous Interpretation Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Impromptu (Middle School)

Impromptu is a public speaking event where students have seven minutes to select a topic, brainstorm their ideas, outline and deliver a speech. The speech is given without notes and uses an introduction, body, and conclusion. The speech can be light-hearted or serious. It can be based upon prompts that range from nursery rhymes, current events, celebrities, organizations, and more.

About Impromptu

Impromptu is a public speaking event that tests a student’s ability to analyze a prompt, process his or her thoughts, organize the points of the speech, and deliver them in a clear, coherent manner. Students’ logic is extremely important. They must be able to take an abstract idea, such as a fortune from a fortune cookie, and put together a speech that has a thesis and supporting information.

Impromptu speaking is like jumping into public speaking head first. It forced quick confidence and helped me grow as a speaker by giving me the skills to prioritize my decision making to prepare an organized and meaningful speech.

Alex Baranosky

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Extemporaneous Speaking Textbook

Find More

More Impromptu Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Informative Speaking

Students author and deliver a ten-minute speech on a topic of their choosing. Competitors create the speech to educate the audience on a particular topic. All topics must be informative in nature; the goal is to educate, not to advocate. Visual aids are permitted, but not required. The speech is delivered from memory.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Informative Speaking from California student Cynthia Yang.

About Informative Speaking

Informative is a speech written by the student with the intent to inform the audience on a topic of significance. Informative gives students the unique opportunity to showcase their personality while educating the audience.

An Informative is not simply an essay about the topic — it is a well researched and organized presentation with evidence, logic and sometimes humor to convey a message. Topics are varied and interesting. Whether it be a new technological advance the audience is unaware of or a new take on a concept that everyone is familiar with, Informative is the students opportunity to teach the audience. Types of topics and structure vary greatly.

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Original Oratory Textbook

Find More

More Informative Speaking Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

International Extemporaneous Speaking

Students are presented with a choice of three questions related to international current events and, in 30 minutes, prepare a seven-minute speech answering the selected question. Students may consult articles and evidence they gather prior to the contest, but may not use the Internet during preparation. Topics range from country-specific issues to regional concerns to foreign policy. The speech is delivered from memory.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in International Extemporaneous Speaking from Arizona student Vincent Jasso.

About International Extemp

Extemporaneous Speaking, typically called extemp, is a speech on current events with limited preparation time. A student’s understanding of important political, economic, and cultural issues is assessed along with critical thinking and analytical skills. Students report to a draw room (often referred to as extemp prep) where all of the extempers gather at tables, set out their files, and await their turn to draw topics. Students may access research brought with them to the tournament during the 30-minute preparation period. When prep time is up, the student reports to the competition room to deliver a 7 minute speech.

Students have a lot to do in 30 minutes—they must select a question, review research, outline arguments with supporting materials, and practice at least part of the speech before time expires. Many tournaments prohibit the consultation of notes during the speech in which case speech structure and evidence need to be memorized during prep time as well.

The fast-paced nature of Extemp quickly cultivated my speaking skills, while the never-ending subject matter of current events provided an outlet for my intense curiosity. On its most fundamental level, Extemp gave me a microphone to address the world, imbued eloquence into my voice and ideas, and taught me to make concise arguments.

Dylan Adelman

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Extemporaneous Speaking Textbook

Find More

More International Extemp Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Mixed Extemporaneous Speaking (Middle School)

Middle School Extemp combines international and domestic issues (as opposed to two separate events like high school). Students are presented with a choice of three questions related to national and international current events. The student has 30 minutes to prepare a seven-minute speech answering the selected question. Students may consult articles and evidence they gather prior to the contest, but may not use the Internet during preparation.

Original Oratory

Students deliver a self-written, ten-minute speech on a topic of their choosing. Limited in their ability to quote words directly, competitors craft an argument using evidence, logic, and emotional appeals. Topics range widely, and can be informative or persuasive in nature. The speech is delivered from memory.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Original Oratory from Indiana student Lia Thayer.

About Original Oratory

Original Oratory is a speech written by the student with the intent to inform or persuade the audience on a topic of significance. Oratory gives students the unique opportunity to showcase their voice and passion for their topic.

