Weighing in Member Speeches

By: Pete Falk, Northeastern University 2016

In order to win a debate round, you need to show why what you’re saying is important, and why it is more important than what the other team is saying. This achieved through a technique called “weighing”. The process of weighing is especially important in member speeches, which is where both teams make their last speech of the round before rebuttals.

The member speeches are sometimes considered less glamorous than the lead speaking positions, but they are equally important. A strong member speech is vital in a close round.

One of the main jobs of the members is to weigh arguments. As a member you must have a clear understanding of what it means to weigh arguments, and how to weigh an argument. Arguments are structured as followed: Claim, Warrant, Impact. The claim is what you are saying, or the argument itself, the warrant is why your argument is true, and the impact is why the argument matters.

For example, let’s say you were debating about whether parents ought let their kids believe in Santa Claus. If you were arguing against the letting kids believe in Santa Claus, you could make the claim that belief in Santa Claus creates distrust between parents and kids. The warrant for this argument would be that when kids find out that Santa Claus was fake, they will not trust their parents because they lied. The impact of this argument could be that this harms the relationship between the child and parent. Now we get to weighing. When you weigh, you are comparing impacts within a given round. In a round such as this, you could argue that the trust is essential to the parental relationship, and thus this impact should weigh heavier than other impacts in the round. There are different ways of demonstrating the importance of an impact, such as the number of people affected, the magnitude of the impact, or by fitting it within the philosophical framework of the round.

Member of Government

The goal of both member speeches is to set up the arguments so that the Prime Minister or Leader of Opposition can bring them in home the rebuttal speech. The MG is the most technical speech in the round. The MG must establish a clear government philosophy, because Gov doesn’t get to speak again until PMR. The MG’s biggest advantage is time. Before the round, you can brainstorm potential ‘opps’ so that you will have an idea of how the round will go.  In terms of weighing, you should always think of arguments in terms of how you can make an argument a reason for decision in your favor. Especially during a tight call round, weighing is the difference between a win and a loss.

Member of Opposition

Remember, the MO is a constructive speech. The MO has two main advantages, the first being that no one responds to your arguments directly, and the other being that you have three speeches to think about the debate and where the round is going.  Communicate with your LO so that you include whatever information they need for their rebuttal. Integrate comparative analysis between you and gov while responding to the arguments on the flow. Ground your arguments with real world examples. If you are talking finance, you can say something like “If you have a credit card in your wallet, then this argument matters because x”. Demonstrating the implications of your arguments drive them home.

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