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Communication & Performance

College of Arts & Sciences

TaleTellers is a campus student organization for graduates and undergraduates interested in storytelling performance. The club meets 1-2 times per month to tell stories and learn tips like how to handle a microphone. Along with the storytelling program faculty, TaleTellers hosts the Regeneration Story Slam every 3rd Friday during the fall and spring semesters. The event is held at JRH Brewing in Johnson City at 8 PM. Anyone can sign up to tell a personal story based on the monthly theme. In addition, TaleTellers are available to tell stories for your event, whether it be telling in area schools or at festivals and community events.  .

Tale Tellers of ETSU Venues

There are many types of venues that may want to sponsor a TaleTellers of ETSU performance, residency, or workshop. These can include:

Corporate events
Civic Organizations (Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, Rotary, Kiwanis)
Training Workshops
Insert your own here: the possibilities are endless..

ReGeneration Story Slam

The East Tennessee State University Storytelling Program, ETSU TaleTellers, and the ETSU Department of Communication and Performance hosts a series of storytelling concerts for the community called Re-Generation: A Johnson City Story Slam during the fall and spring semesters. 

The Story Slam welcomes any audience member with a story to tell. Slam patrons wishing to tell a story drop their names into a bowl, and the MC draws seven names randomly. Three judges, selected from the audience, score and pick the winning stories of the evening. If audience members’ names are not drawn, they can tell at the open mic immediately following the Story Slam. As John Deems, storytelling minor and slam participant says: It’s a judgement-free zone for all stories told, so don’t be afraid to go up there and practice a story or two, even if you consider yourself an amateur.

Story Slams foster real life tellers of true stories. People have up to 10 minutes to tell any story that fits the theme, as long as it follows a few rules:

  1. Stories should be true.
  2. Stories should relate to the theme.
  3. Stories should be told, not read

The winning storyteller receives a cash prize from the donations received at the door. We encourage students and community members to come listen, laugh, cry, and share in the imaginative world of storytelling.

Find out more at Like our Facebook page or follow us on Instagram at etsutaletellers.

School Information

Storytelling and the oral tradition are the grandparents of the literature and the entertainment we enjoy today. Storytelling fulfills the preservation of traditions, cultures, and values that thrived before written and electronic communication. Our region hosts the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough and is known worldwide as a cradle of the art of Storytelling.

Schools can host a program for the entire student population, or for individual classrooms. In addition to this, sometimes members have particular stories which may fit a school theme or current unit of study. Our desire is to make your TaleTellers experience the best it can be and we want to be used as a teaching tool.  The opportunities are endless, so contact us for more information today.

Speech & Debate Team Logo

ETSU Debate: Recognize Your Potential

The East Tennessee State University Speech and Debate Team is a student organization created to introduce students to creativity, organization, debate, and a way to have fun with all of these college demands.  We focus on the activities of Parliamentary Debate and Individual Events in public speaking, such as literature interpretations, limited preparation events, and public address events.  We are sure that the council has something to offer to everyone, and that it will sharpen the skills necessary to not only win an argument or speak well in public, but to impress potential employers and communicate well with everyone that you encounter.  Members may choose to participate in none, one, or multiple competitive events.  All members, competitive or not, serve important roles in the organization.  Also, the ETSU Speech and Debate Team is one of the few clubs on campus where students can earn college course credit for being on the competitive side of the council.  

For more information, email

About Us

The East Tennessee State University Speech and Debate Team is a student organization created to practice the arts of speech and debate.  This student centered group meets each week during the spring and fall semesters.  Some team members may choose to join the competitive team and compete across the state of Tennessee in local, regional, and state competitions. For those who prefer to work behind the scenes, we have fundraisers, organizers and planners positions available.  Everyone is encouraged to practice their debate skills during our weekly meetings. Join us and write your name in the history book of the East Tennessee State University Speech and Debate Team!


Laughton Messmer, Director

Erin B. Messmer, Assistant Director

In the News

ETSU Speech and Debate Team brings home top awards:  Links to an article in the Johnson City Press

TIFA Champions

Five Questions ETSU Debate Team member discusses importance of civil debate in polarized society:  Links to an article in the Johnson City Press.

Braden Trent with Award

Competitive Events

Parliamentary Debate: 
Parliamentary debate is based loosely on the British model of parliament. Debaters use sound reasoning, logic, persuasion, wit, and rhetorical skill to argue their stance. This debate format consist of two teams, the Government and the Opposition, delivering their cases either in favor of or in opposition to a resolution which may cover a variety of political, social, economic, or philosophical topics. Debaters are given 15 minutes preparation time prior to debate beginning.