An Oratory is not simply an essay about the topic—it is a well researched and organized presentation with evidence, logic, emotional appeals, and sometimes humor to convey a message. Topics may be of a value orientation and affect people at a personal level, such as avoiding peer pressure, or they can be more of a policy orientation and ask an audience to enact particular policies or solve societal problems.

The skills that I acquired from Oratory are skills most fundamental to the human condition. Oratory allowed me to advocate for what I believed in, in my words. It gave me the ability to tell my story from the stories and experiences of others. I learned the importance of organization, fact checking, word economy, along with innumerable other skills that form the foundation of great writing. Competing in Oratory gave me a unique opportunity to venture into elements of other events. Storytelling, humor, drama, spontaneity, argumentation, and research are all elements that are actively applied in Oratory. It’s an event for anyone and everyone.

Avi Jaggi

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Original Oratory Textbook

Find More

More Original Oratory Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Poetry (Middle School)

Using a selection or selections of literature, students provide an oral interpretation of poetry. Poetry is characterized by writing that conveys ideas, experiences, and emotions through language and expression. Students may choose traditional poetry, often characterized by rhyme or rhythm, or nontraditional poetry, which often has a rhythmic flow but is not necessarily structured by formal meter (meter is a beat, pattern, or structure, such as iambic pentameter). Students may not use prose, nor drama (plays) in this category. This event is seven minutes, including an introduction.

About Poetry

Poetry is characterized by writing that conveys ideas, experiences, and emotions through language and expression. Often Poetry is very creative in terms of vocabulary and composition. While Poetry may tell a story or develop a character, more often Poetry’s focus on language and form are designed to elicit critical thought, reflection, or emotion. Students may choose what the National Speech & Debate Association refers to as traditional Poetry, which often has a formal meter or rhyme scheme, or nontraditional Poetry, which often has a rhythmic flow but lacks formal rhyme or meter (examples include spoken word or slam Poetry).

When all words fail to express what you want to say, Poetry has the kind of language that can. It’s a beautiful challenge that you can take in any direction, composing an arrangement that speaks to you yet also creates discussion among your audience. When you nail that performance, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Allison Macknick

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Interpretation Textbook

Find More

More Poetry Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Program Oral Interpretation

Using selections from Prose, Poetry and Drama students create a ten minute performance around a central theme. Program Oral Interpretation is designed to test a student’s ability to intersplice multiple types of literature into a single, cohesive performance. A manuscript is required and may be used as a prop within the performance if the performer maintains control of the manuscript at all times. Performances can also include an introduction written by the student to contextualize the performance and state the title and the author of each selection.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Program Oral Interpretation from Arkansas student Jeremiah Brown.

About Progam Oral Interpretation

Program Oral Interpretation relies on the performer’s ability to portray a wide range of characters and literature all held together under a common theme. Each program must contain at least two of the three genres and students are encouraged to include all three. There is a set time limit of ten minutes, with a thirty second grace period. Students who choose to compete in POI should focus on making an interesting argument that is supported in different ways by each piece of literature they select.

This sample performance is from a college-level Program Interp. All literature used in high school must follow the publication rules of the National Speech & Debate Association’s Unified Manual.

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Interpretation Textbook

Find More

More Program Oral Interp Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Prose (Middle School)

Using a short story, parts of a novel, or other published work of prose, students provide an oral interpretation of a selection of materials. Typically a single piece of literature, prose can be drawn from works of fiction or non-fiction. Prose corresponds to common speech patterns and may combine elements of narration and dialogue. Students may not use poetry, or drama (plays), in this category. This event is seven minutes, including an introduction.

About Prose

Prose is often classified as the “other” category of interpretation. It’s not poetry. It’s not drama. It’s not storytelling. So what is prose? Prose combines multiple elements of oral interpretation of literature. Prose corresponds to usual patterns of speech — that which you would find most every day in a particular space and time (in contrast to poetic form and language). Prose typically has a narrative with its related rises and falls, much like Storytelling. Prose may also feature character development and dialogue, much like Dramatic Interpretation. Prose may have humorous elements embedded, much like Humorous Interpretation. In short, while many categories have specific interpretation focal points, Prose Interpretation is very wide open, and choices of material may vary from region to region or even tournament to tournament.

