Are You Ready To Participate In A Debate?

In order to be successful in a debate, you have to know how to prepare
In order to be successful in a debate, you have to know how to prepare
Image Credit: IAB UK

If someone came along and asked you to participate in a debate, what would your response be? I think that for most of us, the idea of what a debate looks like is shaped by the presidential debates that we see every four years. The Clinton / Trump debates especially stand out. However, it turns out that there is more to debatingthan our politicians are showing us and you would need to understand what it means to successfully debate someone in order to show the importance of public speaking.

What Is A Debate?

Before we get too far into our discussion of how to be a successful debater, perhaps we need to spend a little time talking about just exactly what a debate is. The first thing that I think that we all have to agree on is that the political debates that we see on television are not good examples of what a debate is. These shows are just that – and opportunity for each candidate to accomplish something. What they are trying to do can vary. They may be trying to persuade people, get people to take action, or perhaps to inflame passions.

The debates that we see on television are really an exercise in showmanship. A real debate is really all about the issue. How well you do in this type of debate rests on three things: the weight of the evidence that you present, the logic that you use, and how you organize your presentation. Note that unlike in political debates, your success in this type of debate will not depend on your showmanship or your mastery of rhetorical flair.

If you are involved in a real debate, then what you’ll discover is that more often than not they will be focused on a single topic (“should our town pay for a new water treatment plant?”) and there will be more back-and-forth. Think of this as being a point / counterpoint type of discussion. The purpose of a debate is to provide your audience with the opportunity to see the clash of opposing ideas.

How To Prepare For A Debate

If you choose to participate in a debate, you are going to have to take the time to make sure that you are ready. The last thing in the world that you want to have happen is for you to show up unprepared. How you prepare for each debate that you will be involved in will be different. When you are preparing your debate material, you are going to have to focus on the structure of what you’ll be presenting, the research that you’ll need to do to support your position, and the evidence that you’ll be presenting.

What makes preparing for a debate so unique is that you actually have to prepare for two debates. You are going to have to also prepare a case that covers the other side of the debate. What you want to be able to do is to both understand and argue the debate from the other side also. By taking the time to prepare to argue both sides of the debate, you will gain a better understanding of what the person that you’ll be debating with will have prepared to go against you.

When you are debating with someone, how do you win? Well, it’s really your ideas that win. However, you need to do several things in order to help your case. You need to be courteous to your opponent, you should conduct yourself in a professional manner, and you need to remain calm at all times. You will win a debate through persuasive arguments and through your credibility. Take the time to prepare properly for your next debate and you can win your audience over to your side.

What All Of This Means For You

When there is an idea that has two sides, an audience often wants to hear both sides of the argument so that they can make up their own minds. This is one of the benefits of public speaking. As speakers, we may be called on to help in this process by participating in a debate. If we agree to do this, then we’re going to have to make sure that we know what we’re going to be doing.

The political debates that we see on television are actually not a good representation of what a debate really is. These are really more examples of showmanship. In a real debate, it will focus on a single topic and the discussion will be more of a point / counterpoint discussion. When you are preparing to be in a debate, you will need to make sure that you gather all of the evidence that you are going to need. You’ll also have to prepare a case for presenting the other side of the argument. This will allow you to better understand how your competition will be approaching the debate. In order to win debate, your ideas will have to be accepted as being the most sound and the audience will have to believe you to be the most credible.

A debate is a powerful way to explore both sides of an idea. Being invited to participate in a debate is a great complement and you’ll need to take the time to prepare correctly. Understand that it’s much more about what you say and less about how you say it that will win the debate for you. Use your debate opportunity to show your audience what a great speaker you are!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How much time do you think that it should take to prepare for a debate?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If I was to ask you how you prepare for a speech, what would you tell me? I suspect that you’d say that you realize the,importance of public speaking and so you sit down, consider why you’ve been asked to speak on and try to understand the event that you’ll be speaking at. You might also try to picture your audience and understand just exactly who they are. You’d then write out a speech, practice delivering it in front of a mirror (or in your car), then then show up ready to go. However, how would you handle it if somebody asked you to give a speech right then and there – no preparation permitted? Sounds like it’s time for some improve.

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