Best Practices: Final Focus

After Summary narrows down the round and you try keeping arguments clear in Grand Cross-Examination, the Final Focus comes in to finish the debate. Many debaters may view the Summary and Final Focus as repetitive speeches. Yes, Final Focus should share content with Summary. However, the rhetoric is different. Final Focus is about telling the judge how to vote, not continue to give a guided overview of the round. My philosophies of Final Focus point to the goal of the round: showing the judge why there is only one ballot, and that ballot is for your team.

The four philosophies are:

1. Select and illustrate the voting issues.

2. Use action item rhetoric.

3. Answer the question “so what?”

4. Think about the judge.

1. Select and illustrate the voting issues.

Your have argued throughout the round whether or not your claims and impacts are valid. Summary selects which of these arguments are important. A voting issue is turning an argument into a reason to vote for your team. To make an argument a voting issue, you must illustrate how the argument has been won and proves the resolution is true or false. While you have been persuading the judge you are winning throughout the round, Final Focus articulates this. I mentioned in the Summary chapter that it was too early to say, “We win.” In Final Focus, you can and should say, “We win.” A balanced Final Focus, however, will not say that everything you have argued in the round is a reason you win. That is a rare round. A balanced Final Focus brings out your strongest arguments and shows how these voting issues are more important than the voting issues your opponents present.

2. Use action item rhetoric.

You could consider the debate thus far as an educational tool for the judge: two opposing sides of an argument. The Final Focus turns the educational tool into an “action item.” Final Focus rhetoric presents the ballot as a decision about a real world action and not just who wins a debate. You want the judge to feel like an active participant in the debate through your Final Focus. You may think it is silly to treat a debate ballot as real when it will not create any real result. The truth, however, is that if you persuade your judge to feel as though his or her ballot is an action, the consequences of the vote should be considered more thoroughly and the topic taken more seriously. Action item rhetoric is not a request for debaters to do dramatic interpretations of politicians or demagogues. The concept of making the Final Focus a call to action is meant to shape your rhetoric, your demeanor, and ultimately, the judge’s decision. Keep this goal in the back of your mind as you craft your speech.

Interested in how you should answer the question “so what?” and how to think about the judge?

How do you achieve these goals of Final Focus?

Beyond Resolved: A Public Forum Debate Manual answers all of these questions and more. I encourage you to check out the Manual to really improve your Final Focus skills.


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