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Guide to bidding and hosting Worlds

With Worlds just a couple of weeks away and with two bidders so far confirmed for Worlds 2013 I thought now would be a good time to republish this excellent guide written by Ian Lising a few years ago.  Hopefully it will give some guidance to the bidders and hopefully it give participants travelling to Worlds some insight into what happens behind the scenes at the tournament.


Guide to Bidding, Planning, and Running a World Universities Debating Championship
By Ian T. Lising


I. Should we bid to host Worlds?

1. What do we get from hosting Worlds?
a. International Recognition
b. Immediate Worlds Exposure

2. What is our timetable for the bid?
a. Getting University Support
b. Getting Community/Corporate Support
c. Getting Materials Prepared

3. Who do we need to be on our Bid Team?
a. The Convenor/Championship Director
b. The Chief Adjudicator
c. Worlds Delegates

4. How does the Bid Process work?
a. Knowing your competition
b. Do we really need our DCAs now?
c. Pre-Council Materials
d. New Year’s Day


II. Great, we won the bid! Now what do we do?
1. Building your team
a. The Deputy Chief Adjudicators (DCAs)
b. Registration Director
c. Finance Director
d. Tab Director
e. Contingency Director
f. Equity/Women’s Officers
g. Accommodations Director
h. Event Directors
i. Communication Director
j. Logistics Director
k. Transport Director
l. Socials Director

2. Work out the details

3. Defend the Bid
a. The Mid-Year Report
b. The Ratification Process

4. Future Host’s Night

III. We have over a thousand people at our doorstep, what happens now?
1. Execute the Plan (Get enough sleep)
2. Trust your Team (Don’t micromanage)
3. Passing the Gavel (It is done)


I. Should we bid to host Worlds?
Deciding to host a World Universities Debating Championships (WUDC or Worlds) is (to put it mildly) a life-altering event. The inaugural Championship was hosted by the Glasgow University Union in January 1981 with 50 teams from 8 nations competing. Since then it has dramatically expanded to an event that hosts over 350 teams from 150 universities of 40 nations. Worlds has been patronised and supported by several world leaders and sponsored by several transnational corporations.

That does sound a bit daunting. Perhaps this is the time where most people feel intimidated and think to themselves, “You must absolutely mad to take on something like that.” Though that may be partially true, this guide is meant to dispel the myths, spark ideas, and provide general direction to those who are willing to take on the task of hosting Worlds.

Before we get into any of that, the first question that comes to mind usually is:

1. What do we get from hosting Worlds?
Hosting Worlds is neither something you decide to do on a whim nor a responsibility you take on if you lose a bet. You will undoubtedly risk several sleepless months, fractured relationships, and other personal losses. But in the end, it could lead to tremendous international recognition and an opportunity for your debating organization, university, community, nation and region to experience Worlds firsthand in one glorious week.

a. International Recognition
No, not for you (although that does come for some from time to time), but international recognition will be earned for your debating organization, university, and nation. Offhand, this might sound shallow to some. But its impact is far deeper than they would first think.

Much like the universities they represent, debating organisations are only as successful as their reputation permits them to be. It is a sad notion, but unfortunately true. No matter what successes you enjoy over a debating career, short of winning Worlds, people tend to forget. Each year, only two universities’ names go down on the permanent history of the Championship, the winner and the host. Trust me, hosting is the more realistic venture of the two.

b. Immediate Worlds Exposure
If you have participated at Worlds, you often feel the need to share the experience with others as soon as you return home. My family knew that I would fly to some exotic locale around Boxing Day and miss the holidays every year, but that was the extent of their Worlds experience. The same is true unfortunately for everybody else in your region, country, university, and even debating organization. Each year, I take my students to Worlds and those new to the experience always say the same thing, “I had no idea it would be like this.” No matter how many debates you participate in, there is nothing quite like Worlds.

