Hosting the Irish Times debate

The 2001 Irish Times debate at UCD. Photograph:Cyril Byrne

The 2001 Irish Times debate at UCD. Photograph:Cyril Byrne

Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 16:35

The Irish Times Debate is Ireland’s national debating competition and it aims to have debates in as many different venues as possible. It is hoped that this guide will clarify exactly what is expected of hosts, and will ensure a uniform standard, which will ultimately result in a more enjoyable competition for all.

Therefore, before filling in the form and applying to host debates, please carefully read what is required of a host institution. Note also that in determining the venues for semi-final debates, an important consideration will be who has been a successful host of the initial rounds.

First and second round debates
The following must be provided for all debates:

  • A designated contact person whose name and contact details (mobile phone number) will be on the order paper that all of the speakers have. That person must be contactable for queries about transport to the venue, accommodation in the local area, directions to the meeting point and so on, in the days and hours leading up to a debate. This person should attend the debate and be on hand afterwards in case competitors have further needs.
  • A designated meeting place, where competitors should assemble 30 minutes before the start of the debate (either the debate venue itself, or a separate reception area). There must be members of the host committee present at that place in advance of time ready to meet arriving speakers, many of whom will be visiting the college in question for the first time.
  • A suitable venue: The venue for the debate should be a large room or small theatre, capable of comfortably accommodating around 50 or 60 people (unless the host institution expects a larger crowd). It should be heated, but not over-heated, and well-lit.
  • The crowd should be clearly separated from the speakers. The proposition and opposition should be at an angle from the vantage point of the speaker, facing in towards him/her. Each speaker should have a table in front of their seat that they can write on. Speakers should speak from a podium that is capable of supporting written notes at chest level, not at waist level. The podium should be facing the seated speakers, so that the speaker at the podium does not have to look backwards when accepting or refusing a point of information.
  • Glasses and water must be provided for up to 20 speakers, 3 adjudicators and a Chairperson.
  • The host must provide an experienced Chairperson, who has previously competed in the competition, and is familiar with the standing orders. The Chairperson should be equipped with a bell and stop-watch, and must record the length of each speech. The Chairperson, who could also be the designated contact person, should be at the debate venue/reception venue 30 minutes prior to the debate, and should check-in the speakers that have arrived, and should write their names neatly in block capitals on the order paper. That sheet should also be used as the time-sheet, and will be retained by the Convenor at the end of the debate as the ultimate record of who participated. The Chairperson should also liaise with the Convenor before each debate to clarify any issues that may arise.
  • At the conclusion of the competitive debate, the adjudicators will retire to consider their verdict. A room for the adjudicators to consider their verdict must be provided. The Chairperson may throw the debate open to the floor, or in the absence of a crowd, may adjourn the meeting until the adjudicators return.
  • Some social activity following the debate is required. This need not be as onerous as it sounds. The “when in Rome” principle applies - whatever the society normally do after their meetings is perfectly acceptable, whether it be a small wine reception, or alternatively, just a group visit to the student bar or local pub. Not all speakers will want to come - some may be too devastated by the recent shattering of their ambitions and some may be having a second debate with the adjudicators - but all should be invited. It is not acceptable to have people travel across the country for a debate, and then for their hosts to disappear immediately afterwards. The Irish Times Debate is a great way to meet new people with similar interests and it is always enjoyable to socialise with different people anyway.

Semi-final debates
All of the above applies, save where otherwise stated. In addition:

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