What is Public Forum Debate?

Speakers and Teams

       PF is a two-sided debate. Two teams, consisting of two debaters each, make up the debate round. Every team prepares both the Pro (sometimes known as Aff or Affirmative) and Con (sometimes known as Neg or Negative) sides of the topic. Each league can differ on how the sides of the debate are decided. The majority use a coin-flip at the beginning of the round. Whichever team wins the flip can decide either which side of the topic they want to debate (Pro or Con) or which speaking order they want (1st or 2nd speaking team). Some states, like California, set the sides and speaking order before the round begins. Check your local league and tournament rules before you assume either.

Topics

PF uses a monthly topic, released on the first of the prior month. A key phrase the National Association used to describe the topics is “pulled from the headlines.” PF topics will be relevant to the current social and political context, more than likely something currently being discussed on the news, by academics, and in the public policy arena. Frequently, the topic’s focus centers on the United States. There are, of course, exceptions. There may be a topic that is about UN action or a topic about a theoretical action not tied to the present moment or any specific actor.

Speech Breakdown

Speech Speaker Time (minutes)
Constructive or Case Team A Speaker 1

4

Team B Speaker 1

4

Cross-Examination A1 & B1

3

Rebuttal Team A Speaker 2

4

Team B Speaker 2

4

Cross-Examination A2 & B2

3

Summary Speech Team A Speaker 1

2

Team B Speaker 1

2

Cross-Examination All Speakers

3

Final Focus Team A Speaker 2

2

Team B Speaker 2

2

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