This is where hosting changes everything. When we hosted Worlds at Ateneo de Manila in 1999, there were high school students who worked as volunteers, sat in audiences, and even joined some events during the week. Several of them went on to have their own fantastic debating careers. National media helped us reach a much larger audience and the impact of that is immeasurable. Debating culture in the Philippines became something tangible.

After hosting Worlds, the Ateneo Debate Society was able to built on that success and take it much further. The same could be said of Stellenbosch 1997, Nanyang 2004, etc. The general interest in debating can be more easily piqued if the venue is somewhere closer to home. Sharing Worlds with the upcoming generation of your debating organization would be the best way to ensure its future.

2. What is our timetable for the bid?
The first thing you must do is to determine what type of experience your organization has in running a major international intervarsity debating tournament. Have you hosted a local, national, or even regional IV? It would be wise to start here first. Build your way up the ladder until you are able to get some experience with smaller-scaled events.

You must also take into consideration that your organisation must have dedicated members who have been to a few international intervarsity tournaments and who will be at your institution for a few years to come. This may be the more difficult task given that the soonest that the Worlds you’d run would be two and a half years from the time that you first decided to do it. So if you have a crop of committed second-years/sophomores/undeclared-majors-who-will-undoubtedly-overstay, then you are in business.

a. Getting University Support
Convincing your college/university/institution to host this prestigious event might sound academic, but don’t fool yourself. If the administration is not unquestionably supportive and enthusiastic about the bid (i.e. if they use language like, “Well, that sounds nice,” or “What’s Worlds?”) then you might reconsider.

Without the total support, your work will be that much more difficult. Some institutions have even gone to the extreme of charging their very own organising committee for the use of their classrooms during the tournament. Set up meetings with your institutional president as well as the deans, chancellors, department chairs, and faculty. The more people you have behind you, the better. Make sure that you fully communicate the gravity of the event and how it will infinitely benefit the institution.

b. Getting Community/Corporate Support
If you were extremely lucky, you would be attending a university that will fully fund your Worlds and all of its needs. Now, wake up, because that is never going to happen. The may take lead sponsorship (if you have some luck), but most institutions will just say that they “support” the idea and leave it at that. This means that you must find other financial measures for the bid. If your university has a lot of donor support, then you could persuade your administration to help set up a meeting. This will ensure compatibility with your sponsor and the institution. There have been several tournaments where this was not the case and it led to, well, complications.

Make sure that if you are lucky to land a business that is willing to go in as the title sponsor that your contracts are in order. It would be smarter to have them fix their pledge expressed in stable currencies. After our bid in January 1997, we suffered under the strain of the Asian-currency crisis and the worth of our committed budget was halved. Be very careful with all of your contracts.

Title sponsors may also enforce exclusivity clauses that will invariably hamper your ability to find other sponsors. In other words, if you find a willing giant, make sure they commit an ample amount worthy of their reputation and your need.

c. Getting Materials Prepared
The initial bid document has come in several forms. They range from flashy, colourful ones that are professionally printed on glossy brochures worthy of being framed, or simple black and white text forms with no photographs, and everything else in between. How much money you decide to spend on the document that will be scrutinised by the members of the World Debating Council is really up to you. I must be honest, though. Take time on ensuring that every detail on the copies you hand out are completely accurate. Do not make promises that you cannot keep. Be realistic with what you are offering.

The bid document must include a short history about your institution and debating organisation. You may include a short national bit if you wish. It should include support letters from the institution and, if you have them, letters of support from your sponsors. You should include the events that you are planning as well as your proposed logistical schematic. This means that you would have to estimate how much Worlds would cost and how you plan to cover it.

You must have projected registration fee as well as probable residence facilities. If you are fortunate to have suitable on-campus accommodations that will be vacant for the duration of the event, then plan on using it. Melbourne 1994, Stellenbosch 1997, and Sydney 2000 all had fantastic on-campus facilities that worked wonderfully. Of course, they had to carefully plan and execute information desks, food distribution, medical needs, communication, amenities, etc.