I love Prose because it’s all about connecting to the audience. I want them to care about a story and connect with it on a very emotional and personal level. A good Prose lets you suspend time for a few minutes and just enjoy the ride.

Emily Anderson

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Interpretation Textbook

Find More

More Prose Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Storytelling (Middle School)

Students select a published story that meets a designated theme. Themes range widely and may include mysteries, heroism, or fairy tales. Students select a story that would be appropriate for young children and tell the story as if presenting to that audience. This event is five minutes. Students may use a chair. Manuscripts are not permitted.

About Storytelling

Storytelling consists of sharing a story with an audience, performed as if the audience were a group of young children. The story must meet the theme of the tournament and not exceed five minutes. Students may use a full range of movement to express themselves and may incorporate a chair in a variety of different ways. Students may be seated but most commonly performers use a full range of stage space available to them.

As there are so many different types of stories that can be performed, it is important to observe rounds to see what other students and teams are using. The Association has final rounds of Storytelling from both the high school and middle school level to review. Local and regional tournaments may vary in the selection of stories performed.

What I love about storytelling is it lets a competitor be goofy. Not just funny but outlandishly goofy. There’s seldom a moment where you have to worry if something ‘makes sense.’ Most of the stories used in competition have plot lines that suspend reality in the first place. So, if I have a script with a talking iguana and I want to make him Austrailian, it works. I love how crazy it can get.

Emma Wilczynski

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Interpretation Textbook

Find More

More Storytelling Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

United States Extemporaneous Speaking

Students are presented with a choice of three questions related to current events in the United States and, in 30 minutes, prepare a seven-minute speech answering the selected question. Students may consult articles and evidence they gather prior to the contest, but may not use the Internet during preparation. Topics range from political matters to economic concerns to U.S. foreign policy. The speech is delivered from memory.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in United States Extemporaneous Speaking from California student Joshua Tran.

About United States Extemp

Extemporaneous Speaking, typically called extemp, is a speech on current events with limited preparation time. A student’s understanding of important political, economic, and cultural issues is assessed along with critical thinking and analytical skills. Students report to a draw room (often referred to as extemp prep) where all of the extempers gather at tables, set out their files, and await their turn to draw topics. Students may access research brought with them to the tournament during the 30-minute preparation period. When prep time is up, the student reports to the competition room to deliver a 7 minute speech.

Students have a lot to do in 30 minutes—they must select a question, review research, outline arguments with supporting materials, and practice at least part of the speech before time expires. Many tournaments prohibit the consultation of notes during the speech in which case speech structure and evidence need to be memorized during prep time as well.

Extemp made me the poised, organized, and strong woman I am today. It taught me how to be myself in front of a room full of strangers, to break down complex theories so they are easily accessible, to quickly problem solve, and, most importantly, that I never need to apologize for being a girl who wants to talk about labor market policies more than celebrity drama.

Talan Tyminski

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Extemporaneous Speaking Textbook

Find More

More United States Extemp Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Debate Events

Policy Debate

A two-on-two debate that focuses on a policy question for the duration of the academic year, this format tests a student’s research, analytical, and delivery skills. Policy debate involves the proposal of a plan by the affirmative team to enact a policy, while the negative team offers reasons to reject that proposal. Throughout the debate, students have the opportunity to cross-examine one another. A judge or panel of judges determines the winner based on the arguments presented.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Policy Debate from Missouri student Dalton Nunamaker.

About Policy Debate

Policy debate is a two-on-two debate where an affirmative team proposes a plan and the negative team argues why that plan should not be adopted. The topic for policy debate changes annually, so debaters throughout the course of the year will debate the same topic.

One member of each team will perform the ‘first’ speeches, the other the ‘second’ speeches. So the person who reads the 1AC wil also perform the 1AR, for example. Note that the debate begins with the affirmative speaking first, and then switches midway through the debate where the negative speaks first, thus giving the affirmative the ability to speak last.

