All the information on this page is true for the 2023 -2024 season.

  1. Tournaments
  2. Online Tournaments
  3. Club Routine
  4. Tournament Attire/Etiquette
  5. Tips for Events
  6. Rules
  7. Judges
  8. Juniors

1. Tournaments

  • What does an in-person tournament look like?

    • An in-person tournament generally starts on Thursday, and three preliminary speech and 6 debate rounds are held over two days. Debate breaks could be announced on Friday, and speech breaks on Saturday (see “breaking”).
    • Each speech room usually has a maximum of 8 competitors, with three judges, usually. Each debate room has one judge for preliminary rounds and three or five judges for the elimination rounds.
  • How does script submission work?

    • Scripts should be electronically uploaded during the designated time frame before the tournament.
    • See 2023-2024 Speech Guide; pages 24-25, 28-29
  • How should I prepare for a tournament?

    • One of the best ways to prepare for a tournament is to practice your speeches regularly. Get familiar with your speech.
    • If you’re doing a Limited Preparation event, do simulations of a round. There are also plenty of drills to help.
  • What should I bring to a tournament?

    • Required: A timer and business attire. Debate briefs if you debate.
    • Helpful: Extra water and snacks, activities to do between rounds, a copy of your script, and extra batteries for your timer and/or extra timers.
  • What are Region-At-Large points?

    • Region-At-Large points are points awarded to each competitor based on their performance and ranking at a tournament. These points are cumulative, and competitors with the most points in each event, who have not already qualified to Nationals, can potentially qualify (see “How do I get to Nationals (speech)?”)
  • How do I get to Regionals?

    • If you are recognized at an Awards Ceremony of any tournament (National Open, Mixer, Regional Qualifier), you are invited to participate in your region’s Regional Championship.
  • How do I get to Nationals (speech)?

    • If you place first or second at a National Open, or first at a Regional Mixer, you will automatically qualify for Nationals.
    • After Regional Mixer and National Open slots have been allocated, 75% of the remaining slots will go to the top placers across the country at Regional Qualifiers.
    • If you gain enough Region-At-Large points, you will be invited to the National Championship. These account for 25% of the remaining slots.
  • What does “breaking” at a tournament mean?

    • “Breaking” is forensics slang for advancing to elimination rounds (octafinals, quarterfinals, semifinals, finals, etc). Anyone who breaks will place and be recognized at the Awards Ceremony.
  • How do I interpret my ballots?

    • Interpreting your ballots can be confusing! Sometimes, you’ll get contradictory, confusing, or even irrelevant feedback, but it’s important to identify the comments that you can work on to improve your speech.
    • Share your ballots with your parents, and bring your ballots to club, where other members and parents will help you understand and interpret the judges’ feedback.
  • What’s the difference between a junior and a senior competitor?

    • Being a junior competitor is a great way for a younger sibling to get involved in the league. The suggested age range for a junior competitor is 7-11 years old. They often have their own mini-tournament on the final day of a Regional Qualifier tournament (Saturday). Juniors don’t have Debate, Extemporaneous, or Digital Presentation, but they can compete in the other speech events.
    • Juniors are not ranked in tournaments and cannot advance to Regionals or Nationals.
    • Seniors are competitors between the ages of 12 to 18 years old.

2. Online Tournaments

  • How does limited preparation events (Apologetics, Extemporaneous, Impromptu) work online?

    • You enter the room, introduce yourself to the judges, show them your timer, and request a topic. You then start your timer upon receiving this topic.
  • Tips on setting up a camera space:

    • Make sure there is plenty of light on your face—you want the judges to see you clearly. Also make sure your background is clean and fairly free of distractions.
    • Setting up your camera so that you are against a wall or a curtain is helpful. Some of the 2021 National Championship videos will give you an idea of good setup.

3. ARC’s Club Routine

  • What is the practice tournament like?

