My team is new this year. What region are we in?
I’m a new coach. How do I log into Speechwire?
If your school already has a team, then there should already be a Speechwire account connected with it – you just need to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, email, and school and they will turn the account over to you. If your school has a new team, then you need to create a free Speechwire account – just go to speechwire.com, click on “Your account,” and then “Create account.”
What do I need to do to complete tournament registration?
It’s as simple as going to our Registration section and checking off all the items from our checklist. If you still have questions, send us an e-mail!
My team wants to attend a regional tournament outside of our region. Is this allowed?
Yes! Just keep in mind two things: first, we can only offer scholarships for the tournaments in your region, the U.S. Qualifiers, and the National Tournament, so your team will be responsible for covering the cost of attendance without scholarship help. And second, in some circumstances, BEST may cap the number of students participating in a tournament in order to fit space and time constraints. In that case, we’ll give priority to in-region teams. Please email us if you’re considering attending a tournament out of your region as early as possible, and we’ll do our best!
My team couldn’t make it to either of our region’s tournaments, but the national tournament is still coming up and we want to attend that, at least. Is this O.K.?
Unfortunately, we have to limit attendance at the National Tournament to teams/students which have participated in at least one regional tournament for the current school year.
It’s before the registration deadline and a student on my team has dropped out. What do I do?
You can update your team’s roster yourself on Speechwire and the Team Roster Spreadsheet!
It’s after the registration deadline and a student on my team has dropped out. What do I do?
Send us an email with your student’s name and we’ll update your roster for you. Just remember that drops/adds after the registration deadline up until three days before the tournament will cost your team depending on the circumstances (check the Costs and Fees page).
It’s two days before the tournament and a student on my team has dropped out. What do I do?
Let us know by sending us an email with your student’s name, but remember that drops/adds in the three days leading up to the tournament will cost your team depending on the circumstances (check the Costs and Fees page).
Where can I find train ticket prices?
What do I need to do to fill out a successful scholarship application?
Start early! Take a look at the scholarship application to see exactly what information you’ll need to gather.
Research train ticket prices on bdz.bg.
Make sure all of your students have student rail cards. They will need them to receive student discounts.
Register your team for the tournament.
Make a plan for fundraising. We have tips for successful fundraisers here.
Complete your scholarship application and turn it in before the deadline.
Find out via email if you’ve received a (conditional) scholarship!
Buy one-way rail tickets at least ten days in advance. (If your team has ten or more students, you’re eligible for a 75% discount and there’s an extra step here; see below.) You need to buy one-way tickets so that you can leave them with us at the tournament for documentation that you’ve used our funds properly; you can buy return tickets separately, either at the same time or during the tournament.
How can I get the 75% discount on train tickets for groups of 10 or more students?
It’s important to go for this extra discount if your team is eligible for it. You need to get a signed letter from your school’s director with the names of your students and their ID numbers. Bring it with you to the station when you purchase tickets, and make sure you go at least ten days in advance.
What should I bring with me to the tournament in order to have my scholarship funds disbursed?
BEST is a registered NGO in Bulgaria, so we have to document how we’re using our money. That’s why we ask for your train tickets and fakturas before we give you your scholarship funds. So, here’s what you should be prepared to provide at the tournament:
If you received a transportation scholarship, you need to bring your original one-way train tickets for the members of your team and the adults accompanying you as judges/chaperones (including your ticket, of course, if you’re serving as a judge/chaperone). The exception is if your team received the 75% student group discount. These are issued as a single round-trip ticket for the whole group. In this case, you’ll have to mail the ticket to us after the tournament is over. If we don’t receive this from you within a week after the tournament ends, then we won’t be able to offer your team scholarship funds for the next tournament.
I’m a coach in [far-flung Bulgarian town] and traveling by train to the tournament will take [a large number of hours] with [an inconvenient number of] transfers. Can we travel by bus instead?