Time Limits

Speech Abbreviation Time Limit
1st Affirmative Constructive 1AC 8 minutes
Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative 3 minutes
1st Negative Constructive 1NC 8 minutes
Affirmative Cross-Examination of Negative 3 minutes
2nd Affirmative Constructive 2AC 8 minutes
Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative 3 minutes
2nd Negative Constructive 2NC 8 minutes
Affirmative Cross-Examination of Negative 3 minutes
1st Negative Rebuttal 1NR 5 minutes
1st Affirmative Rebuttal 1AR 5 minutes
2nd Negative Rebuttal 2NR 5 minutes
2nd Affirmative Rebuttal 2AR 5 minutes
Prep Time (each team) 5 minutes

Policy Debate provided me immeasurable critical thinking skills and confidence in not only my ability to speak but also my ability to think. But what I loved most about Policy Debate is that the nature of the activity is one that rewards hard work—nobody is born a good debater. Instead Policy Debate is pure effort and perseverance and I love that.

Nathaniel Sawyer

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Policy Debate Textbook

Find More

More Policy Debate Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

In this one-on-one format, students debate a topic provided by the National Speech & Debate Association. Topics range from individual freedom versus the collective good to economic development versus environmental protection. Students may consult evidence gathered prior to the debate but may not use the Internet in round. An entire debate is roughly 45 minutes and consists of constructive speeches, rebuttals, and cross-examination.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Lincoln-Douglas Debate from Hawaii student Lily Perry.

About Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Lincoln-Douglas Debate typically appeals to individuals who like to debate, but prefer a one-on-one format as opposed to a team or group setting. Additionally, individuals who enjoy LD like exploring questions of how society ought to be. Many people refer to LD Debate as a “values” debate, as questions of morality and justice are commonly examined. Students prepare cases and then engage in an exchange of cross-examinations and rebuttals in an attempt to convince a judge that s/he is the better debater in the round.

Time Limits

Speech Time Limit Purpose
Affirmative Constructive 6 minutes Present the affirmative case
Negative Cross-Examination 3 minutes Negative asks questions of the affirmative
Negative Constructive 7 minutes Present the negative case and refute the affirmative case
Affirmative Cross-Examination 3 minutes Affirmative asks questions of the negative
First Affirmative Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the negative case and rebuild the affirmative case
Negative Rebuttal 6 minutes Refute the affirmative case, rebuild the negative case, and offer reasons that negative should win the round, commonly referred to as voting issues.
2nd Affirmative Rebuttal 3 minutes Address negative voting issues and offer reasons for why the affirmative should win.

*Each debater is also entitled to four minutes of prep time during the round.

LD allowed me to question basic assumptions and reevaluate aspects of the world. Despite debating individually, the community is so welcoming; I made friends across the country.

Jordan Friedman

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Lincoln-Douglas Debate Textbook

Find More

More Lincoln-Douglas Debate Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Public Forum Debate

Public Forum involves opposing teams of two, debating a topic concerning a current event. Proceeding a coin toss, the winners choose which side to debate (PRO or CON) or which speaker position they prefer (1st or 2nd), and the other team receives the remaining option. Students present cases, engage in rebuttal and refutation, and also participate in a “crossfire” (similar to a cross examination) with the opportunity to question the opposing team. Often times community members are recruited to judge this event.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Public Forum Debate from South Dakota alumnus Brett Ries.

About Public Forum Debate

As a team event, students who compete in Public Forum need to be able to work well with a partner. Balanced teams, both in terms of preparation before debates and contributions within a debate, helps provide a competitive advantage during tournaments. PF is the newest form of debate in the Association and looks at current event topics. Students who do Public Forum must be prepared to debate in front of judges without any formal debate training. Being able to persuade a range of judges is a central component to this event. Additionally, PF is focused upon debating varying resolutions that change frequently, which exposes students to a variety of topics during a singular competitive season.

Time Limits

Speech Time Limit Purpose
Team A Speaker 1 – Constructive 4 minutes Present the team’s case
Team B Speaker 1 – Constructive 4 minutes Present the team’s case
Crossfire 3 minutes Speaker 1 from Team A & B alternate asking and answering questions
Team A Speaker 2 – Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the opposing side’s arguments
Team B Speaker 2 – Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the opposing side’s arguments
Crossfire 3 minutes Speaker 2 from Team A & B alternate asking and answering questions
Team A Speaker 1 – Summary 2 minutes Begin crystallizing the main issues in the round
Team B Speaker 1 – Summary 2 minutes Begin crystallizing the main issues in the round
Grand Crossfire 3 minutes All four debaters involved in a crossfire at once
Team A Speaker 2 – Final Focus 2 minutes Explain reasons that you win the round
Team B Speaker 2 – Final Focus 2 minutes Explain reasons that you win the round

*Each team is entitled to two minutes of prep time during the round.

Public Forum played a large role in who I am today. It taught me to be persuasive. At its core, the event’s structure and audience forced me to shape and mold my thoughts into concise, simple, yet elegant arguments.

Danny Rego

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Public Forum Debate Textbook

Find More

More Public Forum Debate Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Congressional Debate (House & Senate)

A simulation of the U.S. legislative process, students generate a series of bills and resolutions for debate in Congressional Debate. Debaters alternate delivering speeches for and against the topic in a group setting. An elected student serves as a presiding officer to ensure debate flows smoothly. Students are assessed on their research, argumentation, and delivery skills, as well as their knowledge and use of parliamentary procedure.

IN THEIR WORDS | Learn what to expect competing in Congressional Debate from Missouri student Maguire Radosevic.

About Congressional Debate

Congressional Debate is like a simulation of the real United States legislature. A group of 10-25 students, called a Chamber, will compete in a legislative session. A series of bills and resolutions will be proposed by students from various schools. Students in turn will be selected by a presiding officer — a student elected to conduct the business of the round — to give speeches both advocating for and encouraging the defeat of the measure in front of them. Following each speech, competitors will be able to pose questions of the speaker. Once debate is exhausted on a particular item, the chamber will vote either to pass or fail the legislation, and debate moves on to the next item.

Legislation comes in two types — a bill and a resolution. A bill is a plan of action, detailing how a particular policy proposal will be implemented. A resolution, meanwhile, is a statement expressing the opinion of the chamber.

Typically, one session of Congress lasts about 2-3 hours. During that time, students typically give speeches 3 minutes in length. The first two speeches on a piece of legislation are known as the first advocacy, or first pro, and the first rejection, or first con. These speeches are followed by 2 minutes of cross examination. After the first pro and con speech are established, each additional speaker is subject to one minute of cross examination by the chamber.

Congressional Debate is an exercise in leadership. It’s a political game where your fellow students can have as much influence on the outcome of the round as your judges. You’re rewarded for taking risks; one cannot simply fade into the background and expect to succeed. It’s these exact skills that translate into success later in life—those who think a little bit differently are those who make permanent change in the world.

Christina Gilbert

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Congressional Debate Textbook

Find More

More Congressional Debate Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Extemporaneous Debate

A one-on-one format, Extemporaneous Debate consists of two students who will argue a specified topic with limited preparation time. Students are given a minimum of thirty minutes to prepare for each debate and are notified if they are for or against the provided resolution. This quick-moving debate takes roughly 20 minutes to complete.

About Extemporaneous Debate

Extemporaneous Debate is a supplemental event at the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Students compete in a one-on-one format with limited prep time to prepare for the topic they are to debate. Students present arguments and engage in rebuttals, however, unlike other common debate events, students debate a number of topics, as opposed to a single topic for the entire tournament. Each round students are presented a unique resolution. They are given a minimum of thirty minutes to prepare for the round. The use of evidence is permitted, but not a focal point due to the limited time available to prepare a case for the round.