    • A practice tournament is a great opportunity to practice your speeches and the general tournament process in a low stress environment. The ARC practice tournament is usually held in the fall.  It is one day long event.
  • How do I sign up to practice speeches at ARC club meetings?

    • You can sign up for speeches by filling out a form that will be sent out each week.
    • If you sign up and are one of the first to do so, you will get a chance to practice your speech in the designated room. If you sign up later than others, and the designated room for that speech category is full, you may get to speak in a different room with openings. If you do not sign up and/or just want to watch speeches, you will have third priority in practicing.
  • How much of a time commitment is this club/speech in general?

    • Speech is all about the amount of work you put in. The more time you put in, the more you will get out of it.
    • The club meets from 3:45 PM – 8:00 PM on Fridays, with speech, then dinner from 5:45 – 6:30 PM, and debate afterwards.
  • Should I run for an officer position? What does being an officer entail?

    • As listed in the ARC Handbook, there are many officer positions to run for. The time commitment varies with the job and the level of responsibility.
    • Other than the tasks that each specific role requires, the officers must deliver a speech on election night in business attire and must attend the officers’ meetings (which are approximately once a month).

4. Tournament Attire/Etiquette

  • What does tournament wear look like?

    • NCFCA dress code
    • Business attire for gentlemen can either be:
      • Suit with dress shirt, tie and dress shoes,
      • Sport coat with dress shirt, tie, dress slacks, and dress shoes.
    • Business attire for ladies can be:
      • Pant or skirt suit (hemline to middle of knee) with dress blouse and dress shoes.
      • Dress (hemline to the middle of knee). Sleeveless dresses require a suit type jacket.
    • Where can I get business attire?

      • In the past, several of our club members have shopped at J.C. Penny, Banana Republic, J. Crew, H&M, Burlington Coat Factory, Uptown Cheapskate, Depop.
      • You can also consider second-hand stores and local thrift stores.
    • What do I do when I enter the room (speech)?

      • Each competitor gets a fifteen minute slot. Once you have determined what number speaker you are, identify what time you should enter your room by looking at the round times, which are usually posted near the competition area.
      • When you enter, close the door. Then walk to the middle of the room and wait until the judges look up at you, a sign that they have finished filling out the ballot for the previous competitor. Introduce yourself, show them your timer set to 0 minutes and 0 seconds, and make sure they are ready for you to start. An example introduction is as follows: Hello! My name is ____, and I’ll be your next/first speaker. Are the judges ready? (Wait for affirmation). If so, here is my timer (show them the timer set to count up), and I will go ahead and begin. Once you have done this, place the timer on their table, start it, and begin your speech.
      • Once you finish your speech, stop the timer and show it to the judges. Thank them for judging you, and as you exit the room, leave the door open.
    • What do I do when I enter the room (debate)? What does debate etiquette look like?

      • Only the 1AC, or first affirmative speaker, is allowed to ask the judges for their judging experience or what they would like to see in the debate round.
    • What features should my timer have?

      • Your timer should be able to count minutes and seconds and should be able to count up as well as down from a set time limit.
      • Phones are allowed as timers, but some judges do not like to see phones being used.
    • Can I watch speeches?

      • Absolutely! As each competitor has a fifteen minute time slot, you may enter the room from when the previous competitor finishes their speech and exits the room until the next competitor enters.
      • For limited prep speeches, you should not watch the competitors who speak before you do in your room; however, you may watch those who come after you.
      • If you want to watch a debate round, but it has already started, wait until the speaker(s) have finished, and then enter the room.

5. Tips for Events

  • What are some helpful camps and resources?

    • Rhetoric LLC (Speech & Debate): https://rhetoricllc.com/
    • Ace Peak (Speech & Debate): https://acepeak.org/
    • Lasting Impact (Speech & Debate): https://lastingimpact.info/
    • Ethos Debate (mainly Debate, some Speech): https://www.ethosdebate.com/
    • DFW (Speech & Debate): https://www.dfwspeechdebate.com/
  • Should I do debate? Which one?

