How to Run a Damn Good Debate Tournament
This is a guide for debate teams trying to run a parliamentary debate tournament
for the first time, as well as for more experienced teams that need a refresher.
In writing this, I'm assuming a number of things. First, I assume
you want to run a standard, five-round tournament in the usual American
Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) format. Second, I assume
my reader is the Tournament Director. If your team does not already
have a TD, you should appoint one immediately and direct the appointee
to this page. Third, I assume that your team has enough people to
be able to run a tournament effectively: four competent people at
a bare minimum, and preferably a lot more.
I have organized my comments in roughly chronological order, according
to the order in which tasks need to be done. But I recommend skimming
this whole page before getting started, because some tasks need to be done
1. Debate Room Reservations
2. Budget Preparation
3. Schedule Preparation
4. Mobilizing the Troops
C. Other Meals
10. Tournament Announcement
12. Two Weeks Before
13. During the Tournament
14. After the Tournament
1. Debate Room Reservations
Reserve rooms as early as you possibly can. As soon as you
know the date of your tournament, get reservations for that weekend.
If your tournament will take place during the fall semester, reserve rooms
during the spring or summer if you can. If your tournament will take
place in the spring semester, reserve your rooms early in the fall semester.
If for some reason the exact date of your tournament won't be known at
least three months before the tournament, attempt to make room reservations
for two or three possible dates.
Different schools handle room reservations in different ways.
Some schools demand that student clubs go through a special office, while
others have student clubs reserve their rooms in the same manner as professors
and departments. Find out the appropriate route and follow it.
The number of teams you expect to attend determines the number of
rooms you'll need. Figure out the maximum number of teams you'll
allow to attend, divide it by two, and request at least that many rooms.
You'll need them from about 3:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. on Friday, and from
8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday. At least three rooms should be
available after 6:00 p.m. as well. In addition, you'll need:
Bureaucrats may try to make your life difficult. Although
there are exceptions, many colleges have room assignment bureaucrats who
are notoriously difficult to deal with. They invariably do not want
to give you as many rooms as you'll need. Here are some tips for
getting more rooms from unwilling authorities :
One room for General Assembly. It's best to have an auditorium for
this purpose, but a large classroom or cafeteria will suffice. This
room should be available for the entire length of the tournament.
One room for judges. A normal classroom will do, but it needs to
be near tab and GA.
One room for tab. This room should, ideally, have long narrow tables
for use during tab. If there isn't a room with tables, try to get
a room with empty space and request to have tables moved in. The
tab room should be available for the entire length of the tournament, and
it should be near the judge room and GA.
A room in which to have the banquet, unless you're having the banquet off-campus.
Try to get a dining hall or cafeteria. Make sure you reserve it for
a long interval, because if your tournament runs late (heaven forbid) you
don't want to be unable to serve the banquet. You can have your banquet
as Friday dinner or Saturday lunch, which gives you some flexibility.
A place to hold registration. If your GA is available earlier enough,
then have registration in GA or just outside. Otherwise, you'll have
to find an alternative location. Arrange to have two tables set up
in that location.
Document your results. Make sure you get documents that prove
you've been assigned the rooms. Make multiple copies of the documents
-- you'll need them later.
Make it clear that you're willing to accept conference rooms, meeting rooms,
lounges, and other non-classrooms.
Make sure they're checking for rooms that are available only part of the
time. Sometimes the bureaucrats will ignore a room because it's only
available on Saturday, or because it's only available after 4:00 p.m.,
Remember that sometimes departments and schools within a university have
rooms outside the control of the central authority. For example,
the law school or business school may have rooms that you have to ask for
If the bureaucrats seem particularly intransigent, don't be afraid to go
up the chain of command. Contact the dean's office and arrange an
appointment. At the meeting, be sure to explain that a tournament
is a prestigious event that adds to the school's reputation. Emphasize
the educational nature of debate.
As a last resort, you can forego having a judge room, and you can use GA
Once you've gotten as many rooms as you can, you may have to revise
your estimate of how many teams can attend the tournament. Find out
how many rooms you have for the round with the smallest number of
rooms available, and multiply by two to find your team cap. Make
sure you mention the cap in your tournament
2. Budget Preparation
Once you have an idea of how many teams you can admit, you can begin to
prepare your budget.
