I like your Style!
Fashion styles may come and go, but debating sticks to the classics. The Toronto Debating Society normally uses the parliamentary style of debate (please see 'Debating Formats'), but we like to mix it up sometimes. Our members will defend any side of an issue to challenge even their own viewpoints. In general, we don’t necessarily believe a single word we’re saying! Here are some examples of how we stretch our presentation skills.
To debate effectively, you don’t have to take what you are saying about a particular subject to heart – all you have to do is make convincing arguments about your proposition and persuade your audience that your point of view is more sound than you opponent(s).
Could you defend a position without even knowing what the topic is ahead of time?
The Speaker will prepare the impromptu motion in advance. Impromptu motions should be general, accessible to all and easily comprehended. Note: It is advised that the Speaker consult with a member of the executive to ensure that the motion is appropriate and that it is debatable. For example, a motion which is complex or would normally require research should be discouraged. Debaters will sign up in teams of government and opposition as per a usual debate.
The Speaker will announce the resolution and dismiss the debating teams to prepare for their debate.
The Prime Minister will define the resolution in their opening presentation.
The debate is scored as a regular debate, however it should be anticipated that scores for “content” (supporting evidence) will be lower than in a regular debate. Supporting evidence is certainly still possible in the form of common knowledge or anecdotes – but cited sources of evidence are not expected.
Current Affairs Impromptu Debate
If you’re a news junkie and constantly hungry to debate the pressing issues of the day, the current affairs debate is for you.
The Speaker will prepare the impromptu motion in advance. An impromptu motion for a current affairs debate should be “ripped from the headlines“ and accessible to all with even a passing familiarity with the issues of the day. Note: It is advised that the Speaker consult with a member of the executive to ensure that the motion is appropriate and that it is debatable. Debaters will sign up in teams of government and opposition as per a usual debate.
The Speaker will contact the debaters personally to announce the resolution on the Friday before a debate as well as create and share the definition for the resolution to guide the debaters in their research. The Speaker must also contact the Membership executive to ensure the agenda is updated online. As the debate begins, the speaker announces the definition.
The debate is scored as a regular debate.
Points of Information
Points of information (POI) are a dynamic and enjoyable part of parliamentary debate.
A point of information is a brief rejoinder (seven seconds or less) to the point then being made by the person speaking. It may be a concise statement or a pointed question and there is no follow-up.
Points of information are an integral part of parliamentary debating. A speaker who declines to accept any points may seem to fear the opponents arguments. On the other hand, a speaker who accepts too many points of information loses control of his or her speech. Usually, a constructive speaker will accept two points of information. Accepting them when offered shows that you are confident of your arguments and prepared to defend them.
To make a Point of Information; the member wishing to make the POI stands.
The member speaking can either:
Accept by acknowledging the member,
Defer by saying “wait a moment please,” or
Reject the POI by saying “no thank you” or wave them down.
If the member speaking accepts the POI they should answer immediately and continue with their speech.
Two points of information are permitted per regulation speech: neither during the first or last minute of a speech nor during a summation.
The Speaker will ensure questioning debaters remain in order while delivering accepted points of information. The adjudicator is expected to penalize teams who go over time or otherwise abuse points of information – e.g. verbosity and badgering.
When Points of Information are accepted for a debate, a debater will lose points for:
Attempts to raise a POI outside of time limit;
Too long of a question (longer than seven seconds);
Attempt at a follow up question; and
Not using/accepting POI.
However, they will gain points for:
POI successfully distracting speaker; and
Accepting POI within a reasonable window, and not allowing it to become a distraction.
Cross-Examination Debate (aka Policy Debate)
Debating rewards speakers who can think on their feet, communicate effectively, prepare thoroughly and organize their thoughts; Cross-examination debate highlights these qualities. Cross-Examination Debate differs from a regular debate in that it places emphasis on questioning or cross-examination between constructive speeches. While specific practices vary, Cross-Examination Debate typically rewards intensive use of evidence, and is more focused on content than on delivery.
Debaters must answer questions immediately - without destroying their own case or aiding their opponent’s. They must use their best poker face to conceal any damaging admissions. And they must know their case sufficiently well to answer unexpected questions with compelling facts. It stands out from other styles of debate in that it was designed to accentuate a clash of argumements. It differs from Parliamentary debate in two senses: no formal interruptions (Points of Order or Privilege) or heckling are permitted. At the end of each debater’s speech, s/he is questioned by an opponent. In this sense, Cross-examination debate is more representative of the court room than of Parliament. The content or substance of each debate is introduced through a debater’s constructive remarks, and the crossexamination period is chiefly a way of identifying differences in the two cases rather than a means of introducing information. The fact that no interruptions are permitted allows a debater to have better control over the timing of his or her remarks. But the cross-examination portion of the debate forces a debater to respond to opponent’s arguments, forces a debater to commit to particular views, and exposes his or her argument to potentially rigourous analysis.
