One Clap Speech and Debate Podcast

Long Winter's Clap 7: Congressional Debate (Feat. CONGRESS Tips from Coach Allen Pino)

January 28, 2021 Lyle Wiley / Allen Pino Season 2 Episode 41
One Clap Speech and Debate Podcast
Long Winter's Clap 7: Congressional Debate (Feat. CONGRESS Tips from Coach Allen Pino)
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to A Long Winter's Clap: 12 Days of Speech and Debate Event Overviews and Resources.  Today we are taking on Congressional Debate, and Coach Allen Pino, Congress wizard of grand repute, has some tips for us.  Be sure to check out all of Allen's ideas and other resources on our website.

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Howdy, friends!

Lyle here - your peppermint mocha and mittens enthusiast host of the One Clap Speech and Debate Podcast.  The holidays are past, sure… but the cold of winter is still upon us, and I come once again bearing gifts!

Welcome to A Long Winter’s Clap - 12 Days Speech and Debate Event Overviews.

For these episodes, One Clap will be delivering event overviews and resources that I hope will be helpful for novice judges, coaches, or competitors.  

In case you are new to these shows, for each ep I will provide a quick overview of the chosen event, a couple of spicy and sweet tips for each event from expert coaches or competitors, and links to helpful resources on to help you rock your performance.  These overviews are not meant to be comprehensive, but should hopefully give you some information on each event and then provide resources for an independent deep dive for listeners who want to pursue more information about the event.

Settle in for a helpful event-overview gift for your speech-loving ears from One Clap Speech and Debate!

Congressional Debate

Congressional Debate
aka Student Congress
Aka Congress
… is essentially a simulation of the US legislative process carried out by enthusiastic student competitors who write, present, debate, and vote on bills and resolution while carefully following parliamentary processes.  Chambers are led by voted-in student presiding officers (or POs) who guide the chamber through rounds.

Here is a description straight from the NSDA:

“Congressional Debate is like a simulation of the real United States legislature. A group of 10-25 students, called a Chamber, will compete in a legislative session. A series of bills and resolutions will be proposed by students from various schools. Students in turn will be selected by a presiding officer — a student elected to conduct the business of the round — to give speeches both advocating for and encouraging the defeat of the measure in front of them. Following each speech, competitors will be able to pose questions of the speaker. Once debate is exhausted on a particular item, the chamber will vote either to pass or fail the legislation, and debate moves on to the next item.
...students typically give speeches 3 minutes in length. The first two speeches on a piece of legislation are known as the first advocacy, or first pro, and the first rejection, or first con. These speeches are followed by 2 minutes of cross examination. After the first pro and con speech are established, each additional speaker is subject to one minute of cross examination by the chamber.”

Congress is a really cool event, as it mixes elements of debate, platform, and interpretative events.  Students debate over bills, and some common elements of debate are useful for Congress competitors - like use of evidence, clear and organized presentation of arguments, and use of rebuttals to other presented arguments.  The organization of the speeches is quite similar to extemporaneous speaking in terms of organization.  Plus, there is the added interpretative element of each of the competitors acting as if they were senators or representatives of an actual Congress.  Winsome approaches with displays of senatorial personality can really resonate with some judges.  Accurate and consistent role-playing by students can definitely contribute to the success of Congressional Debate competitors. 

There are a lot of nuances to learn as a Congressional Debater, and we won’t go into all the details here, but I’ll be attaching a lot of resources for anyone who would like to dig deeper into this unique event.  One of the most fun aspects of Student Congress is the social aspect - even in the online world, Congress is an event that is most interesting and exciting when many students are engaged with the congressional process - giving spirited speeches, showing understanding the debated legislation, referencing the speeches of their fellow competitors, and asking relevant questions that keep the action of the Chamber fresh and interesting.  Congress is a great place to make friends too!

Here are five quick helpful tips from friend of the podcast and friend to all -- Cheyenne East Coach and Master of Congress, Allen Pino.

Speech Organization 
In Congress, you don't have a lot of time to speak in general, meaning you have zero time for the judge or your audience to be confused about your speech. It might be the skill that would help you get the ranks you feel you deserve. When writing a speech for any bill, your three best friends should be a clear thesis, a preview statement, and signposting. Please don't get a lousy rank because things got messy; clean it up, and get the 1.  
Be better than our real congresspeople and know what you are talking about, and spend some time to research. Having at least one piece of evidence for each of your points is enormous, especially in a prelim round, when you are trying to stand out immediately. You avoid the chance of someone asking the straightforward question "do you have evidence to support your claims" and get into the real debate at hand.     
Be ready to debate. 
You have written the speech and done your research, but be ready to debate when you get into your chamber. For judges listening to 30 speeches that had nothing to do with each other makes the round unbearable. The judge came to watch some congressional debate, and the only way they will get that is if you create clash by disproving your fellow representatives/senators' arguments. It shows the judge they are not the only ones in the room, paying attention to the speeches.    
Create sound bites 
When you are in a room of 20 other competitors and only 3 minutes to talk, you must find a way to stand out quickly. The most powerful way is using the English language in your favor. When you can have a strong hook, it will always win you the round compared to "I stand in negation of this bill." There is a reason politicians spend time creating slogans that leave the American people thinking about them. Taking the extra time to use figurative language, alliteration, and power language will have your judge talking about you after the round.  
Be a friendly warrior. 
When you are in a competitive round, it can be hard to stand out. Everyone has good evidence, strong speakers, and everyone wants to speak; what's left for you to do? Channel, you inner friendly warrior. Your judge is looking for any reason to give their ranks to someone, and when you seem like the person in charge but someone they want to be around, they are happy to vote for you. You have politicians who are using this tactic when trying to get your vote, so use it to get your judges' vote. To channel your inner friendly warrior, you need to seem like the person who can get things done while being the person you want to hang out with after the round. This is easy said than done but being aware of what nonverbal messages you are sending out is essential. If you are mean or don't seem like the one in charge, it is hard to get top ranks in a round.  

Thanks so much to Allen for his genius ideas to take your Congress competition to the next level.  Allen has provided some resource ideas for Congress that I will link to on our website.

If you’d like to hear more from Allen on One Clap - I will link to his previous episodes on One Clap.    Additionally, I will link to Breeze Petty’s One Clap episode where she tells her Congress love story.   I will also  link to other helpful resources for Congressional Debate on  If you have or know of more resources for students, coaches, or judges - reach out and let me know.  I’ll link to these resources on the website as well! 

If you have an idea or a request for One Clap Speech and Debate, shoot me an email at [email protected] or reach out on the One Clap Speech and Debate Podcast website or social media - linked in the show notes.

This New Year, maybe consider supporting One Clap Speech and Debate by checking out our patreon page linked in the show notes.  You can partner with me on this journey for as little as 1 dollar a month and stop patronage at any time!

Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the One Clap Podcast wherever you listen!  Watch for new episodes of One Clap, Rock On! Debate, Coach Connection, and Speech Love!

Thank you for listening, best of luck to everyone out there competing at tournaments, and Clappy New Year from One Clap!