Australian Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championship


He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense. - Joseph Conrad


Event Guidlines and Descriptions


General Guidelines

Students must author their own speeches and may not use any speech or reading that has been used in an inter-school competition prior to July 1 of the year that they are competing in the Australian Individual competition. Students may not use any published or recorded material in any medium verbatim or virtually verbatim without attribution. Penalties may be applied to any competitor who violates any of these rules. Students usually present the same material in all rounds of a prepared event but it is also acceptable for them to present different material if they wish to. There is no additional credit given for using different material.


  • This is coordinate debating.  Each competitor will debate with a partner from another school, often another school.  Even though they are debating as a team, they are scored individually and advance separately.
  • The debaters are not told the resolution until 45 minutes prior to the debate.  The two sides must agree on the definition, ie, what the resolution means.  The Government (the side in favour) must tell the Opposition (the side against) the definition after 10 minutes, ie, when there are 35 minutes left to prepare.  The resolution must be interpreted in a reasonable manner that reflects the spirit of the resolution.

The length and order of speeches are as follows:

The Proposer:                                      6 minutes

The Opposer:                                      6 minutes

The Seconder to the Proposition:       9 minutes

The Seconder to the Opposition:        9 minutes

The Opposer (summing up):               3 minutes

The Proposer (summing up):              3 minutes

Warning bells are signalled at:


·         1 minute (single) (protected time)

·         5 minutes (single)

·         6 minutes (double)

·         6 min 30 secs (triple)

Seconder to the Proposition/Opposition:

·         1 minute (single) (protected time)

·         8 minutes (single)

·         9 minutes (double)

·         9 min 30 secs (triple)

Proposer/Opposer (summing up) (protected time)

·         3 minutes (single)

·         3 min 30 secs (double)

·         30 seconds grace shall be allowed each speech but there is no minimum time limit.   

·         Emphasis on judging will be on clash, spontaneity, logic, wit, content and teamwork.

·         The side which does the best debating - and therefore the side to which the highest score is given - may not be the side which wins the argument.  This is similar to the situation in court where the side with the better lawyer may still lose the case - the facts may overwhelmingly favour the other side.  They advance as individuals based on their own scores, NOT as a team.


  • Each speaker will draw a piece of paper listing three topics, which may consist of a word, a quotation, a phrase or anything unrelated to current events.  The speaker must choose one of the three and then has up to two minutes to prepare.  The room manager will start timing at the moment he or she begins to read the topics.  The speaker may write notes during preparation but may not bring them up with him or her when he or she speaks.  The speaker may have the piece of paper with the topics in hand, if he or she so chooses.  The topic will be announced at the end of the speech.
  • Speakers may speak in favour, against, in favour AND against, or simply about the topic.  Speakers may take a humorous approach, a serious one, or some combination of the two.  Wit, humour, logic, philosophy and sentiment are all equally welcome.  It should be the sort of speech that would be delivered if the speaker were asked to speak on short notice to a general audience on the topic given.  Judges will be looking for agility of thought, for substance (some ?meat on the bones?), for organizational ability, and, above all, for the ability of each speaker to communicate with style and originality.
  • The speech must last between 3 and 5 minutes
  • The tabulation room will assess a penalty if the speech is too far under time or overtime.

A penalty of 5 points will automatically be incurred if it is observed that notes are used.

Interpretive Reading:

  • Each competitor will read a passage from a novel or short story or poetry (or selection of poems), serious or humorous, and of literary merit.
  • The reading should not be a speech from a play or a dramatic monologue.
  • The use of facial expressions and gestures, as the competitor feels appropriate, is encouraged, but should not distract from the primary emphasis in judging the category - the reader?s use of voice.
  • The reading should be between 7 and 11 minutes long.  An introduction of up to one minute is included in the time permitted.
  • The introduction should give an indication of the context of the reading and convey the reasons why it has been chosen.  The introduction should be a direct address to the audience, personal and informal, and the piece(s) should be of literary merit.
  • If a competitor chooses to do a conclusion, it need not complete a narrative episode: instead, the reader may choose either to leave the audience in suspense or to sum up in a few words how the episode goes on to reach a conclusion.

After Dinner Speaking:

  • An after-dinner is the kind of speech that is given after a formal dinner to an audience who have a common interest or share some aspect(s) of identity, employment or character (e.g. the left-handed society or the dental association).
  • This category includes the kind of speech given at a convention, e.g. by the Chairman or sales manager of a firm or specialised group, reviewing the practices, policies or employees of that firm or group.
  • The speaker must address an imaginary audience of his/her own choosing.  He/she must deliver some new and relevant insights to them in a way designed to inform and entertain.
  • An after-dinner speech must not be just a stand-up comedy routine.
  • Although not necessarily human, both speaker and audience must be credibly capable of communication through speech: i.e. they may be vampires or aliens, for example, but they may not be animals.  The only exception to this rule is that the speaker and/or audience may be animals if they are derived from books, films or plays/musicals in which they already have the power of speech - e.g. characters from ?Animal Farm?.
  • No props may be used.
  • The speaker may ask the chairman to announce who is being addressed immediately before he/she delivers the speech.  In that case, a brief and suitable form of words must be provided.  Otherwise the speaker will identify the audience in the opening lines of the speech.
  • Notes must be limited to both sides of one 3 x 5 inch card, and should be used as little as possible.
  •  Each competitor must speak for 6 minutes, with a grace period of 1 minute on either side.  

  • Salutation is optional if the chairman has identified the audience before the speech begins.

A penalty of 5 points will automatically be incurred if MORE than one 3 x 5 inch (7.62 x 12.7 cm) card is used.

Persuasive Speaking:

  • This speech is designed to persuade and must be on a serious topic, although this does not mean that humour might not be useful at points in the speech.
  • A problem/solution approach must be taken, although the speaker may finally conclude, for good reasons that must be shown, that no solution can currently be found.
  • The persuasive element may be in convincing you that the problem exists, or its significance, or it may be a problem that everyone knows exists and the persuasiveness is in convincing you that the solution is valid.  Obviously, this may mean that the speaker devotes most of his or her time to the problem and less time to the solution, or the other way around.  As long as it is convincing, that is fine.
  • Speeches will have been prepared beforehand and should be about 10 minutes in length. Notes must be limited to both sides of one 3 x 5 inch card, and should be used as little as possible.

A penalty of 5 points will automatically be incurred if MORE than one 3 x 5 inch (7.62 x 12.7 cm) card is used. 

For examples of these speaking styles please visit our homepage or alternatively YouTube: WIDPSC or AIDPSC



There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.

- Alexander Gregg


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