Time Limits

Speech Time Limit Purpose
Proposition Constructive 2 minutes The debater in favor of the resolution presents his or her case/position in support of the topic.
Cross Examination of Proposition 1 minute The opposition debater asks the proposition questions.
Opposition Constructive 2 minutes The debater against the resolution or the proposition’s case presents his or her case/position.
Cross Examination of Opposition 1 minute The proposition debater asks the opposition questions.
Mandatory Prep Time 1 minute Both debaters have one minute to prepare their rebuttals.
Proposition Rebuttal 2 minutes The proposition debater refutes the main idea of the opposition and supports their main ideas.
Opposition Rebuttal 2 minutes The opposition debater refutes the main idea of the proposition and supports their main ideas.
Mandatory Prep Time 1 minute Both debaters have one minute to prepare their rebuttals.
Proposition Rebuttal 2 minutes In this final speech the proposition crystallizes the round for the judge and tries to establish sufficient reason for a vote in favor of the resolution.
Opposition Rebuttal 2 minutes In this final speech the opposition crystallizes the round for the judge and tries to establish sufficient reason for a vote against the proposition’s case and/or the resolution.

Extemp debate imparted onto me, the importance of having to be well read, and open minded about a wide variety of topics. The event also helped me work on my word economy and efficiency when discussing important points in every day conversation. Finally, the compressed format, and scope of the topics also gave me an opportunity to engage in really enjoyable debate on topics that I would never have been able to without it.

James Stage

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Extemporaneous Speaking Textbook

Find More

More Extemporaneous Debate Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

World Schools Debate

World Schools Debate features a dynamic format combining the concepts of “prepared” topics with “impromptu” topics, encouraging debaters to focus on specified issues rather than debate theory or procedural arguments. This highly interactive style of debate allows debaters to engage each other, even during speeches. This challenging format requires good teamwork and in-depth quality argumentation.

About World Schools Debate

World Schools Debate is a three-on-three format. While a given team may consist of five members, only three students from a team participate in a given debate. Resolutions come in two types: prepared motions and impromptu motions. Teams will be assigned one of two sides in each round- either the government team proposing the motion or the opposition team advocating the rejection of the motion. Debaters present their position on a topic, refute their opponents, and respond to questions throughout the course of the debate.

Time Limits

Speech Time Limit
Proposition Team Speaker 1 8 minutes
Opposition Team Speaker 1 8 minutes
Proposition Team Speaker 2 8 minutes
Opposition Team Speaker 2 8 minutes
Proposition Team Speaker 3 8 minutes
Opposition Team Speaker 3 8 minutes
Opposition Rebuttal 4 minutes
Proposition Rebuttal 4 minutes

Speech and debate has taught me more life skills than any other class. The ability to communicate and influence people is by far the most effective tool anybody can ever use in their life.

Victor Monson

NSDA Alum

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

World Schools Debate Textbook

Find More

More World Schools Debate Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search

Big Questions Debate

Big Questions is designed to enhance students’ current debate experiences, opening their minds and encouraging them to engage in life discussion that may not align with their previously held beliefs. Whether or not students change their opinion, the rich experience of this debate event will advance their knowledge, comfort, and interest in learning more about the subject matter.

About Big Questions Debate

Big Questions Debate is a one-on-one format. Topics last all year and concern the intersection of science, philosophy, and religion. Students are assigned a side of the topic before each round and present cases, engage in rebuttal and refutation, and participate in a question period. Often, average members of the public are recruited to judge and observe this event. Big Questions is supported by the John Templeton Foundation.

Time Limits

Speech Time Limit Purpose
Affirmative Constructive 5 minutes Present case
Negative Constructive 5 minutes Present case
Question Segment 3 minutes Alternate asking and answering questions
Affirmative Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the opposing side’s arguments
Negative Rebuttal 4 minutes Refute the opposing side’s arguments
Question Segment 3 minutes Alternate asking and answering questions
Affirmative Consolidation 3 minutes Begin crystallizing the main issues in the round
Negative Consolidation 3 minutes Begin crystallizing the main issues in the round
Affirmative Rationale 2 minutes Explain reasons that you win the round
Negative Rationale 2 minutes Explain reasons that you win the round

*Each team is entitled to five minutes of prep time during the round.

I believe this topic will generate a unique discussion among students and adults alike. Our judges are a cross-section of our community and their connection with the students and this topic will create an 21st century educational experience for all.

Mary Ann Berty

Coach

High School Competition Events Guide

Download

Big Questions Format Manual

Find More

More Big Questions Debate Resources

Find More

Looking for a different resource?

Search
Share This