Practice makes perfect…
…but when it comes to debating, you also need to know some of the rules of the ‘game’. Whilst there are many different structures a debate can take, these are always useful tips.
Just an argument?
A debate is a formalised ‘argument’ based on a ‘motion’ you either have to argue for or against. The opposing sides take it in turns to speak for a set period of time, without interruptions. Comments on the opposition’s arguments take the form of timed ‘rebuttals’.
Building your case
Arguments need to be structured with a beginning, middle and end. The beginning presents your case, the following points build the argument with examples of ‘why’ as proof and the final comment is the clinching conclusion which summarises what has been said.
Your argument is most powerful when it is factually correct and morally unflawed. It also needs to be logically constructed. Apart from arguing your point you need to pay attention to what the opposition is saying and argue against it (‘rebuttal’) in a structured way.
Rebuttal requires an overview understanding of the opposition’s case and the logic of how the argument is constructed. Points to consider: is their case factually correct? Is it morally flawed? Is it logically argued point by point or are there contradictions?
Working in a team
When debating in a team the structure of the argument is the same but team members need to work together to present it. It is easiest for the first person to introduce the case, subsequent team members to each argue a point to exemplify/support and of course refute the opposition’s points. The latter means thinking on your feet. The final team member then summarises the team’s position and makes the summary rebuttal.
Follow the Tips for Public Speaking – and remember your audience!