Tournament of Champions

2020 — Lexington, KY/US

Debating with a Remote Partner

PF and Policy debate require debating with a partner. While it may be the case that you will be able to co-locate and interact as you would at a brick and mortar tournament, prudent planning suggests that you should prepare to be able to debate remotely, with each participant in a different physical location.


Below are some suggestions for optimizing the process of remote partnerships. To be clear, none are required and better methods may be discovered through practice. These are merely suggestions for you to try during your practice during the run-up to the tournament.


1) Instant written communication – we recommend that debaters and coaches have a shared means of group messaging. In addition to Dropbox (, this can be a method of group strategizing and file sharing. The UK Debate team uses Slack ( It is free and can provide functionality for your entire team. It also includes the ability to transfer files remotely and create dedicated channels for each two person team (i.e. if you wanted to have comms team-wide there could be a general channel, but there is additional capacity to create ‘breakout’ rooms with only specific individuals to streamline communication and avoid clutter). There are other options beyond Slack. Facebook Messenger ( and Google Hangouts are also reasonable options.


2) Phone – some amount of preparation between partners is on-the-fly or too time-intensive to type out. For this, we recommend that you create a simultaneous phone call between partners. During the pre-round, prep time, and downtime after the debate and before the decision, your computer mics can be muted, allowing you to have a private, real-time conversation about arguments. During other times, the phone call can be muted to avoid feedbacks or any other audio effects. With practice, it may be possible to keep the phone unmuted during other team’s speeches as well, allowing teams to have conversations without interrupting the speaker. Remembering to mute/unmute each input accordingly will require practice, so we recommend that you work on this before the tournament. Also, it’s important that everyone keep their electronics plugged in and charging for the duration to avoid disruption, so locating a long USB charger early is advised.


3) Protocols – debate is complex; it has always been best practice to streamline activities. In an online environment, the premium for doing so is even higher. That means thinks like: who is responsible for putting together the first affirmative speech, who is responsible for putting together the first negative speech, what your general negative strategy looks like against various affirmative cases, etc. The more that this is set in advance, with clear lines of responsibility, the easier it will be to execute later and to free up bandwidth/time to focus on other elements of prep.


4) Group meetings – one major part of the tournament experience is gathering as a team to discuss arguments read at the tournament, decompress/debrief after rounds, and prep for upcoming debates. This are many possible ways to create a remote version of this. For one, you could create a Zoom meeting. Slack, mentioned above, allows you to integrate Zoom into your team Slack account and start meetings instantly and seamlessly. These meetings are workable for large or small groups. You can also have parallel written side or face-to-face meetings between small groups. Since the TOC is utilizing the Zoom platform, we recommend that you use that, but there are many other commercial products available that you may want to experiment with as well.