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Five tournament hacks for your next parli competition

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Small adjustments to your tourney checklist can make your next in-person parli meet less stressful.

I have yet to find someone who doesn't find debate tournaments stressful. Postings go up and down, everyone runs around, and half of your pens manage to lose themselves before the end of the third round. So, what can you do to minimize stress during a parli tournament?

Here is a collection of hacks to make your competition that much easier.

Hack #1 - Use a multicolor pen

A lot of debaters use different colors for different speeches, thereby neatening their flow. But no one wants to wrangle six separate pens as they roll off the desk.

Instead, try ten-in-one multicolor pens, which are about fifteen USD for a twenty-four pack. This way, you only have to keep track of one pen instead of six.


  • Pencils (they are too light and smudge)

  • Markers (they are too thick and bleed)

  • Highlighters (same problems as markers but also too bright to read)

Hack #2 - Take a picture of postings

Postings can get extremely crowded. The best way to minimize clutter is to have one person take a picture and send it to everyone else with a device, so not everyone has to crowd around a sheet of paper and triple-check for their room.

If you use a phone to time your speeches, then you can use the camera feature and a messaging app to send it to whoever also has a device. That way, you can rush off to your room confident that your friends are all set.

You can rush off to your room, confident that your friends are all set.

Hack #3 - Bring a bag for your computer

A lot of debaters go computer-commando, juggling their papers, pencil cases, and chargers out in the open. To avoid accidents, bring a large bag to store your computer, timer, writing utensils, and anything else important. This is especially important if you're borrowing a computer or using a school-issued one!

Some debaters wonder if a specific bag is best. Any large tote will do, but you can bring an actual computer bag if preferred. Technically briefcases are traditional, but are not used in reality (although that would be awesome.)

Hack #4 - Have warm clothes in reserve

This hack is especially important during the winter months. Debate clothes are designed to be indoor wear. A lot of waiting, however, occurs outside, especially in the days of Covid. The rule of thumb for tournaments is that they run late, so you might even be standing in the night.

Great items to pack, even if you don't immediately use them, are jackets, hats, long pants (if you are wearing a skirt), and other cold-weather gear. Your frosty fingers will thank you later.

Hack #5 - Make strategic bathroom trips

A call of nature can to ruin any debate round.

Some judges can be very picky about whether or not competitors can run to the restroom. Even under ordinary circumstances, it's difficult to navigate an unfamiliar school.

Take bathroom trips about fifteen minutes before the next round. This way, even the copious amounts of water you drank can't hamper you during prep time and beyond. Fifteen minutes also gives ample room to locate a bathroom in a new place.

Last Words

These five hacks are designed to make you think about the right things (how to win over the judge, crush your opponents, etc.) instead of putting out logistical crises as they appear.

Do you have any tournament hacks of your own? Comment below and let us know!

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