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Malaysia just hosted Asia’s largest and most PUNCTUAL debate during the pandemic. How?

When we mention the word online classes or meetings, we can probably hear you sighing because of the endless hellos everyone is saying to ensure that you could hear them or the struggles of getting a stable internet connection. Heck, when things may seem to go well, your laptop could suddenly go all laggy, disrupting the whole session. #yikes

And, yes, conducting these kinda meetings are tough. But what if we tell you that a team of Malaysians at the Malaysian Institute for Debate and Public Speaking (MIDP) in collaboration with Taylor’s College #notsponsoredk decided to take it to a whole new level by hosting one of the LARGEST virtual debate championships… in Asia!???

Some more detailed info on the tournament. Img from MIDP Facebook

The Asia British Parliamentary Debating Championship (ABP), which is one of the most prestigious debate competitions in Asia, was hosted by Malaysia on the 3rd and 4th October 2020 and 10th to 12th October 2020. And it had over 100 teams from 17 different countries across Asia participating in the championship! Walaowei, how did they handle them from Malaysia la?

Well, to find out more about that (and other stuff, ofcos), we managed to kepoh with MIDP’s CEO, Emellia Shariff, who told us that…


Organisers personally helped participants with tech stuff and announcements through… MEMES?!

Before we begin, we wanna make it clear that this is not the first time Malaysia hosted ABP. Although it is the fourth time Malaysia hosted this tournament, Emellia shared that it was MIDP’s first time hosting it.

Syed Saddiq was one of the participants in ABP 2015, which was held in Malaysia. Img from Malaysian Debaters TV – Powered by MIDP

Prior to the pandemic, Emellia said that ABP would normally attract some 80 teams. And out of all the countries that have hosted the ABP like Thailand and even our kiasu neighbour, Singapore, China held the record of organising the ABP with the most number of participating teams – 112 teams.

However, the MIDP team, which comprises 24 individuals, broke the record this year with 160 participating teams from 78 universities across Asia. And one of the toughest things about hosting the ABP, according to Emellia, would be making the participants feel that they received adequate tech support.

“We are particularly invested in making sure that the participants feel supported with any technical difficulties that they may face throughout the competition.” – Emellia to CILISOS.

Some of the Malaysians in the MIDP team. Img from Malaysia ABP 2020 Bid Deck

And one way to minimise tech issues was by conducting one-on-one technical checks with every single participant before the competition. Emellia said that this was done to ensure that participants won’t panic and know what to do when they face any tech difficulties.

Besides that, the tech team at MIDP also…

  • Released a detailed guide on the technical requirements of the competitions
  • Created a checklist for that
  • Conducted a video briefing to run participants thru the techy stuff they need to know
  • Troubleshot and recommended solutions for tech problems related to Internet connection

OMG, you’d think that all this tech stuff could get a bit boring and pretty complicated but the MIDP team ensured what they did, especially the announcements on this were helpful and catchy like this…

We can’t tell if the admin of Malaysia ABP 2020 Facebook page was angy. Img from Malaysia ABP 2020 Facebook

And they couldn’t have pulled this off without thorough planning. Prior to the championship, the team came up with a strategy to ensure that every single aspect in the championship – from debating to announcements and even social interactions – ran smoothly.

In this plan, the team used five software programs like Zoom as the debating platform and Discord as their communication platform. And these programs were integrated to form a system that would imitate the physical tournament. So, it may look something like that virtual Parliamentary debate hosted by Undi18 (and we’ve written about that here) but at a larger scale.

It is also noteworthy that the championship went in two categories – open and English as foreign language (EFL) category – and six rounds – with various topics ranging from economics, social and even politics. And guess what? The MIDP team actually hosted all these categories and rounds simultaneously.

Yes, this also means that all 160 participating teams were hosted on these software programs at the SAME time (!). And to ensure that this plan could really work, Emellia also shared that the team had tested out the plan before the championship.

“(We) Hosted a Pre-ABP Tournament to test and troubleshoot the software, processes and organisation of the tournament which we have decided on. The Pre-ABP Tournament was participated by 67 teams.” – Emellia.

And their plan seemed to be working just fine. In fact, it went really well to the extent that…


Malaysia sends Malay teachers to study in Beijing to teach Mandarin classes in public schools

Surprisingly, the whole tournament was extremely PUNCTUAL o_O

If you’re a Malaysian or have been to Malaysian events, you may be well aware that Malaysian events tend to start half an hour from the stated time la cos… y’know… Malaysian timing.

Well, it’s either that or guests arriving late… Img from @LelakiOnTheGo Twitter via Coconuts

But not this tournament tho.

Emellia shared that one of the challenges to host this tournament was in making sure that it was on schedule considering different time zones as well la. What shocked her team was how they managed to achieve the unachievable, even with physical tournaments – starting and finishing the tournament ON TIME.

“We also invested a lot of time and effort to make sure that the tournament is on schedule. We are very proud that Malaysia ABP 2020 was extremely punctual. The tournament took place over five (5) days, and we managed to finish on time every single day.” – Emellia.

Another challenge that the MIDP team faced was to create an environment where social interactions could happen. Just in case you don’t know, hosting and attending virtual meetings can be tiring (yea, so it’s not just you) and one reason for that is the lack of human touch (no, not literally).

It’s called the virtual meeting fatigue. Gif from Buzzfeed

In addition, competitions can get boring after time when you don’t interact with other participants la. So, this may be why the MIDP team created a voice channel that allowed participants to just chill and chat with each other in between rounds.

However, one unforeseen situation that the organising team encountered was participants FFK-ing. Ok la, to be fair, these participants actually had to pull out the very last minute because they or their family members contracted Covid-19. Fortunately, according to Emellia, they are recovering at the time of writing.

“One thing that we didn’t anticipate was handling last minute pull-outs from teams because some of the international participants or their family members were tested positive for COVID-19. The situation was handled swiftly, and we managed to find last minute replacements for those teams.” – Emellia.

Seeing how much effort Emellia and her team had put into the tournament, it may not be surprising how they managed to pull thru the largest virtual debate in Asia. But even so…


They are aiming for MORE participants in the future

At the time of writing, the competition had long closed its curtains la. And we gotta say that although the award ceremony was conducted virtually, it was pretty celebratory. You can watch it here.

Or click this image from Malaysia ABP 2020 Facebook to watch it.

And it seemed as though the participants enjoyed their time joining in the tournament la, at least, according to Emellia.

“We found that almost all participants had a great experience during the competition. A few participants specifically commented on the user-friendly navigation and seamless transition between announcements and the debate rounds due to the integration system that was specifically developed by MIDP for this tournament.” – Emellia. 

She also added that the participants were amazed at how punctual the tournament was. Besides that, there were a few other comments by the participants like the comments under this Facebook post

Just look at that comment. Screenshot from Malaysia ABP 2020 Facebook

A Bangladeshi participant also said that he “loved the way MIDP was always responsive to any issues and solved them right away”.

“The competition was very smooth. Smoother than you’d think an online competition could run.” – Another unnamed participant, as quoted by Emellia.

This may be why they’re pretty confident about doing better in the future. 

As if hosting a tournament with 160 participating teams isn’t enough, Emellia said her team is aiming for more teams to join in the future! #malaysiatrulyasia #geddit? #ihatecilisos

“If we are hosting ABP again, we would definitely improve on our marketing strategy and get more teams to join, because we think we can do more than this!”- Emellia.

If you’re curious to watch ABP 2020, you can do so by clicking the links below…


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