During the cross-examination there is an 'Examiner" (asking questions) and a "Witness" (answering qustions).
The rules of Cross-examination debate differ from other debate styles only slightly
No formal interruptions are permitted during the course of the debate, although at the end of the debate, an opportunity will be afforded to debaters to complain of any rule violations and misrepresentations by their opponents.
At the end of each debater’s initial remarks (but not after the rebuttals, if separate rebuttals are permitted), he or she will be questioned by an opponent, usually for up to two or three minutes or so.
While being questioned, a “witness” may only answer questions; the only questions permitted in reply are to have a confusing query answered. Witnesses must answer the questions themselves - neither the witness nor the “examiner” may seek help from a colleague, although both may rely on source materials and books during the examination. The witness must answer all questions directly and honestly.
While asking questions, an examiner may not make statements or argue with the witness; he or she may only ask questions of the witness. Judges are instructed to disregard information introduced by an examiner while questioning and to penalize examiners for breaking the rules.
There are no formal rules of evidence which govern the sort of question which may be asked, though common sense dictates that the examination should be limited to fair questions on relevant subjects; these need not arise out of the preceding speech. As always, debaters must not belittle an opponent and must treat one another with courtesy.
In a Cross-examination debate, a debater will gain points for:
Questioning based on what was said in the debate.
Ability to handle questions.
S/he will lose points for:
Monologues (instead of asking questions).
Being flustered by questions.
Taking inspiration from CBC Radio's, "The Debaters", our Comedy Debate style is intended to entertain audiences with a combination of “fact and funny” while simultaneously training debaters to combine arguments with clever turns of phrase – all delivered with impeccable timing.
This debating style was introduced in 2010 with the aim of injecting more humour into all of our debates.
The challenge of delivering a humorous and persuasive presentation while concurrently jousting with the opposition’s arguments and comical observations proves to yield one of our most demanding and entertaining evenings of the year. As every comedian will attest, “Dying is easy… comedy is hard.”
The member who adjudicated our first Comedy debate introduced his critique by stating in jest, “well I have to definitely rate this debate on comedy because factually there was pretty much nothing here, folks.”
Fundamentally, this presentation will still be a debate rather than simply four funny speeches in succession. The expectation for this debate is that comedy should suffuse the complete debate; i.e. the arguments, content, etc.). All of the elements should contain a comedic slant.
The topic is known ahead of time. Debaters are encouraged to sign up very early for this debate as the task of generating material for “stand-up” style comedy can be time-consuming and difficult.
The format of a Comedy Debate is largely identical to the format of a regular debate. However, in the spirit of fun, many of our formal rules are expected to be bent or broken – within moderation. The Speaker remains the ultimate symbol of authority for the debate and any rulings for debaters to exercise restraint must be respected.
Normally, Style and Rhetoric is only valued as a small portion of the overall grade.
The relative weightings of the five evaluation criterion are adjusted to place a much heavier emphasis on style:
Argument changes from 30% to 20%
Content changes from 20% to 10%
Rebuttal and Refutation changes from 20% to 10%
Teamwork changes from 20% to 10%
Style and Rhetoric changes from 10% to 50%
Random Roles Debate
At the Toronto Debating Society, members will defend any side of any issue to challenge even their own viewpoints. In general, we don’t necessarily believe a single word we’re saying!
To debate effectively, you don’t have to take what you are saying about particular subject to heart – all you have to do is make convincing arguments about your proposition and persuade your audience that your point of view is more sound than you opponent(s). In fact, a good challenge for all debaters is to take the side of an argument that you don’t actually believe in.
The Random Roles debate is the pinnacle exercise for this philosophy. Could you defend a position without knowing what your position is ahead of time?
The topic is known ahead of time. Four debaters will sign up for a “general” debating position, but the specific speaking positions will remain unassigned.
The speaker will create and share the definition for the resolution well in advance of the debate to guide the debaters in their research.
As the debate begins, the speaker announces the definition and introduces the Prime Minister by selecting the name from a hat. During the Prime Minister’s speech, the remaining debaters must take careful notes as they do not know if they are about to oppose or support the points being presented. The remaining positions are announced in turn as the debate continues.
The debate is scored as a regular debate and the adjudicator will not take into consideration that the roles were selected at random. The challenge for the debaters is to make it appear that everything went according to plan and there was no random selection. Debaters must take care in delivering a convincing presentation which even exercises good teamwork.
The Mini-Debate Marathon is a special open house event for members and guests of the Toronto Debating Society. Normally, membership is required to participate in a debate – but tonight participation is open to all. Try your hand at debating in a fun and frivolous environment with new hands and old hands to help newcomers and guests participate.
The evening will consist of several mini debates between two speakers, the Prime Minister or the responding Leader of the Opposition. The PM will speak for 2:00, the LO will respond for 3:00 and finally the PM will have the final word for 1:00. The winner will be chosen by a show of hands from the audience.
The speakers can chose the debates, and the positions they wish to take during the evening.