The first step in budget preparation is to estimate your revenues.
Your revenues depend primarily on how many teams will actually attend.
The main factors are (a) the prestige of your tournament, (b) whether other
tournaments are being held on the same weekend, and (c) the time of year.
Find out how many teams attended a similar tournament on a similar date
to get an idea. Based on my experience, the following guidelines
should help: On a regular weekend, there are typically about 100
teams divided among the available tournaments. The number is higher
in the fall semester, lower in the spring semester. If the weekend
is close to finals, very early in the semester, or on a common spring break
weekend, the number will be more like 60.
You cannot assume that every team will pay. There are, unfortunately,
a lot of deadbeats. In general, you can probably assume that 75 percent
of the entry fees will be paid eventually -- more if you're willing
to send out threatening letters and make use of your college's attorneys.
But the number of schools that pay quickly (at the door or in the next
week or two) will be much smaller. Estimate that you'll get about
30 percent of your revenues within a couple of weeks. There are ways
to increase this number, however. One of the best methods is to give
a discount for teams that pay at the door with cash or check -- say, $100
per team billed, $80 per team paying at the door. This generally
increases your percentage paid (immediately or within two weeks) to about
The second step in budget preparation is to estimate your costs.
The following table lists costs for a typical tournament, but obviously
many of these costs are negotiable.
In sum, if you are providing only one meal, the additional cost per
team is almost $20 per person or $40 per team. In doing your calculations,
don't forget to include your own team members, judges, housing hosts, and
others you've invited to the party and banquet.
Then make adjustments to assure at least breaking even.
If you assume that only 50 percent of the teams will pay (not an uncommon
occurrence), and you're charging an average of $90 per team, it's easy
to see why so many tournaments just break even or even lose money.
On average, each team adds about $45 in revenue (50% chance of $90), while
adding costs of about $40. That means you net about $5 per team,
and you still have to pay your fixed costs (trophies, copying, etc.).
So how can you actually make a profit, or at least not lose money?
Here are a few tips:
Be a hardass about payment. Don't be afraid to write threatening
letters, and then follow through by actually contacting your university
attorneys. If there are some schools that are known deadbeats, notify
them in advance that they cannot compete without at least partial payment
at the door.
Get funding from your college. Some colleges have a special fund
for events that take place on campus, and you can access to some of it
by making an appeal to the dean (or some other person in charge).
Make use of separate budgets. Some colleges have arcane budgeting
procedures for student clubs, and you can exploit them to your advantage.
For example, clubs at NYU have separate on-campus and off-campus budgets.
The on-campus budget can only be used (of course) on campus, which is of
little use to a traveling debate team. But holding a tournament allows
on-campus funds to be converted into off-campus funds by using them to
offset tournament costs.
Get outside funding. There are a number of corporations that are
willing to fork up some cash in exchange for being allowed to advertise
at your tournament. Kaplan and Princeton Review do this a lot, because
many debaters will eventually take the LSAT or GRE. You can also
appeal to foundations and charities like the Optimists and Rotary Club,
though they are more likely to donate to high school teams.
Obviously, you can try to reduce the per-person costs of the banquet, party,
etc. But don't skimp so much that people will be less likely to attend
3. Schedule Preparation
You can't make a final schedule until you've nailed down the party and
banquet times. But it's a good idea to make a tentative schedule,
so that you'll know what to ask for when arranging those events.
Here is a sample schedule. There
are several things worth pointing out here:
The schedule is padded between Round I and Round II. For one reason
or another, from late teams to locked rooms, the first round frequently
goes off late. This guide is intended to help you avoid those pitfalls,
but it's better to be safe than sorry. In general, you should schedule
2 hours between the starting times of rounds (unless something else is
supposed to happen in between), but 2.5 hours between the starting times
of Round 1 and Round II.
Some tournaments try to start Round I before 4:00 p.m. on Friday.
That's not a good idea. Lots of teams will be late, and others may
decide not to attend at all because they live too far away. 4:30
p.m. is a good starting time.
Don't forget to schedule time for things like going to housing, leaving
campus for food, etc. These activities can take longer than you think.
If your campus is especially large, or if fast food restaurants are far
away, you should schedule extra time.
