Although the Convenor's attention will often be focused on accommodation, registration and other organisational matters, it is obviously essential that debating arrangements go smoothly throughout the tournament.
Another page, Debates at schools, covers this topic from the Chief Adjudicator's perspective. It may be helpful for these two people to read both pages in order to fully understand arrangements.
The usual system is for the preliminary rounds at least (i.e. rounds 1-8) to be held at schools in the city or region. As well as the obvious educational advantages and benefits for debating as an activity, schools tend to be enthusiastic, well-equipped hosts for this kind of activity. Later rounds - especially from the Quarter-Finals onwards - tend to be held in larger, civic venues; but some of those too may take place in a large school hall or lecture theatre.
Getting schools on boardEdit
The number of schools that should be involved may depend on the number of national teams and therefore the number of debates that will be necessary each day. At the same time, you may wish to include as many schools as possible so as to advance the general cause of debating in your nation/region.
Your Schools Liaison Officer will need to begin contacting schools at an early stage. Although precise details need not be confirmed until a few months or even weeks before the tournament, it's important to get the World Championships into a school's calendar as early as possible.
School principals are usually very enthusiastic about participating in the competition (especially of course, if they actually have students in the national team), as they see this as bringing major prestige and reflected glory to the school. You should also emphasise the opportunity for as many students as possible to form the audiences for the debates (especially the English faculty in non-English speaking countries).
Of course, exactly which schools you get on board might depend on whether any local education authorities have provided sponsorship.
What they must provideEdit
- A room for each debate. Size is not important (it will partly depend on the likely audience size); more important is that the debating rooms are set up correctly prior to your arrival.
- A smaller room per team in the case of impromptu debates (it is not a good idea to ask a team to prep in the debate room, as teachers generally want to get their audiences in place and settled before the debate is due to begin).
- Some sort of 'holding area' for guests, which can be used variously at the beginning of the day (between arrival and the official welcome), during breaks, and while teams prepare before impromptus. A staff room or library might be good for this purpose.
- A hall or drama studio if the school is planning to put on a lavish welcoming ceremony.
Lunch and refreshmentsEdit
Schools should provide coffee, tea and other refreshments on arrival and at break-times. Lunch should be provided if you are staying for the whole day; if you're travelling elsewhere in the afternoon, your schedule will dictate which school should provide this service.
Sometimes, the school’s Parent-Teacher Association (or equivalent) will volunteer its services to serve meals, bake cakes, etc, even if they can’t actually cover the costs. Alternatively, food/nutrition science classes might be able to contribute some home-made produce. Otherwise, the school can choose between providing a special lunch or asking participants to eat with everyone else in the school dining room. It's worth noting that in some countries, "special treatment" equals sandwich buffet; debaters might actually thank you if they do get a bog-standard school meal on occasion, to avoid this becoming a repetitive experience.
Bear in mind, too, the importance of providing water to debaters. This need not be a plastic bottle; jugs and glasses of drinking water (filtered/treated if necessary) are just as acceptable, as long as the glasses are changed between debates!
Chairpersons and timekeepersEdit
It's surprising how easy it is for teachers to forget to arrange chairs and timekeepers for each debate. As well as asking at the outset and reminding them a couple of weeks prior to the event, students need to be properly briefed on their roles. They should be given written instructions with the standard text that the chairperson will be expected to read, after filling in the names. You should also hold a briefing session for chairpersons and timekeepers at all schools, shortly before the competition begins, so as to explain their role in detail.
Even with the best of intentions, instructions or printouts can occasionally go astray between organisers, school teachers and student volunteers. If a debate finds itself without instructions for the chairperson, the chair of the judging panel can always explain the rules to the audience and introduce the speakers.
Ushers and signsEdit
Everyone needs to know:
- where prep rooms and debate rooms are;
- where the bathrooms are;
- where to get water;
- where we gather for lunch and how long lunch is;
- where debating workshops during prep time are to be held (if applicable); and
- where we go at the end of the day.
The school should arrange for students to act as guides to help show people around, make people welcome, etc. In non-English speaking countries, the English teachers will need to help choose suitable candidates for these roles. The school should also be encouraged to put up signs to the various debating rooms, bathrooms, teacher staff room for coaches and judges, etc.; these can also be made by students.
