Bits and Pieces
Table of Contents:
- The Nitty-Gritty Details
- Coaching a debate
- Judging a debate
1. The Nitty-Gritty Details
When you are debating, you must remember to establish eye-contact with your audience. If not, you are simply saying, “I don’t want you to be here, I don’t want you to listen.” Remember that your job as a
debater is to persuade the audience to support your side of the motion, and eye contact is a very effective means of persuasion.
Some speakers are uncomfortable maintaining direct eye contact with the audience. If this is the case for you, you can look at the audience’s noses instead; no one will ever know the difference
Walk, Don’t Run
When you have finished debating, you may feel a sudden urge to dash back to your chair. What does this tell the audience? “That speaker must have done a terrible job. Even he himself/she herself thinks that he/she
Instead, pause and look at the audience after your last word. Then walk calmly back to your seat.
Type your speech
Your speech should not be barely legible, but should be easy to read and deliver.
This is very important because it is likely you will have some last minute corrections as you alter your speech in response to your opponents.
- Double-space between lines; triple-space between paragraphs
- Leave wide margins on the left and right
- Number each page
- Underline/highlight words or phrases to be emphasized
- Mark your pauses
Note-cards are smaller and easier to handle. Generally, it is much more effective than reading from a piece of paper. There are two ways of using note-cards:
- Writing down your whole speech
- Writing down key-words only
The first way can help reduce anxiety, as you have a safe feeling knowing that you have your whole speech in front of you. However, people may rely on them too
much, and read the speech word by word to themselves, instead of speaking out to the audience.
On the other hand, writing down key words and points may give the speaker more flexibility in presenting their arguments. It makes the speaker sound more natural,
more like speaking than reading. So the second way is preferable.
Experiment in both ways and choose the one that suits you. This effect, of course, will vary from person to person.
Should I memorize?
It is usually advisable not to memorize your speech, particularly for debating, as you will have to alter your speech in response to your opponents’ points and
arguments. Other reasons include:
- Speakers who have memorized the whole thing are inclined to drone on and on in a smothering monotone, and the audience stops listening
- You risk forgetting a word or phrase, if so, you get stuck
Numbers, lists of statistics, quotations, proper nouns e.t.c. are nearly impossible to store in your memory.
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2. Coaching debaters
When you are experienced enough, you can become a coach and help novices. Coaching can be a difficult job, but it can also be very rewarding. Imagine the
novices you coach making improvement in their debating skills, winning a debate or behaving with sportsmanship when they lose, and thanking you for the help you
have given them. To coach debaters, especially novices, you may find the following
Help the debaters be fully prepared to compete:
- Explain the procedure to them and their respective roles in the competition
- After getting the motion, help them to interpret and define the key words
- Discuss with them the stance they should take
- Get them into a brainstorming exercise to elicit as many ideas as possible
- Anticipate the arguments of the opposing team
- Examine the weaknesses of your debaters’ arguments, imagine how their opponents will contradict them, and then help them with their rebuttals
- Get your debaters to rehearse and time them
Such preparation work can best be carried out with the help of the coach.
Helping your debaters develop a positive attitude:
- Give them the message that winning is not all that matters
- Help them learn how to view an issue in different perspectives, how to analyze a problem, and how to think and speak with logic.
- Let them learn from their competitors, how other people present their arguments persuasively.
- Help them accept their failure when they lose, and evaluate their weaknesses for further improvement.
- Let them know that debate is a cooperative activity – team members cooperate before and during the competition, experienced members of the team help novices.
Remember, as the coach, try not to put pressure on the team, and remind the team not to put pressure on themselves.
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Judging a debate
The judges should have a comprehensive knowledge of the principles of argumentation and debate in order to evaluate their arguments advanced for their decisions. Otherwise, how can they judge without knowing what the motion is about?
- During the debate, the judges should set aside their special knowledge on the subject so as not to produce certain attitudes, stereotypes, expectations or even distortions when listening
to the speeches. All they need to do is to consider the proof and the reasoning presented by the debaters!
- The judges need to set up a system to facilitate the process of analyzing and weighing arguments in a debate. The note-taking system is one example. It is effective in recording all significant developments
All in all, the judges need to take note of the following:
- The strengths and weaknesses of the arguments
- The effectiveness of the delivery: pauses, pace, volume, pitch
- How well the challenged arguments are answered
- The errors in evidence and reasoning that are pointed out or ignored by the other side
- If an argument is not answered, the judge should see whether or not this is called to the judge’s attention by the opposing team
After taking a note of the above, even you and I can be a good judge!
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