If you don’t have on-campus vacancy for the duration of Worlds, find out if you have a major hotel (or two nearby ones) and determine what the maximum capacity would be. At the institution, find the area that you plan to use as your briefing room and estimate its full capacity. These will help you determine what your maximum team capacity will be. Always remember to cap the number of teams per institution before you turn away entire institutions. Worlds is about inclusion. But remember, shooting for “the Biggest Worlds ever” will NEVER make it the “BEST Worlds ever”.

Estimate the expected travel time from the hotel, event locations, and the campus as well as the means (i.e. buses/walking). Toronto 2002 issued the tournament ID cards that doubled as free passes on their public transportation system for the whole week. You may not be able to pull off something magical like that, but the foresight and little touches like that will make the difference between a decent Worlds and a legendary one.

3. Who do we need to be on our Bid Team?
Typically, the same people who are intending to do the heavy lifting for Worlds would be the exact same ones making all of the promises at Council. The bid presenter should be the intended Convenor for the tournament. Some bid presentations in the past have been made by the Chief Adjudicator (CA). This would be fine if the proposed CA is directly connected to the bidding institution and will be with the hosts for entire duration. Council members usually get nervous about placing their vote with a personality who changes with each segment of the bid process. Consistency is the key for building trust with the council members. So the bottom line is, the bid presenter must be articulate, trustworthy, have a significant role with the organising committee, and be present at every stage of the bid process and throughout the running of the event.

a. The Convenor/Championship Director
Often mistaken for the most obsessive and control freakish of the lot, the Convenor or Championship/Tournament Director will primarily be the face of Worlds. As daunting as this position may seem, some Worlds have segregated the role into two or even three positions. But the function is to be the focal person to manage and direct Worlds at every stage. It is ideal that the proposed convenor has been to more than one Worlds before the bid process begins. There have been a couple of instances where a Worlds rookie stood before council as the proposed convenor and those Worlds turned out fine. But the more experience that they have with what Worlds is supposed to be like, the better. The convenor should have an outgoing spirit and know how to manage and trust their team.

b. The Chief Adjudicator
The proposed Chief Adjudicator should have adjudicated in at least one Worlds before joining the bid process. It would be a good idea to have a CA who is very familiar with the organising committee. But there have been a few occasions when the CA was not student/faculty/alumnus of the proposed host school. In fact, there has been at least one Worlds where the CA was from a different country altogether. It is crucial to have a CA who is exceptionally respected as an adjudicator in at least their country and region. However impossible at certain circumstances, it would be highly advisable to have a CA who is widely known and greatly respected throughout the Worlds circuit.

c. Worlds Delegates
It is also very critical that a strong buzz is created during the tournament even before the bid presentation takes place. This means that all of the debaters and adjudicators from the proposed host should act as ambassadors of the bid committee at all times. It would be equally helpful to get the support of all the national and regional delegates present. Often, the proposed host delegates would wear t-shirts, jumpers, jerseys, or any other paraphernalia bearing their Worlds during the tournament and as they stand in for support at the bid presentation. The delegates should be briefed about the basic information and be ready to answer questions informally as they are most certain to come.


4. How does the Bid Process work?
The formal process of announcing the bid goes through the World Council Chair. You should contact the Chair two months before Worlds at the very latest. Technically, you could just show up at the pre-council meeting on the 27th and announce your intentions then, but that would not be such a great idea. Potential bid competitors creating their buzz months ahead of you would be a huge disadvantage coming in. Additionally, a seemingly last minute presentation doesn’t give the appearance of a serious bid. The Chair will formally announce your bid when they post the agenda for the upcoming World Council Meeting. This is usually done online through the various debating list serves.

If you wish to generate your own fanfare prior to the announcement, it will help you gauge what reactions you might have (especially from your region). This inevitably helps you determine if you will have the support of everyone you need it from. It has also become rather in vogue to create a website for the bid. It is recommended to find formal online addresses as a Facebook or Myspace page will not reflect the seriousness of your endeavour. Usually, a space provided by your institution website demonstrates the support that you are receiving from them. The site will become indispensable if you win the bid.

