Types of speech and debate

What are the different kinds of speech and debate?

There are several specific types of disciplines/competitions (as defined by the National Forensics League).

Under the category of speech, they are:

Extemporaneous Speaking:

A contestant draws three questions, selects one, then has 30 minutes to prepare a speech in response. The contestant utilizes files of published materials (books, magazines, newspapers, online sources) s/he has compiled as a resource for answering the question. At the completion of the 30-minute preparation period, the student speaks on the topic for up to 7 minutes. The NFL divides extemporaneous into two separate events: United States (dealing with domestic issues), and International (issues beyond US borders).

Original Oratory:

Orators are expected to research and speak intelligently, with a degree of originality, in an interesting manner, and with some profit to the audience, about a topic of significance. Although many orations deal with a current problem and propose a solution, this is not the only acceptable form of oratory. Your oration may simply alert the audience to a threatening danger, strengthen its devotion to an accepted cause, or eulogize a person. An orator is given free choice of subject and judged solely on the effectiveness of development and presentation.

Dramatic Interpretation:

This is an individual category in which the selections are dramatic in nature. Selections shall be cuttings from published-printed novels, short stories, plays, poetry, or any other printed-published materials. Presentations must be memorized, without props or costumes. The time limit is 10 minutes which includes an introduction.

Humorous Interpretation:

This is an individual category in which the selections are humorous in nature. All other rules are the same as Dramatic Interpretation.

Duo Interpretation:

This is a two-person category in which the selection may be either humorous or dramatic in nature. Students are not allowed to look at or touch each other. All other rules are the same as Dramatic Interpretation.


Under the category of Debate, they are:

Congressional Debate:

This is individual debate in a large group setting. Congressional Debate models the legislative process of democracy, specifically, the United States Congress. Students optionally write legislation submitted by their coach to a tournament, and they research the docket of bills and resolutions distributed by each tournament. At the tournament, students set an agenda of what legislation to discuss, they debate the merits and disadvantages of each, and they vote to pass or defeat the measures they have examined. Parliamentary procedure forms structure for debate, and students extemporaneously respond to each others’ arguments over the course of a session. Congressional Debate is a valuable learning exercise, because students familiarize themselves with current social and political problems and learn appropriate behavior and rules for formal meetings. Contestants are evaluated by judges for their research and analysis of issues, argumentation, skill in asking and answering questions, use of parliamentary procedure, and clarity and fluency of speaking.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Lincoln Douglas Debate centers on a proposition of value, which concerns itself with what ought to be instead of what is. A value is an ideal held by individuals, societies, governments, etc. One debater upholds each side of the resolution from a value perspective. To that end, no plan (or counter-plan) should be offered. A plan is defined by the NFL as a formalized, comprehensive proposal for implementation. The debate should focus on logical reasoning to support a general principle instead of particular plans and counter-plans. Debaters may offer generalized, practical examples or solutions to illustrate how the general principle could guide decisions. Topics are provided by the National Forensics League (NFL) and are to be used throughout the country. Topics are changed every two months.

Policy Debate

Debaters work in pairs (teams) to address the school year’s topic defined by the NFL), either from the affirmative side (to propose a plan to solve a problem with the topic), or the negative side (to prove how the affirmative’s plan is flawed). Argumentation includes a constructive case, cross-examination, and refutation. Skills learned include research, policy analysis, case building, refutation, questioning, organization and communication.

Public Forum Debate

Public Forum Debate is audience friendly debate. Two pairs (teams) debate monthly controversial topics ripped from newspaper headlines. Rounds begin with a coin toss between the competing teams to determine side and order (Pro-Con or Con-Pro). Public Forum tests skills in argumentation, cross-examination, and refutation.