More Thoughts From Bilal: Speaking First or Last and Choosing Sides

What are some strategic considerations debaters should have when picking sides?
I think there are couple of things to consider when picking sides,
What side do you believe you are stronger at debating. Our kids after a tournament usually have a side preference based on research or just having to debate one side more so their strategy develops over time. In this case they usually pick the side they believe to be stronger at debating.
Prepouts. If we are debating a team that we have acquired their flow from other teams, judges or from previous rounds, we try to account for this when picking sides. If we know their arguments and know that we have a plethora of responses then we feel comfortable debating that side against them. Sometimes when we don’t have adequate or sufficient blocks against certain teams, then we flip the other way to avoid rebuttals that lack strong content.
Judge Preferences. Usually this isn’t something that we often find ourselves having to consider but there are judges who consistently judge on the circuit and their round history can easily be found on tabroom or through word of mouth from other students. If we find ourselves with a judge who has a heavy side skew, this could potentially influence our decision to flip a certain side so we can be consistent with which way this judge has been voting.
What are some strategic considerations debaters should keep in mind when choosing to speak first or last?
Well when it comes to choosing speaking order, I think the inherent advantage belongs to the second speaking team. We almost unconditionally pick 2nd in rounds for 2 reasons.
Time Skew: all of your opponents prep time is your prep time. If they have the ability to run the clock then you also have the advantage to use this time in your favor.
Strategy Responses: The first teams has a disadvantage considering that they have to give up their strategy while the second speaking team has the unique ability to answer this strategy. When teams in summary collapse or go for certain issues, the 2nd speaking team gets to answer the arguments and responses that the 1st speaking team extends and then extend their own offense that goes unaddressed.
Respond Earlier: although not a lot of teams do this but 4 minutes of content in rebuttal can get overwhelming so what can you do with that extra time in rebuttal? Well you have the unique opportunity to address the rebuttal first. If you have an argument that you know you are gonna collapse on, going 2nd has the inherent advantage of addressing responses to case before the other team. A first speaking team can’t really address a rebuttal that hasn’t happened.

The only time we qualify this strategy is based on a judge’s preference of what the role of 2nd speaking teams is. If the judge expects a 2nd speaking team to respond to the 1st speaking team rebuttal in their rebuttal, just so we can read more responses and clarify our position we may choose 1st. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible or unfair for judges to have this expectation but if that is something that you struggle with, it’s easily adjusted by just going first.