At Worlds, bidders are allowed to hand out all of the paraphernalia that they wish to Council members at the pre-council meeting typically held on the afternoon of the 27th of December. They are not allowed to make announcements nor are they allowed to field questions at the meeting, but they are welcomed to sit in during the proceedings. At the conclusion of the pre-council meeting, bidders are allowed to introduce themselves informally to the council delegates and field questions as they wish. The formal bid presentation is reserved for the main Council meeting on the 1st of January.


a. Knowing your competition
It is but natural to feel competitive with any other university that wishes to bid at the same year that you have been long preparing for. But you must resist the urge to engage in silly confrontational tactics as you try desperately to undermine the competition. Typically, this usually backfires. Knowing what your competitor is offering and making sure that you cover your own bases is far more effective and constructive in the long run.


b. Do we really need our DCAs now?
No. It may be true that all bidders should always have their ducks in a row, but naming the Deputy Chief Adjudicators at the initial bidding stage is not one of the steps that I would recommend. Yes, it is critical to have all the proposed DCAs there for the bid confirmation a year later, but this early in on the process, it is unlikely that you will find Worlds personalities who could positively guarantee that they will be available two years later. To illustrate the point, during the Ateneo de Manila 1999 initial bid presentation at the Council meeting in Stellenbosch 1997, I was announced as the proposed Chief Adjudicator. A year later, circumstances required me to shift roles to Championship Director. Things happen, situations change, and DCAs will almost certainly not have the ability to secure a full commitment that far in advance.

c. Pre-Council Materials
Most bidders will hand out the official bid document at the pre-council meeting. This must include all the plans and letters of commitment that you received at this point. Letters of support from your university and sponsors will give council members a sense of how serious you are about the prospects of hosting Worlds and that your institution and community are willing to share the responsibility. Commitment letters from hotels may be a little more difficult to obtain at this point, but the logistical blueprints for the entire event should be included. Be certain that you will not make promises that you can’t keep. The purpose of handing out materials at the pre-council meeting is to give the council delegates an opportunity over the next few days to consult with their contingents and fellow nationals with all the information available. Once again, no formal statements or announcements should be made at this time. The handouts should just be simply distributed. They are welcomed to hand out other paraphernalia if they wish, but most save it for the main council meeting.

d. New Year’s Day
One of the toughest things to do is to spend your New Year’s Day sitting through the quagmire that is the World Debate Council. While the rest of Worlds enjoys the free day touring the city, nursing their hangovers, and catching up with the week’s lost sleep, council members will find themselves stuck in a conference room for about 12 glorious hours. The bid presentations are usually held during the first part of the council meeting after the final report from the preceding Worlds, the initial report of the current Worlds, and the confirmation report of the next year’s host. This is a good opportunity for the bidders to observe the process that every Worlds host goes through. Then, there is usually a coin-toss or other simple mechanism to determine bid presentation order. After each presentation, a question and answer period is allotted. Finally, voting takes place and the winning bid is announced.



II. Great, we won the bid! Now what do we do?
Congratulations. Here’s where the fun begins. After all of the necessary announcements and celebrations, work starts in earnest. Some winning bids think that the bulk of the work happens a few days before the Mid-Year Report is due in July, but the truth is that you shouldn’t put off any detail with Worlds as it is bound to creep up on you before you know it. Working up a week-to-week schedule is extremely important to ensure that you are on top of things.

