It’s my pleasure and honor to write the first article in a series about Judge Conferences. Today’s article focuses on the transition from spectator to speaker.

Great presenters can make their job look easy. They go up on the stage, they persuade, inform and move the crowd, they make it cry and they make it laugh. But we know that behind that there is a lot of preparation. It’s not only about the slides. It’s also the topic, the way you’re going to speak, and to be frank, the reason to speak in the first place.

That’s a lot going on at the same time. So we’ll solve the problem by breaking it down in three questions: what, how, and why. These questions come hand in hand with your (presumed!) lack of content to present, your (presumed!) lack of presentation skills, and (pre- wait for it! – sumed!) lack of motivation.

I hope my tips can be of some inspiration.

What? I am not an expert about anything!

If you have the enthusiasm to present, talk about it with the conference organizer (CO). Be assured that if he or she is looking for a presenter, finding content for you will not be hard. COs follow this handy handbook in which it is advised to have an equal distribution of seminars between Rules (for example, “Get to Know ‘Em Layers”), Policy (“Pull that – Missed – Trigger”) and Community (“Road to L2”). The CO might simply suggest a topic or two, based on this, or on regional needs.

Indeed, another person to ask for advice is your Regional Coordinator (RC). RCs know if there are going to be Level 0 Judges in attendance, or if Slow Play is the biggest plague in your area, or if everybody could use some brushing up of the decks in the format for the upcoming Legacy GP.

Ok, so imagine you’ve been told to talk about Slow Play. You just solved your content problem!

“No I didn’t! I don’t know much more about it than what’s written in the IPG!”

You sure love using exclamation marks, rhetorical Me.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. 

Every Judge Region can organize up to two conferences each year. But not every region has a local expert about Investigations. And even those experts sometimes just can’t attend conferences. Should we give up on this opportunity to teach people in attendance? Of course not, the Judge Program is better than that.

1) You might’ve seen the seminar presented by someone else. Talk to her. Ask if you can borrow her slides, and if she has, any notes or handouts. Modify them to suit your style. Practice. Give her credit on the D-Day.

2) Browse the inventory. There are big chances that you might find something useful, even in your language! The same as above then applies.

3) No luck so far? Remember that cool Judge Article you read recently? With somework, it can become an interactive seminar, with the added bonus of a Q&A session moderated by you, with the help of other high level judges present.

Now, keep an eye out… Do SOME research. Like four or five articles. Most recent ones on topic are sure not to be outdated (especially if you’re talking about rules or policy). I tried to do a COMPREHENSIVE research for a seminar on Reviews, and I stopped after having skimmed through around 50. You don’t need to do that much. Four or Five is ok.

However, keep your vision large. When looking for “reviews”, also search for “feedback”. When looking for “triggers”, don’t forget about “out of order sequencing”. And when you want to talk about a penalty (IPG) remember that the MTR could also have something to add.


I want to know a lot about one thing, and a bit about everything.

Last but not least, keep in mind that Judges at a Judge Conference can benefit from something that is not necessarily Judge Related.

1) Are you also a TO? You will be surprised by how many judges know little about the WPN, sanctioning, or WER. Are you a competitive player? Tell us about the top archetypes, about the borderline ways to ask for a concession, about new cheats you’ve heard about in your community so we can keep an eye out for them and stay ahead.

2) Even more outside the box: I remember Niels Viaene giving a First Aid Seminar at GP Lyon 2012, Riccardo Tessitori talking about the “Marketing of the Judge Program” at GP Manila 2015, Pierre Laquerre talking about “How People Lie” at the French Judge Conference 2013, or Billicent San Juan writing an article about “Burnout” from a Psychology point of view.

Do you have a profession, a talent, a hobby? Engage in this creativity exercise, “Can I make a Judge Seminar out of it?” You would be surprised by the answer.

How? I am not good at public speaking.

Each one of us has different sets of skills, also because we come to Magic from different social and work backgrounds. If you don’t feel comfortable at the mic, but you still want to do something about it, remember that the Judge Program is, among other things, about self improvement and community.

No man is an Island.

Italian Judges in the Knowledge Pool
Italian Judges in the Knowledge Pool

At the Italian Nationals Judge Conference 2012 , Luca Romano, more expert about the topic, conducted the discussion about “Slow Play”, and Matteo Tonazzo presented the questions.
At the East Europe Judge Conference 2014, Giannis Papadakis had Edward Zinger as a guest speaker. The two speakers together delivered more than the sum of the parts. Because of the nature of the talks (Giannis more descriptive, Edward more persuasive, TED-like), people were very moved after Edward’s speech. Thanks Giannis for making that happen!

At the French Judge Conference 2014, when I talked about the beginnings of this very project, it was suggested that instead of focusing on only one type of presentations, on speaker to audience, there can also be debates, round tables, workshops, Q&A Sessions. If you think one type suites you better, go for it.

Why? I am not ready to commit.

French Judges know their aims!
French Judges know their aims!

The big one. Why should you invest so many hours in preparation?

1) Because all this hard work doesn’t go unrecognized. Now, do not think that there are not high standards nowadays in the Conference Sphere: one can tell, irrespective of content, skills, and motivation, when a seminar was prepared the night before. I am the first to have been guilty of this. Nowadays this is no longer a possibility. Seminars are asked to be sent in advance for proof reading and concept proof. This being said, way before the Exemplar Program was a thing, the Judge Program prepared, in addition to the normal foil support for each attendant, special Judge Foils for the presenters that put in the necessary hard work.

2) Because you want to be a bigger part of the community. You might be a L1 going to L2 that wants to mentor, or a L2 going to L3 that wants to show leadership skills.

3) Because you want to help the community. Happiness is useless when not shared. The same goes also about knowledge. A friend told me that life is about most of us having 95% of one idea, and looking for someone that has the missing 5%. Conferences are the best place to do that. And when you’re the one directing the discussion, you have control over what 5% you’re looking for. Maybe you have a new Judge Project idea, and you might just meet your right hand collaborator.

4) Because the best way to learn, is to teach, and the greatest satisfactions come not only when you understand, but when you make someone understand.

I hope this article helped underline some hidden content you didn’t know you had, point out the skills you have, and most importantly motivated you.

Even if I tried, I know I haven’t anticipated everything. I am actually glad if I didn’t, because I’d love to hear from you questions, comments and feedback. Check back in two weeks!