Oral Interpretation Events Dramatic Interpretation:
A representation of one or more characters from a play or plays. Material may be from stage, screen, or radio. Use of manuscript is required. Maximum time limit is 10 minutes, including introduction.

Presenter will have 10 minutes to deliver a manuscript presentation on a selection or selections of poetry (play cuttings are prohibited).

Presenter will have 10 minutes to deliver a manuscript presentation on a selection or selections of prose material (play cuttings are prohibited).

Dramatic Duo:
Two individuals will have 10 minutes to deliver a cutting from a play, humorous or serious, involving the portrayal of two or more characters. Material may be from stage, screen, or radio. This is not an acting event; thus no costumes, props, lighting, etc. are to be used and focus should be centered on audience.

Program Oral Interpretation: 
A 10 minute program from two of the three recognized genres of competitive interpretation (prose/poetry/drama).

Extemporaneous Speaking: 
Contestants will be given 30 minutes to prepare a speech on one of three topics in the general area of current events. The speaker will have 7 minutes to deliver their presentation with limited notes.

Impromptu Speaking: 
Speakers will have a total of 7 minutes for both preparation and speaking. Timing commences with the acceptance of the topics sheet. 

Informative Speaking: 
Speakers will deliver a 10 minute speech that increases the audience's knowledge on a factual topic. Visual aids that enhance/reinforce the message are permitted. The speech must be delivered from memory.

Persuasive Speaking: 
Speakers will deliver a 10 minute speech that persuades or moves audience to action. Visual aids that enhance/reinforce the message are permitted. The speech must be delivered from memory. 

After Dinner Speaking: 
Speakers will deliver a 10 minute humorous speech while incorporating a serious point through humor. The speech should reflect the development of an idea through humor (not a stand-up comedy routine). The speech must be delivered from memory.

Communication Analysis: 
Speakers will deliver a 10 minute critical analysis of any rhetorical artifact. The speech must be delivered from memory.


Northeast State Community College Spring Fling 2018-2019


ETSU Parli Plunder, TN

         3rd Place Novice Speaker
         3rd Place Novice Team

2015-2016 awarded:
         3rd  Place Novice Team
         4th  Place Novice Team
         5th Place Novice Team
         1st Place Speaker Award
         3rd Place Speaker Award.

2013-2014 awarded:
          1st Place Open Team
          3rd  Place Novice Team
          4th  Place Novice Team
          1st  Overall Open Speaker
          2nd Place Overall Open Speaker
          1st  Place Overall Novice Speaker
          3rd   Place Overall Novice Speaker
          4th Place Overall Novice Speaker

2012-2013 awarded:
         1st Place Open Team
         3rd Place Novice Team
         4th Place Novice Team
         1st Place Overall Open Speaker
         2nd Place Overall Open Speaker
         1st  Place Overall Novice Speaker
         3rd Place Overall Novice Speaker
         4th Place Overall Novice Speaker.

2011-2012 awarded:
         1st  Place Overall Speaker
         2nd  Place Overall Speaker
         5th Place Overall Speaker
         2nd Place Team award.

2008-2009 awarded:
         3rd Place Team

2010-2011 awarded
          5th Place Team
          3rd Place Overall Speaker
          4th Place Overall Speaker.

Carson-Newman Porch Swing, TN

          5th Place Public Narrative

Walters State Smokey Mountain Tournament

          1st Place Novice Speaker
          4th Place Novice Speaker 
          8th Place Novice Speakers

         3rd Place Novice Speaker

2015-2016 awarded:
        1st Place Beginning Novice Speaker
        6th Place Beginning Novice Speaker
        8th Place Top Novice Speaker.       

2014-2015 awarded:
        Varsity Semi-Finalists
        1st Place Novice Division
        4th Place Novice Speaker.

2010-2011 awarded:
         1st Place Team
         1st Place Overall Speaker.

2009-2010 awarded:
         2nd Place Team.

Northeast State Community College Spring Fling

         4th Place Novice Team
         1st Place Overall Speaker Award

         2nd Place Overall Speaker Award

 2015-2016 awarded:
        3rd  Place Novice Team
        4th  Place Novice Team                                    -                2nd Place Speaker Award
        7th Place Speaker Award.

2014-2015 awarded:
        1st Place Team.
        7th Place Speaker Award
        3rd Speaker Award.

2013-2014 awarded
        6th Place Overall Speaker
        7th Place Overall Speaker.

2012-2013 awarded:
       6th Place Overall Speaker.
       7th Place Overall Speaker.

2010-2011 awarded:
       2nd Place Team.
       3rd Place Team.

2009-2010 awarded:
        2nd Place Team
        3rd Place Team.

