The Tab Room

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At a speech tournament, it's tough when you end up facing the same people over and over. This can happen for two reasons – either you're at a relatively small tournament with barely enough competitors for the event to be sanctioned, or the tab room isn't paying enough attention to paneling.

The tab room, or tabulation room, if you’re unfamiliar with running a tournament, is the hub of a speech tournament. Scheduling, scoring, and paneling (deciding which rooms competitors end up in) all take place in the tab room. After judges rank you in a round, their ballots make their way to Tab, where the hosting school’s students tally up the scores and determine who will advance to the next round.

In my speech days, when my school hosted a tournament, the team was divided into two managing groups: runners and tabbers. The runners were basically servants for the weekend: they walked around, offered pens to judges, gave directions, and "ran" ballots from the judges' table to the tab room. Tabbers worked in the tab room, counting scores, arranging panels and working with the coaches to make sure the tournament ran smoothly. Both jobs are important and both are fun, but being in the tab room is infinitely more interesting. My teammates and I had so much fun making up songs (I remember one in particular to the tune of an R Kelly song - "I believe I can tab/I believe I can panel that/I think about it every night and day/spread my cards and I tab away...") and hanging out. But there's more to it than goofing off and realizing your dream of becoming a lyricist will probably never come true. Working in tab involves concentration and dedication.

When you've competed in your rounds and you're awaiting postings at a tournament, what you're actually waiting for is your panel. Each panel consists of between five and seven competitors. There are several strategies for deciding which students will end up in which panel. Students are generally separated by school code first to ensure that they compete against their teammates as seldom as possible. And some tabbers also graciously take the time to note when competitors have been in rounds with each other before, since nothing is more annoying than being placed in panels with the same people again and again.

There's also "power paneling," for which tabbers divide the panels so that the people with the highest scores all end up in one round together. The students who made 1s and 2s all end up competing against each other in one semis panel, while the students who made 2s, 3s and 4s in their rounds all end up competing in the second semis panel.

Power paneling usually results in a finals round in which the three competitors with the highest scores are pitted against competitors with scores that are significantly lower. Thus, one student might have made a 3 and a 2 in his first rounds and a 3 in his semis round, but he could end up competing against three people who made straight ones throughout the tournament. Many competitors think this type of unbalanced paneling is unfair, as students are unevenly matched.

If you ever get the chance to handle tabulation for one of the events at your team’s home tournament, you should definitely do it. Besides just being able to have a hand in ensuring that the event is run fairly, you’ll be able to spend time with your teammates, learn more about forensics and have a great time, too. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

Power paneling might place you at a disadvantage in finals when you are pitted against people who ranked straight 1's, BUT it allows you the opportunity to even break. Think of it like this, you could have been competing with these high rankers in prelims and never stand a chance on breaking to finals at all.

Besides, even if you have consistently ranked lower than those in the power panel, once you are in finals it does not matter. You now have the opportunity to place. All it takes is one good round.

So I don't see why people are whining about being given the chance to place. Maybe if there was segregation of the power panel and "lower" people when it came to finals I could understand (like two final rounds for a single event--one for high rankers and one for lower ones). Then I could be mad. But seriously? Stop complaining and bring it!

NOTE: I could be on-board with this power paneling because I am pretty sure when I started out I was that person who ranked lower only to end up in finals and possibly place. But aren't we all that individual, haha?

As a student competitor, I never had the opportunity to participate behind the scenes. I always wondered how it all worked; this was a very interesting post.

Anony's picture

I'm new here @ and want say hi to all the guys/gals of this board!

Hey!  How's the season?

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