How To Start a Debate: Debate is a formally organized argument or discussion involving two or more persons of two opposing sides, whereby the sides express opposing views towards the subject of discourse. Simply put, debate is the discussion of opposing views.
The importance of knowing how best to start a debate cannot be overemphasized. The default of a speaker as regards protocols and procedures in a debate is in fact detrimental to the entirety of the presentation.
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Features of a Debate
For an activity or occasion to be considered a debate, the following must be present in the scene:
1. Team: this is the group of people involved in the debate activity. Debates usually involve two team namely affirmative team and negative team. Each team is constituted by two or three speakers.
Affirmative team is the “yes” team. They are the group which are for and not against the given topic. They are in support of the given topic and are to establish that the given position is true.
Negative team argues against the given topic. Negative team is also known as the opposing team. They are to establish that the given topic is false.
2. The Judge: the Judge presides over the debate, observes, records and decides the winner of the debate exercise. There is usually more than one judges officiating a debate. After the exercise, their records will be evaluated and be presented as the final decision.
3. Audience: these are the listeners who are present in the debate arena. There is no debate without an audience.
4. Time Keeper: this is a person assigned to record time and regulate the timing available for the presenters and the debate activity as a whole.
5. Moderator: this is the official whose duty is to anchor the debate. He or she enforces the regulations of the debate.
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Features of a Quality Presentation
1. Persuasive: the arguments of the presenter must be sound enough to convince the audience. To be persuasive, the language and tone need to be confident, positive and authoritative. The points made must be valid and relevant.
2. Logical: the presentation must be rational, explicit and articulate.
3. Informative: the presentation must be knowledgeable and educative.
4. Well Structured: the information contained in a good debate must be presented in an orderly manner.
The purpose of a debate is to convince and persuade the audience and the judge that your view should be considered and preferred.
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Types of Debate
1. Team Policy Debate: in this type of debate, the affirmative team proposes a plan while the negative or opposing team opposes the proposed plan. It usually involve two sides. While one side advocate for the given topic, the other side advocate against it.
2. Cross Examination: Shortly called cross – ex. In this type of debate, the opponents are allowed in the middle of the presentation to ask questions to each other for the purpose of ascertaining or understanding a point made.
3. Lincoln Douglas Debate: This is a debate had in 1958 between Abraham Lincoln, the Republican Party candidate of the United States senate from Illinois, and Senator Stephen Douglas, the Democratic Party Candidate.
4. Spontaneous Argumentation (SPAR): for this type of debate, the students debate on a different topic in each round. Here there is usually a limited time for preparation.
5. Public Forum Debate: for this type, students debate on current rising issues. It also allow for rebuttals and cross-examination.
6. Parliamentary Debate: this is an academic debate usually in higher institutions based on British model of government. It involves two sides, one known as the government and the other known as the negative team or opposition team.
Starting A Debate
Starting a debate begins with preparation. Preparation here demands meticulous and extensive research on the topic of the debate. The research here involves sourcing for logical, statistical and verifiable points to justify one’s stance. It is important and advisable to extend your research to understanding the stance of the opposing team. This gives a foresight on the possible line of argument and defense of the opposing team and renders them predictable.
By so, you are already guided on how to prepare your own line of argument, counterargument and rebuttals. The benefit of understanding your opponent’s stance is that you have heavier point of defense against them and you are visited with less surprises during presentation.
Steps On Presenting A Sound Debate
Step 1. Understanding the Topic: The first step is to understand your topic. Understanding your topic gives you confidence and certainty. There is no other means other than by conducting extensive and defensive research. As stated earlier, research should focus on both sides of the debate topic.
Then, it is important to outline your points accordingly starting from the introduction, the content of the argument and the conclusion.
Step 2. Greetings: Before introducing your topic, it is cultural to first of all acknowledge the presents of the audience, the judge, the time keeper, the moderator and any other personnel collectively. This usually comes by way of, “Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, Panel of Judges, Accurate Time Keeper, Moderator” etc. The phrase “Ladies and Gentlemen” covers every other person not specifically mentioned.
Step 3. Introduction: After the greetings comes the introduction. This is a brief oral explanation of what constitute the basis of an issue. Here the presenter is expected to state the topic of the debate and then categorically state his or her stance in the debate, whether in support of the given topic (affirmative) or against it (negative). The introduction is expected to be very sharp, catchy, concise and explicit.
The tone of presenting your stance should be assertive and convincing that indeed, this is unequivocally your stance. Remember that the manner of introduction and how appealing it is arouses and sustains the interest of the judges and audience. So it is most advisable to begin it best.
Step 4. Body of the Argument: Now that your presentation has started, you should focus on the main substance of the debate which is the body of the argument. The presenter should firstly, win the curiosity and the attention of the audience by giving a captivating background.
This could be achieved by relaying a point through a story, by creating working instances and suitable scenarios, etc. the presenter is expected to establish unquestionable definitions preferably supported by notable authorities. Mastery of the art of persuasion is an addendum advantage for a debater.
The presenter can also achieve emphasis and arouse curiosity by the use of rhetorical questions. Logic and statistics can be employed too as long as it is favourable to the presenter’s stance and is relevant, valid and convincing. It is necessary to maintain eye contact because it showcases confidence and certainty.
These are the factors judges also look at while taking performance records. The presenter is advised not to read verbatim as this makes the presentation unnatural. This does not in any way suggest that one should cram the argument. The presenter can instead highlight his or her points or outline them as stated earlier.
Tonality: Application of tonality is beautiful and admirable. It is the rising and falling of the pitch. This is the application of tonal emphasis where appropriate. This helps in making the voice and speech interesting, and of course catches and sustains the interest of the audience and the judges. This has a way of appealing to people’s emotion. The tone is expected to match the severity of the debate topic.
Time keeping: There is a reason why every debating activity has a time keeper. Time keeping is of essence in a debate. The presenter is expected to wrap up his or her point within the given time. Most times, every point made upon the exhaustion of the given time does not count. This does not suggest that the presenter should be too fast in speech.
Team: Debate team usually consist of two or three presenters for a team. The topic is usually shared for each team accordingly, from the first speaker to the last. It is necessary for each speaker to restate his or stance in the debate before proceeding.
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Step 5. Conclusion: The concluding points should be resounding, concise and precise. It may come by way of summarizing the points discussed earlier. The presenter may end by restating his or her stance in the topic.
This is where we are going to stop for now, however, I recommend that you watch the YouTube video below if you want to continue to learn more tips on how to start a debate. Trust me, you will enjoy watching.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ACMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.