Ending the Speech: A Diagnostic

Most debate speeches end with some variant of the following:

“Thank you, and for all these reasons – and many more – I strongly but respectfully urge an affirmative ballot and now stand open for cross-examination and further points of clarification.”

Let’s break this down. 

“For all these reasons” = “I said stuff.”

This is empty rhetoric. The judge just heard your entire speech. The phrase “for all these reasons” accomplishes nothing beyond reminding the judge that the speech he just saw actually happened and that you still stand by what you said.

“And many more” = “Please self-introduce arguments.”

Debaters tend to get really frustrated when judges make rulings based on arguments that weren’t in the round. But that’s exactly what you’re asking them to do with this phrase. “For all the stuff I said – and all the stuff I didn’t say, that isn’t in the round, that you would have to self-introduce instead of ruling on this debate – please vote for me.”

The phrase also implies that you didn’t do your job of thoroughly explaining the merits of your position. “For all the reasons I can think of – and all the ones that a better debater would probably have been able to come up with …”

“I urge an affirmative ballot” = “…”

This is more vacant rhetoric. At best, it’s a complete waste of time: if the judge needs to be reminded that you’re affirmative, you’re not delivering your speech correctly. At worst, it trains the judge that you sometimes say things he doesn’t need to listen to. Every time you use an empty phrase like “I urge an affirmative ballot” or “in the round here today,” the judge is that much more likely to zone out while you’re talking about something important. Far better to use a long verbal pause than such phrase – or better yet, just be silent.

“And now stand open for cross-examination” = “The debate will unfold as planned.”

This phrase is as odd before cross-ex as it would be before any other point in the round. “I now stand open for my opponent’s rebuttal.” “I now stand open for prep time.”

Just do your debate thing. By walking into the round, you agreed to comply with the rules of debate. That means you gave your opponent permission to cross-examine you. You don’t need to suddenly declare your willingness to continue following the format.

“And further points of clarification” = “Actually, maybe it won’t.”

This phrase is hopelessly confusing. You’re going to do cross-ex and clarification? The debate format doesn’t say anything about clarification. The only thing that’s about to happen is cross-ex. There will be no additional Clarification-time following that.

Clarification may and should happen during cross-ex; the phrase would be at least correct if it said: “I now stand open for cross-examination, during which I am optimistic that clarification will occur.” The faults of that are described above.

"How did we get here?"

Ending a speech is hard. This phrase – and all its variants – is a crutch that novices pick up because it conceals the fact that they don’t have a conclusion. It’s a completely generic, memorized phrase. It’s a safety blanket.

Sadly, this phrase accomplishes nothing and slightly harms the speaker’s relationship with the judge. If you have more than 20 rounds of experience, you shouldn’t be using this phrase at all. If you have less than that, you should be weaning yourself off of it already.

“Thank you.”

Advanced debaters revisit delivery and learn to maximize the effect of every word they use in the round. They develop powerful thematic cores that get the judge emotionally involved in the case logic. That gives them the ability to deliver stunning conclusions. They’re careful not to dampen the impact of the conclusion with an empty phrase. They just say “Thank you,” and let their closing words hang in the air and soak into the judge’s mind.

If you have no idea how to end a speech, learn from the advanced kids. Just say “Thank you.” This is a quick and respectful way to indicate that you are done speaking. If memorized phrases have become a habit for you, expect just saying “Thank you” to feel strange at first as you unlearn a bad habit. You’re off the training wheels and forced to end on your actual speech content. But even if you do nothing more than deliver your final point and say “Thank you,” you’re better off than you would have been with an empty sentence.

Thank you.