Following recent posts about the upcoming World Schools Debating Championships and the Irish Times debating championships I received an e-mail asking about prepared motions. Specifically the question was why there are so few competitions these days that give prepared motions.
I suppose the immediate answer is that most competitions in the UK and Ireland copy the format of the world universities debating championships and a key element of that is 15 minute prep. But there was a time when it was quite common to get an invitation to an intervarsity with the motion(s) included. The Irish Times and Mace competitions still do this. But I also remember going to the National Law Debates where there were about eight teams invited to the Debate (four on each side) and we all had the motion and out position a couple of weeks in advance.
It is certainly a different experience in debating as hopefully everyone has done some research on the topic so the debate is decided more on the speaking talent of the individuals. I wouldn’t go back to the old format of 8-10 teams in a straight to final debate as it can last 2-3 hours. However it would be interesting to see some of the upcoming IVs publish a couple of motions in advance (e.g. one of the preliminary rounds and the final) and see what happens.