3 – Rebuttals in Public Forum Debate

Introduction The second speech that each team delivers in a Public Forum debate is the Rebuttal, which is how the one side refutes the other side’s Constructive. For new debaters, this is often the most difficult speech, as they need to be able to come up with arguments to what they other side says. Constructive speeches are written out, and later speeches (Summary, Final Focus) use content from early speeches, leaving the Rebuttal as the speech where debaters need to create content “on the fly” against what the other side says. Preparing the Rebuttal There are two important tasks a debater must complete in order to deliver a strong Rebuttal. Prepare in advance. Even the most advanced debaters are not going to be able to think of all the answers they need on the fly; they are going to have to prepare a set of arguments against arguments they can predict the other side making in advance. How do they do this? There are a number of ways. They should start by writing briefs that include responses to arguments that they make in their own Constructive speeches. They should also write out answers to arguments they have brainstormed, that are available in evidence briefs that are sold, and against arguments they hear about at tournaments. If debaters have blocks/briefs prepared against all of those arguments (we will talk about how to do that in other essays) they will be able to use a minimal amount of preparation time responding to the arguments they are hearing for the first time in their debates. Flow. We will discuss flowing in another essay, but the basic idea of flowing is to take notes on the arguments your opponent is making in the debate. If you flow, you will have a good list of the other side’s arguments and you will be able to be sure you address them all. Organizing The Rebuttal The Rebuttal should be directed against the previous constructive. That sounds obvious, but I’ve seen debates where the second Rebuttalist directed at least the majority of their rebuttal against the first Rebuttalist. While it may be wise to spend some time answering some of the first Rebuttal if there is time at the end of the speech, and if responding to some of the Constructive arguments are likely to take more time than what is available in the Summary (the speeches that follow the Rebuttal), the Rebuttal should primarily be directed at the other side’s constructive speech. There are two different approaches to organizing the Rebuttal speech. The first approach is to simply go point by point through the arguments made in the Constructive speech (hopefully in order). This is certainly one way to be an effective Rebuttal speaker, but another more efficient way is to group the major arguments, usually by Contention or advantage/disadvantage. For example, if the Pro has two primary arguments in support of the claim that missile defense is in North Korea’s best interest, the Rebuttal speaker