• Equal Proposition

Appealing to Different Judges

By: Rena Su


Judges at any given tournament are very different people with different values. Of course, some judges will like you much more than others (and you will more likely than not run into a few that dislike your style). It is impossible to be every judge’s favourite debater. However, it is possible to tailor your content and style to match the expectations of judges between rounds. The ‘archetypes’ of judges featured in this article are not going to be comprehensive but they can help you gauge a better idea of judges you may meet.


The New Parent Judge

Who? This is usually a parent of a debater who has also joined the tournament. They may not know much about debate and it could be one of their first times judging. Many newer parent judges do not flow (i.e. take notes) the round.

Do’s:

  • Be slow and clear in your speech

  • Be polite and courteous to both the judge and your opponents

  • Signpost and be clear! Make it very clear exactly where in your speech you are. Do not make the parent judge’s job harder than it needs to be.

  • Aim for perceptual dominance — you want to look more confident in your contentions than the other side is.

Don’ts:

  • Be overly confusing with jargon

  • Speak too quickly to the point that the judge cannot understand your main points

  • Blame the parent judge for your loss or display a negative attitude

  • Win only off of flow


The Experienced Parent Judge

Who? Sometimes, the parents of experienced debaters may end up gathering a good amount of judging experience on the side. These parents understand debate but often haven’t been in the shoes of a coach or a debater. Some flow but some do not.

Do’s:

  • Keep a good balance of jargon and accessible language in your speech; many of these parent judges understand debate sufficiently but would prefer that you keep your speech relatively simple

  • Go at a moderate speed when speaking

  • Be clear with what you’re doing when employing strategies such as weighing or comparatives — use more than just the word

  • Aim for perceptual dominance and good style

Don’ts:

  • Belittle the parent judge for being a parent judge

  • Be unclear with complex ideas, terminology, or strategies


The Coach

Who? Pretty straightforward — the coach is a debate coach, who was either hired into the tournament or accompanying their students. The coach can often be a university student and is most likely a former debater. Coaches almost always flow the round.

Do’s:

  • Feel free to use jargon and speed, though do not sacrifice the quality of your speech for these.

  • Win off of flow. This means that you will have to have substantial responses to all you hear from the other side and outweigh them notably.

  • Ask for advice after the round. Though this will not change the outcome of the round, coaches typically know enough to give some advice that will allow you to improve as a debater.

Don’ts:

  • Rely solely on style — style may get you a good speaker score, but it will not guarantee the win under a coach. Content is very important as well.

  • Aim to solely impress. Engagement with the opponents is more important than solely impressing the judge. More often than not, the former actually achieves the latter.


The Debater

Who? The debater is often a fellow debater, often in the older grades of high school or in university. More often than not, the debater is someone involved in the community and has plenty of experience. Debaters typically flow the round. Do’s:

  • Feel free to use jargon and speed without sacrificing the quality of your speech

  • Everything listed in the coach category

Don’ts:

  • Deliver style over content — debaters can see through this very easily

  • Lose your professionalism due to the age of the debater. Many times, the debater is the category of judge that is the closest in age to you. However, do not let this be a justification to have an overly unprofessional attitude as a rule of thumb.

  • Everything listed in the coach category


General Rules For Treating Judges Overall:

  1. Do not treat anyone in the room with disrespect. Even if you were to debate well, holding a negative attitude makes you seem like a bad person.

  2. Never question the judges’ decisions in front of them. The decisions are final, and you unfortunately cannot change that by arguing with the judge. Of course, there will be times where a decision is not completely justified. Even so, this move looks harmful on your part.

  3. Do not make the judge’s job harder than it is. Do not be overly confusing or unstructured within the round.

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