Sometimes It Takes A Debate To Convince An Audience

Speakers can use debate skills to sell your idea to your audience
Speakers can use debate skills to sell your idea to your audience
Image Credit: Ron Frazier

So the interesting thing about a speech is that they don’t all look the same. In fact, sometimes a speech may look completely different from what you might think that they should look like. When you find yourself in a situation where you want to sell an idea to an audience, sometimes it might make sense to use the importance of public speaking and engage yourself in a debate. This allows your audience to see both sides of an argument and with a little luck they will agree with the arguments that you present. What we need to know is just exactly how to go about speaking during a debate.

Create A Position And Support It

One of the things that makes a debate different from the other types of speeches that you give is that you will probably show up with a specific position that you want to convince your audience to adopt. What you need to do is to take a clear position and support it. As speakers we need to understand that it is not enough to make a point – it will be “the importance of having evidence to back it up.” When you are participating in a debate, you will need to provide support – in the form of facts, statistics, expert testimony or examples – and explain your rationale. Otherwise, you are simply stating an assertion and that’s not going to do anybody any good.

Take The Time To Anticipate Counterarguments

What happens in a debate is that you’ll state your position. The other side will then state their position and in doing so will probably attempt to point out flaws in the way that you see the world. You need to anticipate these counterarguments. Your thinking should be that “Not everybody is going to agree with what I say, so I better be prepared for that.” You don’t want to be caught off guard, so you should think ahead about some of the possible objections and how you can respond. What you should do during a debate is to identify key objections to your position and address each one directly during your speech.

You Need To Command The Lectern

As speakers, we need to remember that our goal when participating in a debate is to command the attention of our audience and to use our words to win them over to our side. What this means for us is that we need to realize that our speech begins before we say a word. A speaker needs to know that if you walk in and look confident, you have already started winning the debate. This isn’t unique to debate – the same thing goes for every speech that we give. When you take the lectern, you need to walk up there like you own it. As the speaker, you are in charge. You will not be effective if you look hesitant to your audience.

During The Debate Be Sure To Shine Under Scrutiny

Something that a lot of speakers might not be used to is the fact that debate is inherently adversarial. Most forms of debate allow your opponents to ask you questions during speeches when new arguments are presented, or immediately following them. When your opposition is questioning your argument, you need to be able to maintain your cool when your argument is scrutinized or challenged. You need to know how to deal with that scrutiny in a productive way for you.

Always Practice Civility

A debate can be a very emotional undertaking. We can get riled up as we try to convince our audience to accept our position. What we need to remember is that a debate only lasts for a short time. It will end. After a contentious debate, most debaters shake hands with their opponents, acknowledge the strengths in the opposition’s case and even congratulate the other speaker. We need to remember that debate is an exercise in civility, not bombast and belligerence. At the end, speakers shake hands and can still be friends, even if they disagree.

What All Of This Means For You

Not every speech that we give will look the same. In fact, some speeches may appear very different from the ones that we are used to giving. A good example of this is when we are asked to debate someone. During this type of speech, our goal is to use the benefits of public speaking to convince our audience that our idea or position is the right one and the other speaker is wrong. Even as we try to do this, the other speaker will be trying to convince them of something else. In order to be successful during a debate we need to understand what it takes to win our audience over to our side.

Prior to engaging in a debate, we need to first create a position that we want to support. We then need to gather the support that we will need to convince our audience that our position is the correct position. During a debate the other side will raise points where they will disagree with what we have said. We need to anticipate them doing this and we need to come prepared with counterarguments. In order to win our audience over, we need to always be in charge of the lectern – take the stage like we own it. We need to understand that during a debate the other side will be disagreeing with what we have said and may even ask us questions. We need to keep our cool and show our audience that we can handle the pressure. When the debate is over, always show civility to the other side – after all, it’s just a debate.

As speakers what we do well is to use words to connect with our audience. A debate is one way that we can go about doing this. It is different from the type of speaking that we may be used to doing. However, our goal is the same: we want to win our audience over to our side. Carefully understand what you are getting yourself into and make sure that you go to your next debate properly prepared. If you can do this, then you stand a very good chance of winning the debate and winning over your audience.

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

Question For You: What should you do if your opponent brings up an issue that you had not prepared for?

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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

So why are you willing to go to the effort of giving a speech? If you are like most of us, you have a goal in mind. What you want to do is to use the, importance of public speaking to influence your audience to either change the way that they think or to take an action. If you can do this, then you will have become a powerful speaker. We may all think that having the ability to influence an audience is hard to do; however, it may turn out that doing this is easier than any of us may know.