TIFA (TN Intercollegiate Forensics Association) State Tournament

         State Champion in IPDA
         Quarter Finalist in IPDA
         Octo-finalist in IPDA
         1st Place Novice Speaker

         2nd Place Radio Broadcasting
         2nd Place Impromptu Speaking
         4th Place Radio Broadcasting
         6th Place Informative Speaking
         6th Place Radio Broadcasting
         6th Place After Dinner Speaking

         3rd Place Prose Interpretation
         5th Place Dramatic Interpretation
         5th Place Radio Broadcasting
         6th Place Poetry Interpretation

2012-2013 awarded
         Quarter Finalist Novice Team
         Quarter Finalist Open Team

2011-2012  awarded:
         6th Place Persuasive Speaker award

2010-2011 awarded:
         Two Quarterfinal Teams
         3rd Place Overall Speaker
         5th Place Overall Speaker

2009-2010 awarded:
         3rd Place Debate Sweeps

Lion’s Pride Debate Tournament, Bryan College, TN

         1st Place Four-Year College Team Sweepstakes
         3rd Place Varsity Speaker
         3rd Place Novice Speaker
         6th Place Novice Speaker
         3rd Place Novice Team
         3rd Place Varsity Team
         4th Place Novice Team
         6th Place Varsity Team

Course Credit Info

COMM 2325: Forensics and Debate Team - Syllabus

Course Description:  COMM 2325 is designed to help students prepare for, deliver and critique both formal and tournament arguments and debates.  Learning these concepts will aid in the developing of critical thinking skills, extemporaneous speaking, decision making as well as enhance listening skills. Team members will also learn how to formulate cases based on stock issues of debate, effective research skills on current and contemporary issues, and deliver logically valid arguments.  Those participating in Individual Events will display an understanding of event selection, topic selection and organization skills pertaining to said event. 

Required Text: The instructors will provide materials throughout the semester.

Course Requirements: 
1. It is vital to attend every club meeting and practice session.  Team members must attend weekly team meetings as well as any scheduled practices. Only two team meetings or schedules practices without penalty are allowed. On the third missed team meeting or scheduled practice and every subsequent missed team meeting will decrease the final grade by 10%.

2. Team members will also participate in official tournaments as part of the Forensics and Debate Team. Enrolled participants will compete in one tournament for each registered credit hour.

3. Following each tournament, each member must submit a self-evaluation of his or her participation and preparations for said tournament.  

Course Direction:
Individual Events/Specific Requirements:

1.Self-evaluation after each tournament.

2.Demonstration of quality verbal and nonverbal delivery techniques, speech construction, and the ability to employ sound research. 

3.Creation of compelling and effective presentations in various and appropriate styles.

Parliamentary Debate:

1.Self-evaluation after each tournament.

2.Demonstrate an understanding of the rules and terminology of parliamentary debate.

3.Construct cases that utilize a full understanding of stock issues and case files.

4.Effectively argue parliamentary cases with sensitivity towards judging criteria as well as incorporating note taking into case construction.

Grades:  Here is how your grade is configured so we will have no confusion.

Participation: 40%
Preparation: 40%
Self-Evaluations: 20%


Participation grades will come from both participation in practices as well as tournaments.  For more information see the requirements section above.  


Before members participate in tournaments they must fully prepare for the event in which they are competing.  For debaters this means having a current case file and obtaining supplies (i.e. dictionary, pens, paper) from the instructor before the day of the tournament.  For members competing in individual events this means writing and researching an original work, as well as choosing and interpreting an existing work.  For members who will be participating in after dinner speaking, impromptu, or extemporaneous speaking events, sample topics and practice speeches must be on hand at all times.


Following each tournament, members are required to write a 500-750 word paper that functions to evaluate the member’s performance in said tournament.  Each evaluation should highlight strengths, note areas where improvement is need and give a clear plan to improve in said areas, as well as include a list of lessons learned from the tournament experience.  

Rules of Debating

The Basics
There are two teams: the Government Team and the Opposition Team. Each team has two members. The Government has the “Prime Minister”/ “PM” and “The Member of Government”/ “MG.” The Loyal Opposition has the “Leader of the Opposition”/ “LO” and “The Member of Opposition”/ “MO.”

The Government is to argue the resolution; the resolution is the topic that the debate is based on. The Government is always FOR the resolution. They are the group that brings forth the case. The Loyal Opposition is to argue AGAINST the Government and the resolution.

The two teams must convince the Judge, called the Judicator or Mister/Madam Speaker of the House, why their teams have done better than the other team in the debate and why they should win the debate. The Judicator will also decide how good the speakers were by giving speaker points.

Anything is debatable in Parliamentary Debate. The goal of Parliamentary Debate is to argue general knowledge that is known to the average person off the street.

When it comes to scoring, many tournaments do not have the score card. There is a point system based on how the speakers have done. It is best to fill it out but you do not have to use it to make your points.