Yes (technically!) Just keep in mind that we only award travel scholarships based on the cost of student-discounted train tickets. Unless your bus tickets end up being cheaper than student-discounted train tickets, we will award your team a scholarship based on those estimated train ticket prices and you will be responsible for fundraising to make up the difference. We do our best to provide extra help for those teams traveling long distances, but we can’t guarantee it, so it’s better to be prepared to fundraise. Unfortunately, our growing numbers (and limited funds) sometimes means that we have to enforce this policy strictly.
We know that this can make things difficult for teams in more remote cities, or cities lacking good train connections, and we want to do everything we can to make tournaments accessible for everyone. That’s one big reason why we now have regional tournaments.
Prose, Poetry and Duo
What types of pieces are my students allowed to perform in tournaments?
For Prose, Poetry, and Duo, students may perform published works of literature, scripts, and speeches, as long as the piece either:
has an original ISBN, ASIN, or ISSN
is published on the one of the websites on this list
is authorized for use by the student via written permission of the author.
My students really struggle with finding quality, accessible pieces. What are some good places to look?
This can be one of the trickiest parts of the Prose, Poetry, and Duo events. In general, the more your students read, the easier this will be – encourage them to read often, and read widely. Beyond that, here are some tried-and-true places to look:
If you’re willing and able to pay for pieces, SpeechGeek can be a great resource. Their scripts are written to be performed, so they may be more accessible for students new to BEST, too.
The Monologue Project has a selection of interesting scripts. They’re available for free download, but you must contact the author for permission to perform them.
Sometimes a strong first-person voice in a piece makes all the difference – it can make it easier for a student to move from recitation to performance. Genres often written in first person include memoir, essays, and young adult (this has the added bonus of being written at a level more accessible for English language learners, too).
The Poetry Foundation is an amazing resource. Their website has extensive archives of published poetry with sources cited, searchable by author, time period, country, and theme (very helpful for a student looking to perform three poems on, say, first love.)
I have a duo pair of one eighth grader and one tenth grader. Do they compete in the novice or varsity divisions?
A good rule of thumb is to always round up – so in this case, since one half of the pair is tenth grade, they’ll compete in the varsity division. The same applies to debate teams and to individuals competing in prose and poetry. So a ninth grader may move up divisions if you feel that their English/experience level is high enough, but anyone old enough to compete in varsity may not move down to novice.
How can I help my student find a good oratory topic? Are there any topics they should avoid?
A good way to start is by asking your student to think about what makes them angry. When they rant to their friends, what do they rant about? What do they feel like they can’t shut up about? Starting with what they already talk and feel strongly about will help them write an original oratory that they really care about, and will be able to memorize and deliver again and again without losing energy.
Many students have broad, common themes in mind when they start out – technology, stereotypes, bullying, and the environment are typically pretty popular. Encourage them to not stop there. Topics that are narrower and more concrete are easier to research, more original, and often, more credible. It’s the difference between claiming something like “the influence of technology is bad; we need to get off our phones and engage with the real world more” and “the influence of technology is changing the way our brains function; we need to change our educational methods in order to adapt.” The former is very broad and already a popular opinion; it’s too easy to agree with without much thought. The latter is more narrow, less predictable, and more challenging, both for the student and for the judge, who probably hasn’t heard an oratory like this before.
Students shouldn’t necessarily avoid certain topics altogether, then; they should avoid approaches to topics which allow them to get out of making truly arguable, rigorous claims.
What’s the difference between the impromptu and prepared debate rounds?
For the prepared rounds, students will know in advance what the motions are (though not which side they’re arguing for; they’ll that out when their rounds are announced at the tournament), so they’ll have lots of time to research and prepare their cases. For the impromptu rounds, the motions will be announced along with their rounds at the tournament itself, and teams will have one hour to prepare. Computers are allowed, but receiving any outside help, whether from the internet, their coach, or anyone else not on their team, is strictly forbidden. There will be monitors supervising the rooms and hallways during the hour prep time to make sure that no one is receiving outside help.