The World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships is an annual international English language debating and public speaking tournament for individual high school-level students representing different countries. It occurs during a five-day period in late March and involves 180 to 200 competitors
The tournament was founded in 1988 by Reading Blue Coat School, St. John’s-Ravenscourt School, the Debating Association of New England Independent Schools, Taunton School, Queen Anne’s School, and The English School, Nicosia. It was one of the first international competitions to individually rank high school-level students in debating and public speaking. The tournament was founded the same year as the World Schools Debating Championships, and partially to respond to the desire for an equivalent competition for public speaking at the international level.
The first Worlds was hosted by Reading Blue Coat School in Reading, England and continued to be hosted in England until 1995. The late 1990s saw the tournament’s hosts begin to cycle through different countries, with Argentina hosting in 1998, Botswana hosting in 1999, and Cyprus hosting in 2000.
The tournament usually takes five to six days, with two to three rounds of events daily. The opening day of the tournament involves opening ceremonies and a guest speaker. The last two days do not involve any regular competition, except for those advancing to the final rounds. These days are occupied by a full day excursion or activity, and a formal closing banquet that involves the grand finals and awards ceremony. The grand finals of the tournament are considered to be a display of the tournament’s best competitors. Some notable locations of the grand finals include the Utah State Capitol and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Competitors also partake other in activities and outings organized by the host school during the week. These often involve exploring the city of the tournament.
The tournament comprises four events: parliamentary debate, impromptu speaking, interpretive reading, and either persuasive speaking or after-dinner speaking. Students compete in two preliminary rounds for each event.
Students from numerous countries have participated in the tournament, including: Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, the United States, England, South Africa, Lithuania, Pakistan, Cyprus, Argentina, Botswana, Israel, India, South Korea, Zimbabwe and Germany. Additionally, foreign nationals enrolled at schools abroad often compete, but are not officially recognized as representing an additional country. Usually participants are in their last two years of high school.
Competitors can qualify in several ways. These are: through direct application to their national debating and/or public speaking organization, through a national tournament, or if they belong to one of the founding schools, by their decision. Countries that have a more established debating and public speaking program often use qualifying competitions, this is the method currently used by Canada, the United States, Australia and South Africa. Alternatively, those with nascent or smaller programs rely on a handful of schools to select and send members, this includes Cyprus, Germany, and Pakistan.
Additionally, half of the team from the United States and Canada qualify through the International Independent Schools Public Speaking Championships. This competition is restricted to independent schools, and is of a similar format but of lesser significance and does not have competitor qualification requirements.