Tips for Nationals #8: Bring a Timer

Posted by Bryan

No, we don’t mean to drag your little siblings along with you or, if you don’t have one, kidnap one off the street. If you happen to have a little sibling who is a good timer, it can be helpful for them to time your rounds so you get consistent hand signals. But that’s not what I’m talking about. You should have your own timepiece with you at the podium when you are giving speeches in debate. Tournament timers usually only give hand signals at every minute and for the last thirty seconds, but there is a big difference between having 4:01 left and 4:45. If you’re anything like me, you tend to get wrapped up in your speech and lose track of the time. When you can’t see the time down to the second or miss a hand signal, you lose track of the time for longer, costing you valuable seconds that you could use elsewhere in your speech. That’s if the timer gives hand signals at all. I can’t tell you how many times the timer would forget to give me time signals and the speech ended when I thought I had at least a minute left.

Debate is a game of seconds. You will almost always have more arguments to get through than time. You need to move efficiently and know how much time to spend on each piece of evidence or position in order to get everything in that you need to. The best way to do that is keep a timepiece with you and look at it frequently during your speech.

Note: if you are told by a judge or a tournament official not to do this, listen to them. We did it when we competed but that was over six years ago so things may of changed. Also, don’t use your cell phone as a timer. That can look sketchy. Instead, buy a cheap kitchen timer or a stopwatch. 

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