Public Forum Debate (PF)

Q&A: What to Expect in Public Forum

VIDEO: Sample Public Forum Debate Round

Public Forum Debate is a team debate in which topics related to current affairs of public interest are debated. Public Forum is particularly concerned with evidence-based conclusions and arguments, and usually reflect the usefulness or benefit for adopting a particular policy position. It is designed to be accessible, for both competitors and judges.

Competitors in Public Forum typically write cases – prewritten arguments – every month for a new topic, focusing on arguments, evidence, and connecting the two. During debates, a priority is placed on a clash of ideas and arguments, as well as deciding what the terms and framework of the debate are. Rebuttals, refutations, and questioning make up the bulk of the debate, along with competitors tailoring their arguments to convince a judge that they have won. Debates typically last about 45 minutes, and are leveled according to the experience level of the debaters.

From the National Speech and Debate Association:

Public Forum Debate involves opposing teams of two, debating a topic concerning a current event. Proceeding a coin toss, the winners choose which side to debate (PRO or CON) or which speaker position they prefer (1st or 2nd), and the other team receives the remaining option. Students present cases, engage in rebuttal and refutation, and also participate in a “crossfire” (similar to a cross-examination) with the opportunity to question the opposing team. Often, community members are recruited to judge this event.

As a team event, students who compete in Public Forum need to be able to work well with a partner. Balanced teams, both in terms of preparation before debates and contributions within a debate, helps provide a competitive advantage during tournaments. PF is the newest form of debate in the Association and looks at current event topics. Students who do Public Forum must be prepared to debate in front of judges without any formal debate training. Being able to persuade a range of judges is a central component to this event. Additionally, PF is focused upon debating varying resolutions that change frequently, which exposes students to a variety of topics during a singular competitive season.

Sample Past Topics:

  • Resolved: NATO should strengthen its relationship with Ukraine in order to deter further Russian aggression.
  • Resolved: Single-gender classrooms would improve the quality of education in American public schools.

Interested in PF? For more information, visit, or look here for current/proposed topics.