Remember that you're ultimately judged by the expectations you set up for
yourself. There's no need to make promises of finishing by 4:00 p.m.
on Saturday when you don't have to. Be realistic about how long things
will take, and then add some padding just to be sure.
4. Mobilizing the Troops
Team members should told about the tournament at the first meeting of
the year. You don't have to give them extensive details, unless
your tournament is very early. But they should be made aware that
their participation is mandatory, and they should be told the exact
date so they won't schedule anything opposite it. It's a good idea
to make participation in your school's tournament a requirement for membership
(i.e., if they don't help with the tournament, they lose voting privileges
and/or the right to attend other tournaments).
Give out duty assignments about 2 months prior to the event.
If your tournament is in January or February, don't count the month of
December because nothing will get done in that month. If your tournament
is early in the fall semester, you may have to make some assignments the
previous school year. You need to assign people to the following
I've put these in roughly increasing order of importance, but in truth,
a failure in any one of these departments can doom your tournament.
It is absolutely crucial to have these people report their progress to
you on a weekly basis. If it looks like someone's falling down on
the job, be prepared to jump in and (a) assign someone else to do the job
or (b) do it yourself. Give each person explicit instructions about
timing, price range, etc. (If you want, you can just give them the
relevant section of this page.) Do not let them enter any contracts
(such as for the party or catering) without your final approval.
With any luck, you have a coach or other team member who is experienced
at tab. If so, you can safely leave this job to that person.
If not, you have two options. (a) You can recruit a debate alumnus
from your school or another school to do the job. There is a small
handful of people who will sometimes volunteer their services. (b)
You can assign a very competent member of your team to learn how.
If you pick option (b), or if your experienced member has never tabbed
alone, refer to my page on How to Hand Tab a Debate
No serious work needs to be done on tabulation until the last couple
of days before the tournament. But you should stay in regular contact
with your tab director to make sure his needs are met (e.g., room and space
requirements, number of assistants).
Start getting housing a month before the tournament. This
job takes longer than you think. Your goal is to get housing for
all your debaters (remember, two per team) plus any judges they may bring
Get everyone involved. It's not realistic or fair to expect
the Housing Director (HD) to arrange all the housing. The job of
the housing director is (a) to create housing contracts -- see below --
for the hosts to sign, and (b) to coordinate the activities of other team
members so the work is divided up and potential hosts aren't pestered twice.
The HD should assign pairs of team members to sweep through different dorms
and get people to agree to house debaters on Friday night. Use an
invitation to the party as an incentive.
Write up a housing contract and use it. A housing contract
should tell the host his responsibilities (including when he needs to be
available on Friday night), contain an invitation to the party, and have
blanks for the following items: name, room, preferred gender of guests,
and telephone number. It should also have a section that can be torn
off and given to the host as a reminder.
You can save time and effort by getting whole lounges or other
open areas where large groups of debaters can crash, if your school allows
Deal with security issues. Many schools make it very difficult
for non-students to enter the dorms. Some of them require guests
to sign in, others require special wristbands, etc. Find out the
details in advance and deal with them. If possible, try to arrange
a way for debaters returning from the party to get into the dorm without
waking up their host.
On the day before the tournament, the HD and an assistant should
call every host to remind them of what they agreed to. Expect that
many of them will renege at this point (maybe 10%).
On the day of the tournament, the HD should sit at the registration
table to make housing assignments. If the job is not finished by
the end of registration, he should sit out Round I or II in order to finish.
Try to keep teams and schools together, if possible. Write host information
(name, dorm and room number, phone number) on a card for each group of
debaters. Assign guests to the closest dorms first, then more distant
dorms as necessary. If there are any hosts whose rooms end up not
being used, it's nice to let them know.
Recruit judges at the same time you find housing. Have the
pairs of team members who are sweeping through the dorms carry along judge
contracts. Anyone who agrees to house debaters should also be hit
up to judge (they've identified themselves as easy marks). Anyone
who refuses to house debaters should be informed that "there's another
way you can help us instead" (they may feel guilty for having refused the
Write up a judging contract and use it. The Judging Director
(JD) should create a contract for judging recruits to sign. It should
include spaces for the judge's name and phone number, contain a party invitation,
and have a section that can be torn off and given to the judge, describing
when and where the judge should go on tournament day.