1. Building your team
It is absolutely vital to secure a team of people who have the trust and respect of one another. Each member should be able to commit a massive amount of time and energy over the next two years. Friends are often lost in the process of running Worlds. So please keep in mind that it is very different from throwing a party with a bunch of your mates. It is very serious work and requires a lot of discipline. Your organizing team should not just understand that principle, but they should ultimately reflect it.

a. The Deputy Chief Adjudicators (DCAs)
The purpose of having a Deputy Chief Adjudicator can be traced back to the 1996 Worlds in Cork. Having just passed the new set of rules, Council decided then that the following Worlds in Stellenbosch would need some oversight in implementing them. John Long (Chief Adjudicator 1996) and Ray D’Cruz (author of Worlds Rules) served as the very first DCAs.

It has been clear that the DCA has become a largely politicised position. In part, people think that regional/national bias is better served with “one of your own” being named DCA. This is not just unfortunate, but it is patently wrong. The DCA is there to serve as both an external trouble-shooter and quality assurance manager. They are there to ensure that the motions are closed and fair, that the adjudication panels are balanced and that the rules are properly upheld.

Getting people with fantastic debating CVs is not as important as getting people who have competent adjudicating CVs. The DCAs should have a solid reputation and the respect of the international debating community. They will be expected to fly out earlier to work with the organising committee and train the local adjudication pool.

b. Registration Director
This person is accountable for the involvement all of the participants of Worlds. They are tasked with sorting out debaters, adjudicators, and observers for each participating institution, ensuring their legitimacy and eligibility. Though all of this work does not start until after the bid is confirmed, it is important to work together a strategy that could be utilized immediately after the bid is confirmed.

Winning a bid will create a surge of interest from every corner of the globe. But you must be able to filter the interested parties from the somewhat-curious-about-this-debating-thing, and the dead-set-on-being-there. This person will need to liaise heavily with the Accommodations Director prior to and throughout registration day.

c. Finance Director
More than just a glorified accountant, this person is responsible for all of the sponsorships, donations, and gifts given to Worlds. Some committees chose to split the job into two roles, finance and marketing. Others kept it as one person to ensure that the money being spent actually existed. This person should always get everything in writing. Records of contracts, letters of intent/support, and receipts should be safely copied and kept.

d. Tab Director
There is a specific code that needs to be protected during the tournament. This person should not only be an expert with computers and large quantities of data, but needs a clear understanding of how that code relates to running an effective tournament. In other words, you could get an IT genius who never debated before in their lives, but they should know the Worlds Constitution Tabulation Article by heart. Even though it may hopefully never be necessary, they should also know how to run a manual tab.

Additionally, this person will need to liaise with the Adjudication Team, and should be flexible with their advice. It is not required for an organising committee to construct their own tab program given the existence of several excellent ones used at past Worlds. The Singapore 2004 Tab was designated as the “official” tab by Council, but it is dependent on compatible hardware.

e. Contingency Director
Often referred to as the worrywart of the team, this person serves as the internal trouble-shooter and quality assurance manager of the entire event. They should develop alternative plans for even the most extreme of circumstances. They should sit in at almost every meeting held by each Director.

f. Equity/Women’s Officers
Though Council has a very specific code of conduct and an Equity Officer on the Executive, it is important to have an Organising Committee Equity Officer to deal with all issues pertaining to conduct. The sensitive nature of this position requires this person to be extremely fair, trustworthy, and decisive.

g. Accommodations Director
This person is responsible for securing a proper location to house all of the participants, organising committee, and other guests. They should map out all area police stations, hospitals, embassies, restaurants, transit stations, and other places of interest. Some Worlds utilised 24-hour help desks with first-aid kits, emergency contacts, and other vital information. They will liaise with the Registration Director, the Hotel Manager/Student Residence Manager, and the Contingency Director to meet the lodging needs of the participants. The Accommodations Director must also secure the availability of Kosher, Halal, Vegan, Vegetarian, and any other special dietary requirement for all participants.

h. Event Directors
In addition to the main tournament, Worlds features the World Masters Championship, the World Public Speaking Championship, the World Stand-Up Comedy Competition, and the World Council, Women’s & Developing Nations meetings. Each event should have a person in charge, determining the proper location, paraphernalia, and logistics to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The events have very specific requirements and need the requisite coordination.