This could simply be a brief address from the headteacher/principal, but some form of official welcome should be provided at the start of your guests' visit. See below for optional extras.
Each debate should be provided with a stopwatch and, if possible, a bell. If no bell is available, ask timekeepers to use a knock on the table or handclap - not a buzzer or other intrusive signal.
Things to make the World Championships experience even more memorable might include:
Although each school should arrange a welcome of some sort (see above), many schools will enjoy the possibility of welcoming the visitors with some sort of performance (choir, dancing, orchestra, etc). These help participants to feel welcome, and give the school a chance to show off its students' talents.
You might have a policy of filming some or all of the debates anyway. If you are not arranging this yourself, check with the media/communications department in the school to see if they are prepared to video at least one of the debates taking place in their school.
- See also: General guidance on videoing debates
Many past hosts have donated small gifts to participants, such as badges, pens, school brochures, postcards or even small pieces of art. The school might already have branded promotional goods suitable for this purpose.
Information to provide to hostsEdit
Hosts must know what is expected of them from an early stage, to enable the school to plan carefully for the big day.
The teacher at each school directly responsible for competition arrangements should receive a paper detailing the arrangements to be made, the layout of the debate rooms, etc.
- Download: Briefing information for schools - sent to all schools hosting debates during the 2006 Worlds in Wales (PDF, 49Kb)
Getting school students involved in debatingEdit
There are two ways in which you might do this:
You should discuss with schools the possibility of holding workshops on the day, especially during the preparation time for the impromptu debates when, to all intents and purposes, the judges and coaches have "nothing to do" for an hour. This is an excellent way of helping the next generation of young debaters to develop their skills, whether it is through an all-singing, all-dancing interactive workshop or just a 20-minute talk from an experienced judge. It's also a good way of advertising the educational potential of the tournament to any education authorities that might be interested in providing sponsorship.
Judges will have been briefed to expect requests for workshops, so there should always be at least one willing volunteer on the day. However, it's obviously a matter of courtesy that each school's link teacher repeats makes the workshop request to a senior judge at the beginning the day.
Although not a very common feature in the World Championships, it is possible for students to get involved at the end of a debate. The chairperson may invite questions and comments from the audience for the 5-10 minutes when the judges are out of the room.
Liaison on the dayEdit
It is essential that you appoint a separate liaison person for each school during the day’s competition at that school. This may be someone from the Organising Committee, a trusted volunteer, or a willing senior judge. S/he will be responsible to make sure that everything goes according to schedule; s/he will be in constant touch with the Convenor and will be responsible for getting all participants back to the hotel, for collecting and returning all the debating equipment, and – most essentially – for delivering all the ballot sheets to the Chief Adjudicator.
Quarter-Finals and beyondEdit
The Quarter-Finals tend to be the first debates which take place outside of school premises, for reasons of prestige and additional space. These are examples of venues that have been used in the past:
- National assembly/parliament building
- Local/regional government headquarters (e.g. City Hall)
- Concert hall
- Heritage building, e.g. castle/cathedral
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a venue, not least the hire charge that you can negotiate (perhaps you will be able to get a free venue in lieu of cash sponsorship from an organisation/government body?). You need to ensure that the venue can hold a suitably-sized audience (e.g. a Semi-Final might attract 150 tournament participants plus 50 or so invited guests), and to ensure that smaller anterooms can be booked for the teams during prep time. In particularly large spaces there should be a PA system, and you might want to consider providing a reception before certain debates at this stage of the competition.
Other than that, the arrangements are much the same as outlined above for the earlier debates (with less hassle over logistics, timing and worried school teachers). It is, of course, essential that your chair and timekeeper know exactly what they are doing on these more public occasions. And for the Grand Final in particular, you might wish to get a celebrity or representative of your main sponsor to chair the debate.
Once the Chief Adjudication Panel has received, collated and checked all of the day's results, they should be published as soon as possible in two places:
- On your noticeboard in the hotel/hostel lobby
- On your tournament website
It's likely that a member of the CAP will handle the noticeboard. For the website updates, it's a good idea to recruit a single reliable volunteer; past experience suggests that there's no way a Convenor or other key organiser will have the time to these kinds of tasks during the competition.
Results should, of course, also be distributed to the press where possible.