Each team member should be assigned to recruit a certain number of
judging slots. A judging slot is a judge for one round.
Figure out how many judging slots you need to fill (one-half the maximum
expected teams, multiplied by five), and divide this number among your
team members. Threaten them with dire retribution for failing to
meet their quotas.
Make use of your on-campus connections. If any team member
is in a fraternity or sorority, all the brothers or sisters should be drafted
into judging (the incentive of a free party Friday night usually does the
trick). If anyone is a member of another forensics club on campus,
recruit as many judges as possible from that club. If someone's a
member of College Republicans... you get the idea.
The most popular member of your team should recruit dinos.
Have her call up any debate alumni from your team and other teams in the
area and give them the hard sell. Although it is not generally a
good idea to pay judges to attend (because they can be gotten for free),
dinos are an exception because they improve the judging pool, which makes
your tournament more attractive to debaters. But don't offer payment
unless you really think they won't come otherwise. Sometimes dinos
will respond to strange incentives -- e.g., a dino who wouldn't judge for
$12 might judge for three packs of cigarettes. But the single most
powerful incentive for dinos to attend is other dinos. The
main reason alumni come back is to hang out with their old buddies.
So make sure your targets are aware of other dinos who have already agreed
Have a judging seminar Friday afternoon. In truth, it is
not really necessary for judges to attend a training seminar, because nearly
everything they have to know can be written up in judging guidelines.
The first purpose of the seminar is not primarily to train judges, but
to assuage the fears of potential judges who don't feel qualified.
The second purpose of the seminar is to get everyone on the same speaker
point scale. Every judge, regardless of whether she attends the judging
seminar, should be given a copy of the judging guidelines
(here's a sample).
Lack of judges is the single most important cause of tournaments
running late. Why? Because unlike debaters, judges have
no real incentive to show up on time on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.
They won't lose any rounds by forfeit. There is no sure-fire way
to assure that judges will show up on time, but here are some hints:
If you are offering discounts to schools for bringing judges, those discounts
should be negated for any judge who fails to show up for a round.
Make sure you know where your judges are sleeping, and assign a team member
to make sure they're awake on Saturday morning.
Offer incentives for judges who show up on time. A free pack of cigarettes
for punctuality will often do the trick.
Don't start too early on either day.
Arrange to have enough bagels, cream cheese, fruit juice, and coffee for
your competitors and judges. Estimate one bagel per person, one standard
container of cream cheese for every 10 bagels, one carton of orange juice
for every 5 people, and enough coffee for every other person to have a
cup. Aim for a cost of approximately $3/person or less. Make
sure you're getting a bulk discount, because bagels can be bought very
cheaply in large quantities. You can save money by assigning a couple of
team members to pick up the bagels on Saturday morning rather than having
them delivered. Doughnuts are appreciated by some debaters, so get
some if you can. But don't make the mistake of only serving
doughnuts. Bagels apparently have more universal appeal.
You can also save money on the fruit juice if you buy it from a grocery
store instead of the place you buy the bagels. If a team member has
access to a refrigerator, store cartons of juice in it overnight beforehand
(warm OJ is really gross).
Coffee is more difficult, because it requires having a coffee machine.
For a small tournament, two or three personal coffeemakers are sufficient
(just ask everyone on the team to lend theirs to the cause). But
for tournaments above 45 teams or so, an industrial coffeemaker is required.
You may have to rent one of these from the bagel shop or the campus dining
Don't forget the extras: cups (for both coffee and juice), napkins,
cream cheese, butter, sugar and cream, and plastic utensils (especially
knives). Again, it's cheapest to buy these at the grocery store.
Often the most difficult aspect of arranging the banquet is finding
a location. Many colleges have constraints on the use of college
space for eating, such as requiring the use of the college dining service's
catering (which tends to have inflated prices) for all on-campus events.
Do whatever you can to get around these constraints, or else the cost of
the banquet will eat up all your revenues.
In addition, the time constraints tend to be stiffer for university
eating areas. You need to arrange for the banquet room very early
on, along with all the other room reservations. Some places to consider
using for the banquet include cafeterias, auditoriums, dormitory common
areas, building lobbies and concourses, and (last resort) gymnasiums.
