Debating formats

There are debating formats of different rules and different purposes, among which parliamentary formats feature debaters speaking in teams with and against each other. The two sides speak for mutually exclusive causes: In favour (“Proposition” or “Government”) of and against (“Opposition”) the motion in question. Speakers on the same side must not contradict (“knife”) each other.
Debattierklub Wien debates in especially two formats:
1) Offene Parlamentarische Debatte (OPD), The Open Parliamentary Debate (OPD), is a much used format on the German-speaking circuit.
2) British Parliamentary Style (BPS), British Parliamentary Style (BPS) is the format used in most international tournaments such as the European and World Championship.

British Parliamentary System (BPS) Layout

British Parliamentary System (BPS) Layou


British Parliamentary Style (BPS) is the most widespread format at international debating tournaments. It is mostly exercised in English and serves as the format for the European and World Championships.

Each side features two teams with again two speakers each: First or Opening Government and Second or Closing Government and on the other side First or Opening Opposition and Second or Closing Opposition. Each speaker is given 7 minutes speaking time. All teams prepare for the debate for 15 minutes seperated from each other.

The first speaker of the government side (Prime Minister) (1) explains and defines the question of the debate (“motion”) and exposes how her team introduces a mechanism to solve a particular problem or with which principle her team enters the debate, and then substantiates her proposal with arguments.
The first speaker of the opposition side (Leader of the Opposition) (2) is required to refute (rebutt) the previous speaker, as are all following speakers respectively. Also, the Leader of the Opposition explains substantive arguments for why it is better to stand against what is proposed with the motion.
The second speakers of each team (Deputy Prime Minister) (3) & (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (4) rebuild and extend their team’s line of argumentation.

The second half of the debate is opened by the third speaker on the government side (Member of the Government) (5) who is expected to deliver an “extension” to the previous speeches on behalf of the Closing Government team. An extension should be a new argument for the debate, which brings the debate on a different level and changes the view with which the motion is seen. The third speaker for the opposition (Member of the Opposition) (6) is then requird to follow likewise for his side.
The two summary or “whip” speakers’ (6&7) job is to sum up the debate. There are not allowed to bring new argument, instead they remind the judges of the debate as it happened in the light of their own team partner’s extension. They are not expected to retell what was said, but to balance all teams’ arguments and show, on which points of clash the teams are with each other and why their team won that contention.

During the so-called “unprotected” time of a speech (2nd-6th minute) all speakers of the respective other side are given the opportunity to offer so-called “Points of Information” (POI) to the speaker holding the floor. POIs can be formulated as a short question or a statement. The speaker holding the floor may take such POIs or decline them, but it expected to accept at least one during her speech.

Each debate is watched, taken to note and assessed by several adjudicators (judges). That team comes first, which can persuade the judges, that its own arguments und thus their position in the debate is the best in terms of the motion. In case for example all four teams mainly argue about the effects on democracy of a motion (clash point: effect on democracy), that team from the government side could convince the judges by its refined analysis that accepting the motion will in fact bring about improvements for democratic processes, and in rebuttal of their opponents show that these arguments are either not fully true or not as relevant as their own ones. At competitions, the team placed first gets three points, while the team placed second gets two, the third team one and the fourth team no point. In the course of tournaments, these points are added after several preliminary rounds. The best teams continue to the knock-out rounds (“break”) or directly to the final debate.

More information on BPS is available on Wikipedia: