Public Forum: Overview

Like other forms of debate, public forum has two sides and a set order of alternating speeches. The similarities, however, largely end there. Public forum, also known as “crossfire debate” or “PFD,” is a much more accessible, vernacular form of debate than LD or policy, and it deemphasizes jargon, research and argumentation theory. Instead, teams of two use common language and persuasive, logical arguments to debate issues of national importance, similar to a show like Crossfire. Public forum is also faster-paced than other debate categories, as the longest speech in a PFD round is only four minutes long.

The National Forensics League announces public forum resolutions once every month. Like policy resolutions, public forum resolutions usually recommend that the U.S. government take some action or adopt some policy, such as “the United States should normalize relations with Cuba.” However, public forum resolutions can also hew closer to LD value statements, like “in a democracy, civil disobedience is an appropriate weapon in the fight for justice.”

Once teams receive the resolution, they create both a pro and a con case on the topic. Teams do research the resolution and base their cases around logical, central arguments, but the emphasis in public forum is on clear, persuasive speaking – not preparation or structure. In that sense, public forum is largely performance-based, and the quality of argumentation is much more important than quantity. Such performances are delivered in short, fast-paced speeches and “crossfire” exchanges with opponents during rounds, moderated by a community judge.