Wartburg format


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The aim of the two sides competing against each other is to convince the jury and the audience of their own point of view. In order to avoid a dominance of role patterns ("government/"opposition"), there is an equal weighting of the two sides "pro" and "con", which avoids the formation of a hierarchy and a priority of one side over the other (cf. Lechner/Wiemers 2009: 1).

The Wartburg format gives the teams extensive freedom in shaping the debate. It allows each speaker to introduce new arguments into the debate. In this respect, the team is not bound rigidly to role patterns, as is common, for example, in the Open Parliamentary Debate or British Parliamentary Style formats (cf. Lechner/Wiemers 2009: 4).


Each team consists of three speakers. The first speaker should begin by clearly stating his or her side’s position on the thesis, which includes clear definitions. There should be a recognisable team strategy; the contributions of the individual speakers should come together to form a whole. In contrast to other formats, the last speaker on each side may also introduce new arguments into the debate (cf. Lechner/Wiemers 2009: 1f).

  1. Pro-side: 3 speakers (opening statement 7 minutes)
  2. Contra side: 3 speakers (opening statement 7 minutes).
  3. Jury: The jury consists of three persons: the president, the main juror and the secondary juror.
  4. President: The President is in charge of the debate: He monitors the observance of the rules during the debate and calls the speakers to their contributions according to their order.
  5. Main juror and subsidiary jurors: Each of the jurors keeps his or her own evaluation sheet in which he or she takes notes on the debate and awards points for the individual speakers and the team performance (cf. Lechner/Wiemers 2009: 2).

Course of the debate

Immediately before the start of the debate, the President shall draw lots to determine whether the pro or the con side will open the debate. No motion is to be formulated by the opening side! The three speakers of the opening and replying parties speak alternately (cf. ibid.). The speaking time is seven minutes, of which the first and the last 60 seconds are protected. During the unprotected speaking time, the opposing party and the audience are allowed to speak with interventions. Permission to comment is granted by the speaker (cf. Lechner/Wiemers 2009: 3). After the debate, the jury, led by the head judge, evaluates the teams.


  1. Intervention: An intervention can take the form of a statement or a question. It can be requested by the other side or the audience during the unprotected speaking time (cf. ibid.).
  2. Interjections: Interjections, on the other hand, may be made by all participants in the debate (including the audience) during both protected and unprotected speaking time. They must not exceed seven words. Interjections are to be used in moderation and should not disturb the debate (cf. Lechner/Wiemers 2009: 4).
  3. Privilege question: During the unprotected speaking time of the last speaker, the first speaker on the opposite side may ask the so-called privilege question. This question must be accepted by the last speaker in any case and cannot be rejected (cf. ibid.).


The final note is determined by the jury. (cf. Lechner/Wiemers 2009: 5f).

1. Content: Under “Content” the quality of the speaker’s argumentation is assessed:

  • Expertise and topic-related knowledge
  • Relevance of arguments
  • Stringency of the arguments (also: illustration by examples)
  • Arrangement and structuring of arguments (cf. ibid.)

2. Language: This category of “language” includes how the speaker conveys his content linguistically, in short: the eloquence of the speaker:

  • Clarity of articulation
  • Appropriateness of volume and rate of speech
  • Vocabulary
  • Use of images, metaphors, etc. (cf. ibid.)

3. Form: “Form” means everything the speaker does with his body to support what is being said:

  • Appearance, overall appearance
  • Stance and posture
  • Gestures
  • Facial expression and eye contact (cf. ibid.)

4. Quick-wittedness: This assesses the speaker’s ability to make his or her side strong in direct confrontation with the other side. The category includes content and interactive aspects:

  • Addressing and refuting arguments of the opposing side (“rebuttal”).
  • Dealing with interventions from the other side or the audience
  • Reaction to heckling
  • Sovereignty (cf. ibid.)


Lechner, Clemens; Wiemers, Holger (2009): Wartburgformat. Komplettes Regelwerk. In:http://www.heidelberg-debating.de/sites/default/files/pdf/Kommentiertes%20Regelwerk%20des%20Wartburg-Formats%202009.pdf [Access on 09.10.2015].