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Welcome to the DAV Website
The DAV is a non-profit association which exists to promote debate. It is the peak debating body in Victoria and runs large competitions for adults and for schools across Victoria. It provides training and resources for debaters, teachers and adjudicators.

Adjudicators asses your speech according to three criteria :matter, method and manner.




Matter refers to your arguments.


A good way to think about matter is to consider how you write essays, like text responses. An essay, like a speech, has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction introduces your contention (see more here), and conclusion links effectively back to the topic and team contention (more here).


The body of a speech is the arguments you make. If you are new to debating, it can be useful to structure arguments like a text response: try using the TEEL structure.


In a debate, the topic sentence introduces what your argument is about. For example, you could say ‘my first argument concerns the impact of smoking on health.’ This lets the audience and adjudicator know 3 things: that it is your first point, that your subject matter is about health, and, there is an effective link to the topic.


The second component of an argument, the ‘explanation’ is fundamental to a debate. Explanation, in essence, explains your point in detail. This is the heart of your argument.


The third component is the evidence or example. This can include things like statistics, figures (monetary/numerical), facts, news stories and examples. It should never include personal examples. It is important to recognise that evidence is not explanation. Instead, evidence and example support the explanation that you have provided.


Finally, the link back to the topic and contention of your team. This part makes sure that your argument is on topic (as you are making a clear topical link), and, not contradicting your own team’s stance on the issue.


There’s more information on matter in this resources section [add when pages confirmed]. 


Top Five Matter Hints

1. Relevance! Make sure that you link each argument to the topic.

2. Check the resource guide on the DAV website for hints and links to useful websites for prepared and advised topics.

3. Put yourself in the shoes of your opponents and try to think about what arguments they will make.

4. Brainstorm ideas for your arguments - ask teachers, parents, friends for ideas. Remember to work as a team in coming up with arguments!

5. Make sure each point is backed up by a relevant example!




Method is the structure and timing of your speech. It also considers team method.


Internal Method is the way your own speech is structured. Every speech should have a recognisable beginning (introduction), middle and end (conclusion).


You should structure your speech in a clear way, which reflects your speaker role [link]. Have clear transitions between rebuttals, and from your rebuttal content to your prepared speech (your arguments). For your arguments, look at matter above, and see if the TEEL structure helps with your speech structure and clarity.


Internal method also considers internal timing. Remember how long a speech has to go for, and your speaker role. A third speaker’s speech should be 3/4 rebuttal and 1/4 team summary. A first or second speaker’s speech should ensure that they rebut and leave enough time to say their arguments. Rebuttal for a first or second speaker should be no more than 1/4 of the speech time.


Team Method is the way your speech fits into the team case as a whole. Ideally your three speeches should be consistent with each other, but with different and distinct arguments. Always make sure you work out together how each speech fits into the overall plan.




Manner is the way in which you deliver your speech. It is the most subjective aspect of debating, the only rule of which is that you must be persuasive. As a speaker, you have to develop a style that works well for you, so that the audience views you as a persuasive speaker. Some people speak fast, some slow, some are loud, some quiet, some are animated, others are calm and reasoned. None of these styles is inherently better than any other, but some hints for the beginner are that first timers probably speak too fast more often than too slow, and often don't use enough variation in their vocal tone to emphasise important points or to change the pace of the speech. Always bear in mind that your objective is to persuade the audience, not the opposition or your team mates, so look at the audience, speak to them, evaluate their reaction to your speech and modify it accordingly.


It includes everything that goes towards the presentation of your speech:


Use of voice

Try not to speak in a monotone, and remember to pause when appropriate. Use emphasis to highlight important points with your voice, and use different tones to show if a point is serious, sad or funny. Think about how you speak to your friends and family, and the variety of tones and speaking styles you use - try using some in your speech!


Body Language

You should use some hand gestures, but don’t wave your arms about too much! It’s important to stand comfortably, and face the audience during your speech - don’t turn around to face the opposition or your own team, even in rebuttals. Make sure you are relaxed when standing, and speak naturally.


Use of notes

We recommend that you use palm cards rather than a sheet of paper for your notes – waving around sheets of paper tends to be distracting, unlike cards which can fit into your hand. Using palm cards also encourages more eye contact and better volume, as you face the audience better.


Just remember though: your notes/speech have to be written down - no electronic devices are allowed to be used in the debate, including to read your speeches off.


Eye contact

The more you look at the audience, the better. Eye contact includes the audience in your speech and makes it more persuasive. Always face the audience. Some tips for better eye contact include:

Practicing your speech before the debate.

Looking up at the end of every sentence, and challenging yourself to look up more frequently.

On your notes, you can highlight words in a different colour where you want to look up for eye contact

Always look around the audience - don’t just look at the adjudicator or your parents.



Where appropriate, humour works well as it relaxes the audience and makes them more willing to listen to you. Don’t try to use jokes and other gags unless they are also relevant to the debate. Humour may also detract from your speech if it is not appropriate. Use your judgement on this issue, but if the joke is more likely to make the audience cringe rather than laugh then give the joke a miss.



Volume is how loud or softly you speak. In a debate, you need to speak loud enough that all the audience can clearly hear you. If you speak too softly, or mumble your speech, and the audience can’t hear you, they can’t be persuaded by you. Most debates are held in classrooms, so practice your speech in one to make sure you are loud enough.


But a caution: don’t speak too loudly (outdoor volume). You want to voice project, like you would in drama (in a play/musical).



Pace is the speed that a speaker speaks at. Some people are fast speakers, some people are slower. Pace is very individual, but some general things to keep in mind are:

If you speak too fast, your audience won’t understand what you have to say

If you speak too slow, the audience will think you’re nervous or don’t know what to say

These two things can be unpersuasive to the audience. Some tips for pace are:

If you’re a fast speaker, or get nervous and talk quickly, take a deep breath before you start your speech and concentrate on speaking slower. Practice your speech before the debate to make sure you learn to slow down.

If you are nervous, take a deep breath, and you will calm down!

If you are a slower speaker, or are uncertain about what to say, practice your speech to develop a flow to the speech. Slow speeches with awkward pausing can be unpersuasive, but a slow pace with a calm and measured tone of voice can be persuasive.


Something to note!

Keep in mind that teams in a debate don’t choose which side you are on – so don’t get personal with the other team. Insults directed at your opponents only make you look rude and petty in the eyes of the audience. It could even lead to a breach of the Code of Conduct. Attack their arguments, but don’t attack them personally!


Top Five Manner Hints

1. Smile at the audience and make eye contact.

2. Practice your speech before the debate to make sure you aren’t speaking too fast or not loud enough.

3. Pause between ideas to let them sink into the audience.

4. Vary your voice when you start a new point.

5. Use body language and gestures to liven up your speech.