First Tournament Survival Guide: Part 2

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To welcome new members to speech and debate, as well as ForensicsCommunity, I’ve constructed a two-part survival guide designed for beginners who are eager to learn more about tournament preparation. Part Two is your essential step-by-step guide to what to do when you’re at your first tournament – where to go first, how to begin your performance, and what will be expected of you. Part One of the guide included the basics: a few must-have items at a tournament, as well as a simple breakdown of a tournament’s structure.

1. When you arrive at the tournament, the first thing you’ll need to do is get a map of the school. This will help you later when you are trying to locate the room you will be performing in. A map is usually included with the tournament program – a booklet that usually includes a schedule, a welcome message from the hosting team’s president or coach, and advertisements for local businesses that are sponsoring the tournament. Ask a teammate or one of the hosting school’s team members for help finding this, and you will be grateful!

2. The second thing you should do at a tournament is check postings. There are usually at least two rooms in the school dedicated to postings; the cafeteria and the gym are popular choices because they are large, thus they are a good place for all the students to hang out between rounds. Once you find out where postings will be (again, a map is useful), look for several pieces of paper hung up on a wall with the names of different events – Dramatic, Humorous, O.I., Extemp, LD, et cetera. Before the tournament starts, members of the hosting school’s teams will bring pieces of paper (postings) and tape them up under these signs. Once postings are …well, posted, find the name of the event you are participating in and look for your name. Write down the room number you are in, the order in which you are supposed to speak (if you have a 3 by your name, you are the third speaker), the panel and (if you don’t already know it) your school code, which represents the team you’re on. If you can’t find it, get a second opinion (ask someone to help you find your name) and if you’re not listed, find your coach or someone from the hosting school’s team and ask for help.

3. About ten minutes before it is time for the round to begin (check the tournament schedule in the program), head to the room that was listed on the postings. Wait until there is a judge in the room before you go inside, because if you enter a room before anyone else, you can be disqualified in some districts. Judges are usually easy to recognize because they dress casually instead of in business attire, but if you aren’t sure, you can always ask, “Are you the judge?”

4. Once you have entered the room, choose a seat and put down your coat, wallet, purse, or anything else you’ve brought with you that you will not be using during your performance. If you are scheduled as the first speaker, look for a blackboard or whiteboard in the room. If there is no blackboard (it happens), you can either write your information down on a piece of paper and hand it to your judge, or you can verbally give him/her the information. If there’s a board, walk up to it and look for chalk or a dry-erase marker so that you can write your information, which should look like this:

School Code – Your Name
“The Name Of Your Piece”
* Author’s Name

For example:
B – Shirley Glockenpfeffer
* Laurie Halse Anderson

If you are not first speaker, have a seat and wait for the fun to begin. Don’t forget that you must applaud after each competitor performs. Not only is this a sign of appreciation and common courtesy, but it is a signal to any competitors waiting outside the room that it is OK for them to come in. *Note: NEVER enter or leave the room when another competitor is performing.

5. When you have finished writing your information, you have two choices, depending on how much time is left before the round is scheduled to begin. You can either stand to the side of the board and wait for the judge to write down your information, or you can have a seat and wait for more people to come to the room. Don’t expect all of the competitors to arrive, because many of them are most likely cross-entered, meaning they will be competing in other events and joining the round later. When you are ready to start your performance, ask, “Is the judge ready?” or “Does the judge have all the information?” When the judge is ready, close the door to the room and walk to the front of the room or whatever area you think would be best to give your performance. *Note: In speech, avoid using a podium whenever possible, as it restricts movement and is not allowed in most events.

6. To begin your performance in an event where you do not use a binder, such as Dramatic Interpretation or Original Oratory, stand with your hands at your sides for a moment before you start speaking. Take a moment to gain composure and relax before diving into your performance. In an event where you use a binder, such as Oral Interpretation, bring the binder to the front of the room with you and hold it in front of you while you give your introduction. You are required to write a short introduction for each speech event you participate in. Your introduction should consist of a few sentences describing your piece and setting the mood for your performance, followed by the name of your piece and the name of the author. When using a binder, make sure it is closed while you give your introduction. There are two types of intros: Regular and Teaser. For a regular introduction, you simply begin your performance with the introduction, pause for a moment and then start performing your piece. For a teaser, you begin your performance with the first lines of your piece, pause for a moment, step out of character and give your introduction, pause again, and continue your performance. Both are effective and accepted. After you have said your introduction, perform your rehearsed interpretation of the piece.

7. When you are finished performing, pause for a moment before walking away from the stage area. Your competitors and your judge will applaud, and you can return to your seat. If you are cross-entered, you should turn to your judge and say, “May I please be excused? I’m cross-entered.” They will probably say yes (if not, explain politely that you have to perform in another event, thank him/her for judging, and leave), and then leave the room to go to your next event’s room. If you are not cross-entered, you are expected to stay in the room and watch all of the other students’ performances. The only other time it’s OK to leave is if there is an emergency or if you are incredibly sick.

8. Once the last speaker has finished, applaud, stand, and say “Thank you for judging” before you leave. Note: In most debate events, competitors are supposed to shake each other’s hands and the judge’s hand before leaving the room. Ask your teammates or your coach what the customs are in your district.

9. After you’re finished performing, you need to check postings if you will be competing in the next round. Go back to step number 2 and repeat!

Anony's picture

This is interesting. I love seeing circuit differences and this definitely shows a couple. Most notably, in local tournaments we never, ever say what school we're from or give our name. It's strictly codes. I've only every put my name at an invitational. 

Good guide :)

My district is the same way with codes.  Granted, most people don't care if you know who they are, and you're likely to know who is who and where they're from, but codes is preferred in round.

In my region, (we regularly compete outside our oddly defined District) there's no such thing as a tournament booklet. I think I got one once at a tournament. Also, everyone writes their name and code on the board before the round instead of when it's their turn to speak. This is used to check who is present. Also, piece names are only given in introductions.

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