Intro to Congressional Debate

By Jen Quach

What is Congressional Debate?

This debate event mimics the actual United States Congress. Unlike the other events, Congress focuses on delivery and presentation while referring to and refuting your opponents. You either debate as a Representative or a Senator, and you give speeches with the goal of convincing your fellow representatives to either pass or negate a bill. 

How to construct a speech:

Speeches are 3 minutes long and include:
1) Introduction (at most 30 seconds)
2) 2/3 points that consist of: Claim, Warrant (why is your claim true), Evidence, Impact (why your point matters)
3) Conclusion

How to give a speech:

Because this is a debate event that requires proper delivery, it is important to enunciate and project your voice. Always make eye contact with the people you want to convince, and facial expressions and gestures are crucial to relaying your message. Additionally, know your place in the round - if you are one of the first speakers, your speech is mainly constructive; if you speak in the middle, you should be focusing primarily on refuting; if you speak near the end, crystallize the arguments (narrow the arguments down to clear things up for the judge)

Tips and Tricks:

Use Rhetoric when needed - you don’t want congress to be more of a speech event than a debate event, but you also don’t want your audience to be bored during your speech

Refer and refute your opponents - show the judge that you’re paying attention to the round and can contribute to the debate

Avoid rehash - no one wants to hear the same arguments again! If you don’t have any other way, change the warrant or add a new impact to a previous argument

Contribute to the round - Ask questions, motion, open the floor for debate, etc. understand NSDA procedures

Never be aggressive during questioning or when giving a speech - you are on an equal standing with all your opponents