i. Communication Director
This person must have the ability to keep consistent correspondence internally and externally from the start until the end of the event. They should maintain the website and be connected to all of the appropriate listserves. They have to develop a system to ensure that all of the information is duly passed from and to the right parties. They also should be in contact with national and regional media services.

j. Logistics Director
Anyone who has ever run Worlds before will tell you that volunteers are the lifeblood of an effective event. This person is in charge of the recruitment, training and deployment of the army of people needed to make this whole thing work. They are also need to work out the physical details of each classroom, lecture hall, and campus facility used. They coordinate the room reservations and equipment requirements to ensure a secure environment for the tournament.

k. Transport Director
From the air/bus/train terminal arrival to the eventual departure, Worlds will depend on this person to make sure that they can get to where they need to be. The coordination necessary to allow for traffic and weather conditions and mapping out routes to all venues will often be the difference between running a smooth tournament and an sheer disaster. Delegates should never be stranded nor should they lack access to sensible transportation alternatives. All transport within the tournament events should be included as part of the expenses.

l. Socials Director
As much as this might seem to be the “party person” of the team, the socials director will ironically not have the opportunity to enjoy the fruit of their labour. This Director will spend all of their time sorting out details like, “Is everyone getting the food they signed up for? Is the venue up to code for over 1000 people? Are the delegates being charged for stuff we paid for? Are the bouncers turning our delegates away? Is management going to complain about noise ordinances? Are there local party crashers present?”


2. Work out the details
There are two simple rules to follow: expect the unexpected and get it in writing. Many of the headaches that past organisers have faced surfaced in the most inopportune time. Attention to detail should come in the planning stage and not during its execution. Schedule the entire event from beginning to end and account for every single hour of every single day. Hear out all of the ideas and work through the alternatives. This is where you have to assume the worst.

Don’t depend on a situation unless you have scouted and sourced it out yourselves. You must be able to visualise the angles of everything falling apart and determine how you will come out of it. The team that you just built has to learn how to trust one another. Spend a couple of sessions early on just getting to know each other with team building exercises.


3. Defend the Bid
You have a year to firm up all of the promises you laid out during the bid presentation. Now is the best time that you will have to start tweaking the bid in spots where you have had the most criticism. Don’t spend time trying to spin the circumstances and rationalise errors in early judgement. Take the criticism and see if a correction can be made at this point in time.

a. The Mid-Year Report
In the July of the year before your bid confirmation, you should send a progress report to the World Council Chair. They will first help you determine weak spots in the report and then spread it to the rest of the executive and others interested in your developments. They will have the ability to let you know about where they feel you need help and spot trouble areas.

b. The Ratification Process
By October, you should send a Ratification Report to the Council Chair. This will give the Worlds Executive the ability to see the further progress and firm up the Council support by ratifying the bid. The final preparations should continue for the bid confirmation at the Council meeting in January.

4. Future Host’s Night
This event is held at the Worlds prior to yours. This is the best opportunity for you to promote your event, institution, and country. You should work through the details with the organisers of the current Worlds. This is a great opportunity for you to establish connections with the potential delegates to your Worlds. You will need to bring a lot of business cards and contact information.


III. We have over a thousand people at our doorstep, what happens now?
Once the bid confirmation is done and you have recovered from Worlds, you have to switch gears for the homestretch. You have the plan and all of the details of your work cut out for you.

1. Execute the Plan (Get enough sleep)
The plan should be organised into three time frames; the pre-registration period, the registration period, and the event period. The pre-registration period is rather delicate. This is the first time when you will experience the care necessary in getting the right information at the right time.

Your website should be recreated to include the pre-registration section. It would be smart to require a nominal fee from each participant early on (usually the July prior to your Worlds). This should be collected with the clear caveat that this will not guarantee eligibility for the debaters they field, merely slots for participants. This will give you an early glimpse of what you should expect coming in.<
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