Worlds as a media coup / Manuel Adams and Annette Kirste talk to Achte Minute

Datum: May 18th, 2011
Category: International

“Embracing Dissent“ is the motto of the WUDC Berlin 2013 – “We believe this reflects the enlightening and liberating clash of ideas that shaped European and German history – and, of course, what makes debate relevant and exciting”, the Facebook site of WUDC Berlin 2013 announced.

No doubt, there is a natural dissent between the fractions of a parliamentary debate. Yet, there might also be dissent during the preparatory phase of the World Universities Debating Championships (WUDC or Worlds), for instance in a heated debate about the motto. However, consent was the motto when now WUDC convenor Patrick Ehmann travelled the international debating circuit with his club mates from the Berlin Debating Union (BDU) to promote the idea of hosting WUDC 2013 in the German capital. The WUDC Council had no choice but to vote for Berlin at the delegates meeting earlier this year in Botswana.

The large scale event attracts about 1,100 debaters from more than 50 countries – that cannot be met by one person alone. Thus, Patrick gathered a strong crew. Roughly two dozen people from all over Germany are on board. The convenor proudly presents his team; Achte Minute is going to introduce them to the appreciated reader over the next months.

  • John Eltringham and Dessislava Kirova: Hospitality
  • Juliane Zeuschner: Tournament Director
  • Florian Umscheid, Kai Dittmann, Hien Do Thi Tam and Torsten Rössing: Finances
  • Farid Schwuchow: Human Resources
  • Filip Bubenheimer und Matthias Winkelmann: Brand Management
  • Julian Ohm: Logistics
  • Georg Sommerfeld and Johannes Häger: Catering and Accomodation
  • Tina Reimann and Sarah Jaglitz: Intercultural Affairs
  • Jonas Werner: Crisis Management
  • Annette Kirste and Manuel Adams: Communications

Flashmob, Hype, Social Media – Annette Kirste und Manuel Adams explained what those flashy words had to do with WUDC Berlin 2013. They are part of Patrick’s organizational committee and make up the communications department. They are in charge for anything about Berlin Worlds that is going public. Manuel and Annette talked to Achte Minute about the up-coming international event, thus starting a row of introducing the org comm.

Manuel was there when the idea was born to have the Worlds come to Berlin: He described how the Dutch debater Adriaan Andringa floated the idea during Amsterdam Euros in the past year by stating that WUDC have never been held in a European ESL country where ESL stands for English as a Second Language. It was time to change that, he found – and Berlin was the place to be, Adriaan suggested. “On our way back to Germany we were crazily discussing the idea – with a competition of about a thousand participants from 50 countries you’re not going ‘Yeah, well, we’ll be throwing this event by next week!’”, Manuel said. He has been part of the project ever since.

The two split their department: Manuel is in charge of internal communications and the reach out to the national and international debating circuit. A milestone on the long way to the big event is to win over the debaters from under the umbrella of VDCH, the association of debating societies at universities. “Plus we are also embracing all who want to be part of this project, be it as a volunteer or by contributing their ideas and critique. That is why we initiated the WUDC 2013 Forum during the up-coming ZEIT DEBATTE Jena.” Manuel added that having such a well organized association such as VDCH in their back is a great advantage that other countries do not necessarily enjoy.

Talking about other countries: Of course, the Berlin crew focuses in the international circuit as well. The ESL quarter finals of this year’s WUDC hosted in Botswana were dominated by German teams – “four out of 16 teams were from German institutions! We want to establish that Germans are not only good speakers, but also great judges and heartful hosts.” The way has already been paved by Isabelle Loewe and Jens Fischer, both successful debaters: Isa as ESL winner of Euros 2006 and CA of numerous international tournaments, Jens as EUDC and WUDC Councils president.

The next step is a new website: “Up to now, we’ve only had a bidding homepage to promote our bid for Worlds. What we need now is a hosting website with all info and feature required for registration for instance”, Manuel explains. He is also the social media expert in Patrick’s crew. He is the one behind the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the mammoth event in the German capital.

Annette on the other hand is in charge of making the broad masses conscious about debating. At first sight, it seems quite a long way until Worlds are going to be staged in Berlin, Annette admits. But in the remaining one and a half years “we would like to reach out to the German public. We would like to convey that debating is of societal relevance. Debate is a meaningful format for political discussion right in the middle of society.”

How to reach that goal? Annette presents an elaborate concept: “Our first step is to draw attention to debating as sports beyond the students community. The second step will be to constitute next year’s Berlin IV as dress rehearsal for WUDC 2013. The last step will be to appeal to a wider public to be our audience at the Grand Final.” The target group for the latter is threefold: “”Students that are interested in debating, a wider public and of course sponsors”, Annette lists.

But how does one, especially in a cosmopolitan environment Berlin, draw public attention to debating? The media and communications student shows some exciting ideas she and her companions are playing with. She recounts a flashmob in Berlin where the ensemble of the Berlin Staatsballett performed surprisingly at the central station – “we could do something like this, a debating flashmob in front of the central station or in front of one of the studios were talkshows are recorded. That’ll guarantee surprise, attention and news. No news are not good news.” Annette, currently knee-deep in her bachelor thesis on media hype, smiles benignly: “We want to make Berlin Worlds a real media coup!”

Manuel Adams studies politics in Bremen and founded the Hanse Debating Union in early 2010. In autumn he together with his team partner Lars Brückner won the ZEIT DEBATTE tournament in Greifswald. Manuel is a passionate photographer who shot numerous debate scenes.

Annette Kirste also studies politics and media and communications. She is right now working on her bachelor thesis on media hypes. In addition she works at Freie Universität Berlin on ciommunications theory.

Annette and Manuel are co-workers for the PR team in Patrick’s WUDC Berlin crew. They have also been debating together: I n autumn they participated as Berlin Kraft in the Potsdam Punk tournament.

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