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Secrets of the Summary Speech

The Summary speech is probably the most complex of the Public Forum speeches. There’s a lot to do: collapsing on a certain argument or line of offense, framing the debate, frontlining rebuttals to the argument, extending defense…and a whole grab bag of other random tasks depending on what’s happened in the round so far.

This can be, frankly, overwhelming. Summary speeches are often the messiest of the speeches I hear in practice and competition.

Yet, they’re crucially important, and many rounds are truly won or lost in the Summary. So, here’s a few models to help you simplify the process. You should practice each as a potential tool in building up your Summary arsenal.

Model 1: Even Split This is the most straightforward and simple model I introduce to new students, yet a powerfully effective general model: Spend half your time on extending and front lining offense, and the other half on extending defense against your opponents’ key arguments. This works particularly well for 1st Summaries when you’re not quite sure of your opponents’ collapse.

Model 2: Down-the-Flow Here, we simply go down the flow on our case, then our opponents’ case, answering everything from our opponents’ last speech. This model has the benefit of splitting time by necessity with a focus on your offense, rather than a simple 50–50 split. This model works great for 2nd Summaries, especially when the 1st Summary was complete and organized. If you feel behind the 8-ball in a 2nd summary, break this model out.

Model 3: Two Worlds This wildly popular model conceptualizes the round in terms of two worlds. Your offense is included in ‘Your World’ (a perfect heaven), and your defense is included in ’Their World’ (a wretched hell). Within your ‘world’, you should still collapse on key arguments.

Model 4: Weighing Summary Collapse on 1 or 2 arguments, then weigh your opponents’ arguments against your collapse. This model is a way to double-down on the advantages of weighing, and can help you win rounds that you probably should lose or against opponents whose case and preparation truly are better than yours.

For adequate weighing, you should invest prep work in thinking about how each of your potential collapses may outweigh your opponents’ arguments on magnitude, timeframe, probability, scope, reversibility, topicality, framework or other weighing mechanisms.

Model 5: Thesis This is the most advanced and powerful model, one that’s taught in-depth in our PF Quickstart course.

Begin your Summary with a thesis that fits this formula: “our collapse outweighs our opponents’ collapse/case because _______”.

The rest of your speech will be built on this thesis, ensuring maximum efficiency in your speech, because anything you say should reinforce the thesis at the top of the speech.

Any other preferred strategies for the Summary? Comment below and let us know!

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