    • Debate involves a large time commitment, but the benefits include learning how to think critically, research, talk concisely about significant events, and improve impromptu skills.
    • Team Policy (TP) is a two-on-two event, so picking a partner can sometimes pose a challenge. This is a longer form of debate and focuses more on policies.
    • Lincoln-Douglas Value (LD) is a one-on-one, shorter debate, which focuses more on philosophy and debating values in society.
  • What speech events should I pick? How many should I do?

    • It’s all about how much time commitment you are willing to put into this extracurricular! Pick the events you want to either try out, do well in, or improve your skills in.
    • Every speech event will allow you to practice different skills, so it would be beneficial to try a variety of events.
    • Regardless of what speeches you pick, make sure you are passionate or at least interested about your topic. Though it’s good to pick topics that you think will leave an impact with your judges, do not pick a topic solely because you think it will do well. Judges can easily make out when you are giving a speech for the sake of giving it.
  • Tips for Lincoln-Douglas Value Debate

    • For LD, research and read case lists.
    • Read both philosophy and practical applications of the resolution—certain judges will want more of one in your round.
    • Do several practice rounds from providers like Ziggy so that you get practice as well as familiarizing yourself with the cases and arguments out there.
  •  Tips for Team Policy Debate

    • For TP, start your research early. Explore the resolution thoroughly before settling on an Affirmative case.
    • Do several practice rounds from providers like Ziggy so that you get practice as well as familiarizing yourself with the cases and arguments out there.
    • There are several drills that help with TP, and sources like Ace Peak and Ethos Debate have some impactful and influential drills.
  • Tips for Moot Court

    • ARC does not offer Moot Court during club time, but a couple of members are competing this year, so if you are looking to get involved, ask around in the club as to how to get started.
  • Tips for Speech in general

    • Judges may want to know why you picked a certain topic. For platforms, if not limited preps, it is helpful to have a personal tidbit or allusion which answers the “Why Me?”/”Why did I choose this topic?” question.
    • Every competitor goes through a rewriting phase at some point in the season. If you feel compelled to do so, make sure you save all copies of your speech so that in case you do want a previous version, it is available.
    • Different people will give you all sorts of advice on your speech, including peers, parents, and judges. Play around with what you like best—after all, it is your speech, and you are the one growing in the process.
    • Watch speeches from previous years to get ideas on delivery, topics, and blocking.
  • Tips for Apologetics

    • For Apologetics, not only is it an event designed to get you thinking about hard topics related to Christianity, why you believe what you believe, it is also a chance to share your faith with members of the community.
  • Tips for Biblical Thematic

    • This is the only event this year in which you can bring designated props into the room. Think creatively about what props you will bring to separate your characters and enhance your acting.
    • If possible, pick verses that you really want to share, and that you and the judge can relate to.
  • Tips for Digital Presentation

    • Remember that the judges may have the slides on their computer, and so some may not look at you as much as others. On the other hand, some judges glance at the slides and mainly look at you, so consider that when you deliver your speech.
    • Having a unified theme to your slides adds an eye-catching, professional touch to your presentation. It is also helpful to add recaps of your speech on your slides, instead of writing out full sentences—after all, the slides are meant to enhance your speech, not the other way around.
  • Tips for Duo

    • Duo is an opportunity to explore acting and blocking with another person. There are few limits on what you can choose and try out, so this is all about playing with the material.
    • Be aware of the rules of this event: don’t touch the floor with anything but your feet, no acrobatics, no touching each other, no looking at each other.
  • Tips for Extemporaneous

    • Keep up with global news, but also read several articles in-depth about the world today. One strategy includes focusing your interest on only certain areas of the world, as you receive two topics about different regions in the world.
    • Helpful resources include The Economist and Extemp Genie.
    • Try to inspire hope through your speech, so that the judges can feel that this world issue is significant but not hopeless.
  • Tips for Impromptu

    • Start your preparation before tournament season begins. Collect stories, listen to podcasts, and save good quotes in a “database.” As you compete in more tournaments and practices, you will end up refining the content in your collection.
    • Do several run-throughs and practices. If you are serious about this event, you can attempt to do one impromptu speech a day, even when tournament season is off. This will dramatically affect your performance.
    • Do drills to help you improve. Ethos Debate, Lasting Impact, and Ace Peak have some impactful and helpful drills on their websites.
  • Tips for Informative

    • Start your research early, and read everything remotely related to your topic. Write down anything that strikes you. You never know when you will need it later.
    • This is one of the more competitive speech categories (in this region in particular), so it is helpful to find some way to make your speech stand out. Seek to make an impact with your topic, and don’t always just stick to bare facts—adding analysis and insightful commentary sticks with the judge more than a page of pure statistics does.
    • On the other hand, try not to blur the line between Informative and Persuasive. Some judges might rank you lower if they feel that your speech is too persuasive in nature.
  • Tips for Open (Published)

    • This speech is about telling a story. You get to play around with ideas related to your story.
    • All movements except acrobatics and prop usage are allowed. Be creative with the way you use your space—deliver your piece at club and parents will be able to help you come up with more ideas.
  • Tips for Persuasive

    • This category is very similar to Informative, so make sure you draw a clear distinction between the two. Make sure that there is a definite call to action or inspiration for improvement or at least a definite impact in your speech.
    • Remember that silence and softening one’s tone can be sometimes more effective than raising one’s volume when attempting to convey strong emotion.

6. Rules

  • Link to NCFCA 2024 Guide: 2024 Speech Guide

  • Typical Penalties

    • If your speech is over fifteen seconds past the time limit, you are dropped two ranks from the original ranking that the judge gives you.  Timing errors carry a two-rank penalty as well.
    • If you use a script at a Regional Qualifier, Regional Mixer, or a National Open, your position in the room will be dropped by four ranks. It’s okay to use your script at the first couple of tournaments, and you will see many people doing so! You will be disqualified, however, for script use at the Regional or National Championships.
  • Potentially sensitive material
    • If your speech has potentially sensitive material, you are required to make a disclaimer before you start the timer stating: “This speech (or debate content) contains potentially intense or sensitive material.” Juniors may want to consider leaving the room after such a disclaimer.

7. Judges

  • How do I judge a tournament?

    • Each competitor will enter the room, introduce themselves to you, and start their timer. You will have a ballot on your computer (or at the practice tournament, paper) in which you fill out each category and write helpful (positive and negative) comments in each section on what they did well or what they could improve on.
    • Rank the competitors based on their relative performances in the room.
  • How do you recruit judges for tournaments?

    • The judge coordinator for a particular tournament will usually provide a spreadsheet with a list of suggested organizations. Please email, call, or talk to these organizations, as well as request friends, neighbors, and extended family members to judge. These judges are called “community judges.”
    • Parents will usually have to judge several rounds during the course of the tournament to fill up the remaining slots.

8. Juniors

  • What’s the expectation for a junior speech?

    • A junior speech is typically no longer than five to six minutes for platforms and interpretations.
    • For impromptu, encourage your junior to have an introduction, roadmap (which is a list of points in the speech), and to expand on their points whenever possible.
    • Juniors are allowed to participate in all speech categories except Extemporaneous and Digital Presentation. Juniors do not do Debate.
  • Tips for juniors from juniors

    • Try new things! This is a very low-pressure environment, and is a great opportunity to learn how to make eye contact, speak crisply, and have intentional movement!
    • Often, we choose a topic based on what we are interested in or an activity we like to do.
    • Even if you feel your speech is short, don’t worry! Judges appreciate the fact that you took this opportunity to try out a speech event.
    • Your judges at tournaments are usually senior competitors, and many of them either have junior siblings or were juniors themselves, and so they know what it is like to experience forensics as a junior.