• Ben Silvian

How To Deliver a Debate Final Focus

The Final Focus speech is quite similar to the Summary speech in that they are both short speeches which aim to boil down the round and provide clear reasons that the judge should vote for your side. Thus, many of the Tips provided in Five Big Tips For The Summary Speech will be applicable here as well.


Instead of repeating those points, this article will go into the Five Main Differences Between Summary and Final Focus before offering Three Final Focus Tips.


Five Main Differences Between Summary and Final Focus


Difference #1: Purpose


The purpose of the summary speech is to set your partner up to give a killer final focus. This means figuring out which points to go for, extending the right pieces of evidence, and effectively responding to your opponent’s main offense. The purpose of final focus, however, is to “write the judge’s ballot for them.” Final focus is the last speech in the round and is thus most likely to stick in the judge’s mind as they are writing their ballot.


Consequently, the final focus is often the most important speech in the round for a lay judge, while the summary is often the most important speech in the round for a flow judge.


Difference #2: Length


Whereas you get 3 minutes to give a Summary, you only get 2 minutes to deliver your Final Focus. This means the final focus speaker must have impeccable word economy. The summary speaker does have more to cover, but gets that extra minute for explanation. The final focus speaker will not have the opportunity to hit all the points covered in summary, and will have to strategically prioritize.


Difference #3: Amount of Defense


The summary speech requires more defense than the final focus speech. The summary speaker may not drop important evidence in the opposing case or relevant turns delivered in rebuttal, as the final focus is too late to first address something so major.


The final focus speaker will really want to focus on driving home their main narrative, instead of wasting time on the opponent’s offense.


Difference #4: Amount of Weighing


In the summary speech, it is important to introduce the judge to a couple of weighing mechanisms, or at least provide them a working framework by which to evaluate which arguments matter most. However, the final focus speaker is the one that needs to weigh heavily, making crystal clear why the judge should vote their way.


However, the job of the final focus speaker is not to just rattle off weighing mechanisms. Instead, the final focus should be inspirational, should connect to the judge emotionally, and urge the judge to subconsciously want you to win. If the judge wants you to win, they will find a way to make that happen regardless of what was actually said.


Difference #5: Necessity of Strong Rhetoric


A strong summary maximizes coverage and clarity; a strong final focus maximizes strong rhetoric and eloquence.


Three Final Focus Tips


Tip #1: Allow Yourself to be Passionate


Throughout the case, rebuttal, and summary speeches, there are many technicalities you have to hit. The case should have claim, logic, impact; the rebuttal needs to be numbered responses; the summary needs to extend the right points and cards.


Technicalities apply to the final focus as well but can be forgone in the place of passion in certain circumstances, like if you have a lay judge and the round has been very confusing to this point. Regardless, this is your last chance to make an impression with the judge and you want to go out with a bang.


Tip #2: This is Not The Time To Get Creative


Did you just think of the killer point in the middle of Grand Cross that you just know will destroy your opponent’s argument? Great! Write it down and think through it after the round; this not the time to do a 180. Judges want to see consistency between summary and final focus, and not how arguments build off of each other from speech to speech. The final focus is simply too late to make new arguments, both because you don’t have the time to explain them and because it’s not fair to your opponent who has little to no time to respond.


This isn’t to say you should repeat your partner’s Summary word for word – it is important to point out the specific nuances that make your argument pop that your partner may not have had enough time to explain. But when it comes to new arguments altogether? Make them early or don’t make them at all.


(Note: there is one situation in which you can get creative, and that is the situation in which you know you are losing and you need something dramatic to win the round. However, just know that this usually doesn’t work and you would be better served highlighting the nuances you spent weeks preparing as opposed to coming in guns ablazing with new arguments in the last speech.)


Remember: the team that won on the flow doesn’t always win the round. If you can smile, sound confident, and speak with conviction, you have a good shot at winning even if you are worried you lost on the flow.


Tip #3: Hammer Home Your Narrative


The final focus is the perfect speech to focus on your narrative. Do not be afraid to repeat points made in your or your partner’s previous speeches; in fact you likely will need to do this and the judge will thank you. Re-explain them fully and clearly, from start to finish. While you have been preparing this argument for weeks if not months, the judge only just heard it 45 minutes ago. They will need a refresher, and if you have practiced re-explaining your arguments efficiently in front of the mirror or your teammates, this is the time you will thank yourself.


While some summaries will use a Defense/Offense approach, just trying to cover enough of the flow to ensure no arguments are dropped, the final focus must tell a story. Ideally the summary will too but it is absolutely necessary in the final focus.


Pretend the judge has forgotten everything. If your speech would make sense to someone who didn’t listen to any of the other content of the round, you are on the right track. If it is filled with “blippy extensions” and jumps from topic to topic without providing closure, you will want to rethink how you give Final Focuses.