Make sure you find out about any constraints on the use of these areas
(e.g., whether you have to use college dining service catering).
The key to finding good catering for a decent price is to shop around.
Don't just commit to the first place that quotes a price within your budget.
You might be able to find equivalent food for a lower price, or higher
quality food for the same price. When you get a good price at one
place, use that as leverage when speaking to another prospect. Consider
various different cuisines: Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Indian.
Beware of picking a cuisine that everyone's tired of (Italian and Chinese
are especially common). The total cost of the catering should be
based on a per-person price, so that it can be adjusted later. Aim
for a cost of $8/person or less.
Don't forget the extras. Make sure to take care of beverages
and desserts. In addition, be sure to arrange for napkins, utensils,
and cups. You can save money on these items by buying them at the
Arrange for flexibility with respect to time and number of guests.
If at all possible, your caterer should allow you to adjust the number
of people on Friday afternoon, after you know how many teams actually showed
up. Also, the caterer should be aware that the timing of the tournament
cannot be guaranteed, so the banquet may begin as much as one hour late.
The caterer should commit to a two-hour time slot that begins at the scheduled
time (even if the banquet is only scheduled for one hour).
C. Other Meals
Serving any additional meals is optional. You should consider providing
an additional meal if your campus is not convenient to restaurants, because
otherwise it will take too long for teams to return to campus for their
next round. If you decide to provide an additional meal, make it cheap
and simple -- sandwiches or pizza is a good bet -- and have the food delivered.
Aim for a cost of no more than $5/person.
Alternatively, some tournaments will arrange with a local restaurant
to bring food to campus and charge for it. For example, a local pizzeria
might bring pizzas and drinks to campus and sell them to debaters at slightly
inflated prices. Encourage the debaters to buy from the visiting
restaurant rather than eating elsewhere.
One party strategy is to find an outside establishment that will
let you have a room (or even the whole place) for the evening. This
strategy tends to be expensive, because you're renting floor space as well
as paying for refreshments. If you take this strategy, there are
several things you need to do:
The other strategy is to find a free location on or off campus. On
campus, you may be able to use a lounge or dining room. Off campus,
you may be able to use a frat house or other residence. If you go
this route, you need to do the following:
Decide how much alcohol you're willing to pay for. The most expensive
route is to have an open bar all evening; this could very easily eat up
all your revenues. Or, you can (a) limit each guest to two free drinks,
using coupons, after which each guest must pay; (b) limit the amount of
time during which the drinks are free, after which guests must pay; (c)
have an open bar for beer only; or (d) some combination of the above.
Make sure that people under 21 years of age will be able to attend the
party, and find an easy way (such as hand stamps) to ID people to prevent
under-age drinking. Some places will allow a member of your team
to do the carding.
If the establishment wants to charge by the person, make absolutely sure
to limit entry so that only invited guests attend. Plastic wristbands
or tickets will do the job.
Don't arrange for the party to start too early, because it will take time
for debaters to get back from housing.
Get a contract. If the establishment doesn't have one, write one
up yourself and get it signed.
If at all possible, arrange to pay on the day of the event, so you can
pay with revenues received at the door. But most places will want
at least half the money up front. This can be problematic if you're
not officially allowed to use school funds for alcohol. You'll need
a member of your team to pay with a credit card, and then pay that person
back. The person who volunteers for this job should get a contract
to assure reimbursement.
Have a 21+ member of your team buy alcohol the day before. If you
want beer, a keg is the cheapest way to go, but it's also very inconvenient
(they're extremely heavy, and someone has to operate the tap, and you have
to return the keg the next day). So it's probably better to get bottled
beer. Buy it by the case, and estimate two beers per person (because
some people won't show, and others won't drink). If you want harder
alcohol, estimate about one bottle of alcohol for every 10 persons, and
try to get a diversity of types: vodka first, then rum, then gin,
then liqueurs. Don't bother with tequila, as very few people like
Have someone else buy lots of the following: Coke, Diet Coke, milk,
orange juice, pretzels, and chips. These things are relatively cheap,
so don't skimp on them.
You'll have to clean up the area when the party's over. Assign a
crew of people to clean-up duty, and make sure none of them get so drunk
that they can't do their job.
Beware: different colleges have different alcohol policies.
