GraceThe 101

by Grace Powers, Varsity Debate c/o 2013


Public Forum is an evidence and rhetoric based debate lasting about 30 minutes which is designed to be judged and understood by anyone. It is derived from Crossfire debate, which was created to be short enough and simple enough to be shown on CNN as a talk show.

Public Forum debate, also called PF or PoFo debate, uses a “resolution,” or topic to be debated, that is usually United States-centric. In this debate, two teams of two people each bring constructive cases and evidence into a room to be judged by an experienced or lay judge. This is an event that can be judged by all of you parents, and we would LOVE LOVE LOVE for you to judge for us! It’s a big help and we save lots of money!

THE ROUND (A short guide to judging PoFo)
1. The Constructive: The debate begins with the reading of two previously written papers, one from each team, each lasting four minutes. This constructive, or case, outlines what topics that the debaters want to speak about during the round, these topics will be organized into contentions and sub-points. One person from each team will read this for their team, they are the first speakers for their team.
2. Cross-Examination: After the reading of the case the first speakers will question one another’s cases. Cross-examination, cross-fire, or cross-x (all names for the 3 minute questioning period) serve mainly as an opportunity for debaters to nudge their opponents into a corner or hole that proves their own point. A productive cross-examination is calm with no yelling and allows both debaters get a chance to ask and answer questions. An unproductive crossfire (as they are much too often) includes yelling, talking over one another, and exemplifies bad listening skills. This goes on for 3 minutes, and once it is done, the second speakers get a turn to speak.
3. The Rebuttal: A four minute speech following the first cross-fire. In this speech, second speakers should address all of their opponents’ contentions by giving a “line-by-line,” basically giving a response to each argument from the other team using evidence, logic, or, in the best circumstances, both. Once each team has given a Rebuttal, it’s time for the second cross-x.
4. Second Cross-X: This three minute period allows the second speakers to question each other.
5. The Summary Speech: This two minute speech allows the first speakers to summarize and boil down what issues are most important in the debate. They should give an impact analysis, weighing each team’s impacts, or results, of a Con or Pro world. For example, if Pro will save 200 million lives and Con will save 100 dollars, the Pro wins the Impact Analysis (as long as they actually explain one in their speech). No new arguments are allowed from this speech forward in the debate, since it does not give the opponents adequate time to respond.
6. Grand Crossfire: In my last debate round, the judge referred to this segment as the “time for everyone to yell at each other.” Although that is not the purpose of this questioning period, it often devolves into a frustrating, confusing argument with not much productivity. It allows all debaters in the round to speak, which can easily lead to chaos. A well done crossfire is not chaotic, but calm with reasonable questions and reasonable answers.
7: Final Focus: This two minute speech given by the second speakers summarizes the whole debate. In this speech debaters may choose to do another impact analysis, or give the judge “voters,” which are issues that the judge should decide on. The speakers should essentially write your ballot for you. Let them tell you why they won and why the other team lost.