The score is from 0 to 30 with the highest and perfect score being 30.

30 The Greatest
29 Almost the best
28-25 Above Average
24-20 Average
19-16 Below Average
15-12 Horrible
11-1 Don’t go there
0 No Show

The ranking is 1-4 with the best speaker being 1 and the worst 4. It is possible for the person with the highest points not to have the best rank. There can not be a tie on points and rank on the score sheet. The points and rank are used for speaker awards and should be taken seriously. Finally, you decide which team convinced you to vote for their side and was fair to the procedure of debate.

After the topic resolution is announced, both teams have 15 minutes to prepare the topic. The judge must keep track of the 15 minute time limit. The main speaker of the Government is the Prime Minister. The main speaker for the opposition is the Leader of Opposition.

Following is the speech pattern and maximum time that each speaker can talk:

Prime Minister First Speech : 7 minutes
Leader of Opposition First Speech: 8 minutes
Member of Government Constructive: 8 minutes
Member of Opposition Constructive: 8 minutes
Leader of Opposition Closing: 4 minutes
Prime Minister Closing: 5 minutes
The Points

Point of Information
After the first minute of a speech and the last minute of a speech, you will or the timekeeper will need to slap the table or give a one minute sign. From the time between the hand smacks or the one minute signs, a team can ask questions. This is called a Point of Information.* It is preferred for the speaker to face you to ask the current speaker what the question is. The speaker can limit questions, hold off questions, or neglect it all together. It is rude to hold off or neglect but not to limit the questions.

*This can only be used during the first four speeches.

Point of Order
Personal Privilege are questions asked to the judicator about distracting conditions like closing the window or door and even to having the “peanut gallery”/ spectators to be removed if they are being too loud.
Clarification Issue is when the other team misinterprets or misquotes what the other team has stated.
New Information is when new information was brought forth that was not during any of the first four speeches and used during the last speeches of the Leaders. This would cause the new argument to be thrown out of the debate.
Ad Hominem Fallacy is when the a team attacks the competitor/s not the case.

Case Req.
The Government team must be for the resolution, must define the resolution, and make a debatable case. The definitions must be defined. There must be a debate type.

Debate Types:
Policy- Solve a problem
Fact- Resolution is true
Value- Which is better
There must be judging criteria.
*These can be challenged by the opposition but it is your choice which side is right; Please do not reveal your choices during the debate.

The deal is that the Opposition must point this out during speeches. If the opposition does not challenge the point it is in the government favor. If the government drops the Opposition challenge, then it goes to the Opposition favor. 

Think of it being “No Call, No Foul,” but you get to decide in the end which is right and wrong.

Last Note:
The Opposition can make a counter-case but this does not happen very often. When the Opp makes a case, it does not have to follow the strict guidelines the government must have.

Helpful Links

For more information on East Tennessee State University, visit the main web site of the university.
East Tennessee State University is located in Johnson City, TN, just miles from both the Virginia and North Carolina boarders.  Visit in person or on the web at ETSU

To learn more about ETSU's Department of Communication, visit us on the web.
The Department of Communication at ETSU is home to six different divisions as well as a Master of the Art program in Professional Communication.  Find out more today at Communication

American Parliamentary Debate Association
The American Parliamentary Debate Association is a great resource for parliamentary debaters of all levels.  Check them out today at APDA

National Parliamentary Debate Association
The National Parliamentary Debate Association is the oldest organization dedicated to parliamentary debate in the United States.  Visit them at NPDA

International Debate Education Association
Take debate worldwide at IDEA 

For more details and information stop by a club meeting or e-mail ETSU Speech and Debate Team at

Speech and Debate Team Meetings
Thursdays, 5:30 PM
Campus Center Building RM 208A

We hope to see you there! 

Communication Studies Association/Lambda Pi Eta is the official student body for communication studies majors at ETSU.

Lambda Pi Eta is the official honor society of the National Communication Association at ETSU. Any student who achieves and maintains academic excellence in any sub-specialty in Communication may apply for membership in the organization. Lambda Pi Eta encourages its members to attain high levels of scholarly achievement as well as engage actively in generating interest about the communication discipline.

To be eligible for admission, undergraduate students must meet the following criteria:

  1. Complete 60 semester credit-hours.
  2. Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 for all courses taken
  3. Complete the equivalent of 12 semester credit-hours in CMST
  4. Have a minimum GPA of 3.25 for all CMST courses

The Communication Studies Association is open to any and all CMST majors and minors. Regular Activities include any student interested in obtaining more information about or who wishes to join LPH or CSA may contact the faculty advisor, Dr. Andrew Herrmann.

Check Lambda Pi Eta out on Facebook...

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