Find out the policy and be sure to follow it, or else you might get in
10. Tournament Announcement
Make your tournament announcement a month before your tournament.
If your tournament will occur during the first month of the fall semester,
make your announcement as soon as possible. If your tournament will
occur during the first month of the spring semester, make your announcement
before the winter break. Post the announcement to APDAnet [firstname.lastname@example.org],
CUSIDnet [address], and WORLDSnet [address].
Include the following items in the announcement:
The date of the tournament.
A brief description of the mundane details (number of rounds, etc.).
A longer description of anything unusual about your tournament (extra special
party, naked limbo contest, etc.).
The price schedule, including any discounts for paying at the door and
The team cap, if any.
In capital letters, the time of registration, the time of the first round,
and the penalties for being late.
Directions for registration. Have them send you the following information
via email: number of teams, names of members of each team, novice
status, and seeding status.
Emergency contact information. Put down your phone number and the
phone number of another responsible team member, as well as your cell phone
or beeper number if you have one.
Clear and detailed directions for all the usual forms of transportation
(planes, trains, buses, autos). If your directions are not clear,
lots of teams will be late, and it will be your fault.
You will need to get the following trophies and awards: Trophies
for the top 10 teams, gavels for the top 10 speakers, and gavels for the
top 5 novice speakers. Anything more is optional, but it's nice to
get trophies for the top 5 novice teams as well. If you're feeling
generous, you can expand to the top 15 or top 20 in each category, but
that's only necessary for a very large tournament. Many tournaments
like to have a special award (such as a mega-gavel) for the first speaker,
but again, this is totally optional.
The key to getting trophies for a decent price is to haggle and shop
around. Even though trophy shops often have official price schedules,
they actually have a great deal of flexibility. Think of the price
schedule as the maximum and haggle your way down. Then do the same
thing with other trophy shops, and make sure you tell them the best offer
you've gotten elsewhere. Then take your new offers and tell them
to your earlier targets. Most trophy shops charge separately for
the hardware and the engraving, so make sure the engraving is included
in any price quote.
If you can get down to an average of $15 or $20 per trophy or gavel,
including engraving, then you've done pretty well. Don't make a deal
until you've seen the merchandise, because some places have really lousy
awards (e.g., unvarnished gavels) that they'll try to foist on a tight-fisted
bastard/bitch like you.
Arrange to have the awards ready at least three days before the tournament.
That way you'll have time to get errors corrected. Count the awards
to be sure they're all there. Then look at all the engraved plates
to make sure they say the right thing (no misspellings, no missing numbers,
12. Two Weeks Before
There are several small items that you should deal with in the two weeks
prior to the tournament. Many of these involve photocopying, so you
can save time by taking care of them all in one trip to the copy shop.
Find or create a ballot. Take the maximum number of teams that might
attend your tournament, divide by two, multiply by five, and add about
50. Then get that many copies made. Each copy should include
two carbons (one pink, one yellow) behind the front page.
Create a set of judging guidelines, or assign your judging director to
do so. Here are some sample judging guidelines.
The guidelines should be clear enough that someone who has never judged
before, and who didn't attend judge training, can still understand them
and judge a round. But they should not be burdened with excessive
detail. Take the number of teams you expect to attend, add 20 or
30, and make that many copies of the judging guidelines.
Create a welcome packet with the following items: the tournament
schedule, contact and emergency phone numbers, maps (with the relevant
locations circled and labeled), and a list of local eateries. Your
tab director should also prepare a statement of tab policy for inclusion
in the welcome packet (here's a sample tab policy).
The schedule should be finalized, with important locations (banquet, party,
GA) noted in the appropriate places. Take the maximum number of teams
that might attend, add 10 or 20, and make that many copies of the welcome
Create a billing form, or assign your treasurer to do so. The form
should include line items for the number of teams, price per team, judging
discount (if any), amount paid, and amount due. There should be two
signature blanks, one for your treasurer and one for the school's representative.
There should also be a tear-off section at the bottom for use as a receipt,
with the amount due and the address to send payment to. Some schools
require a tax ID number in order to make payments, so find out your school's
tax ID number and put it on the receipt section. Make a number of
copies equal to the maximum number of teams that might attend, plus 10
Send regular reminders to APDAnet about preregistration deadlines.
Repost the travel directions. Keep a running list of all preregistration
information, and forward it to the tab director.
Talk to your tab director. Find out his copying needs (he'll probably
want tab cards on cardstock). Make sure that he prepares in advance by
filling in tab cards for preregistered teams.
Talk to your party and catering organizers, and get copies of any contracts
and other documentation for those events.
Talk to your judging and housing directors to make sure they're on track.
If either task is not close to completion, reassign other team members
to help out.
13. During the Tournament
Registration table. The following individuals need to be at
your registration table: you (to greet people and give them packets),
the tab director or assistant (to note any team changes on tab cards),
the team treasurer (to accept payments and write up bills and receipts),
and the housing director (to make housing assignments). Someone should
also have a list of expected judges so debaters can make scratches -- but
the judging director himself should be at the judge training seminar.
Troubleshooting. On the day of tournament, your primary
job will be troubleshooting. There are a thousand little things that
can go wrong at a tournament, and your job is to nip each one in the bud.
Here is a list of things you can do to make your life easier:
Preparing for the Awards Ceremony.
Carry a list of the phone numbers of all the people on your team.
On Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, assign someone to take the list
and call up team members who haven't shown up.
Have multiple copies of the documents that show your room reservations.
Twenty minutes before Round I, give copies to two or three team members
and have them check to make sure all the rooms are unlocked and available.
If any rooms are locked, a security guard should be shown the proper documents
and asked to unlock them ASAP.
Do the same thing again before Round IV on Saturday morning.
Tell the Judging Director not to assign you to judge any round unless absolutely
necessary. You should be held in reserve, just in case another judge
doesn't show up. You also need to be free to troubleshoot.
Before Round I, make an announcement in GA about your intention to stay
on time and your willingness to drop teams that are late to rounds.
Before Round III, repeat the warning again, with special emphasis on being
on time Saturday morning.
Remind your judging director to do a judge roll call before each round.
See the hints in the Judging section above on how to motivate judges to
show up on time.
After the fifth round, have some peons sort ballots and put them envelopes
by school. Keep the white copies for your records. The yellow
copies should go to the Gov teams, the pink copies to the Opp teams.
Have the schools' envelopes ready to distribute immediately after awards
Before the semi-final round, assign a couple of people to transport
the trophies and gavels into the GA (or whereever you plan to have the
awards ceremony). They should set up the trophies in a pleasing arrangement,
with each award category arranged from lowest to highest place, prior to
the final round.
Have your tab director give you a clean list of the top 10 teams, top
10 speakers, top 5 novice teams, and top 5 novice speakers -- or however
many places you intend to announce -- before the final round. The
list should include each team's win/loss record, speaks, and ranks, and
each speaker's speaks and ranks. If any ties have been broken on
the basis of more arcane methods (adjusted speaks, etc.), that should be
After the final round, you should begin the awards ceremony as soon
as you've figured out the winner. Thank everyone for coming, and
give special thanks to your directors of tab, housing, judging, etc.
It's nice to give them flowers or other token gifts as well. Then
get to it. Read the novice teams in reverse order, then the novice
speakers in reverse order, then the speakers in reverse order, and then
the teams in reverse order. State all the stats (win/loss record,
speaks, ranks) for each award winner. State the names of both members
of any team winning an award.
When you're finished, thank everyone for coming again, and hand out
the ballot envelopes.
14. After the Tournament
There is a handful of loose ends that need to tied off after the tournament.
Have a crew of team members sweep through all the rooms you've used to
clean up the trash.
Have the tab director give you the tab cards and tournament results for
safe-keeping. Have the treasurer give you the billing receipts.
Post the results on APDAnet within 48 hours. Be sure to state the
number of teams and number of novice speakers that attended (these are
necessary for tallying TOTY, SOTY, and NOTY points).
COLLECT PAYMENTS! Two weeks after the tournament, email any schools
that haven't paid yet and tell them what they owe. Two weeks later,
post their names on APDAnet with the amounts they owe. Two weeks
after that, send the deadbeats letters that threaten to sic your college's
attorneys on them. Two weeks after that, talk to your college's attorneys.
Return to my cover page.
Return to the main debate page.
Find out How to Hand-Tab a Debate Tournament.
This page was last modified on 5 September 2000.