How a debate works: The Components
This section is meant to provide a quick overview of what competitive debating is like. The components of a debate include:
The venue should seat the audience. We recommend you to have two to three tables at the front for each of the two teams, and one for the Chair. The
timekeeper should sit next to the Chair. The Chair, timekeeper, adjudicators and each team member should have a drink.
A motion may also be referred as a proposition or resolution. The motion is a statement that can be agreed with or disagreed with. They can be fun, interesting or of local, national or international importance.
The team that wins is the team that manages to persuade the adjudicators that the arguments of their side of the motion are better. When the affirmative wins, we say that the motion stands.
When the negative wins, we say that the motion is over-ruled.
The Team Members
There are usually 2 to 4 team members, depending on the type of debate. After being assigned the motion, the team should get together to prepare for the debate.
During their meetings, they should analyze the motion, brainstorm and divide points among themselves. These are things that the speakers must work out together as a team.
The Chairperson of a debate, otherwise known as the Chair, takes control of a debate. He/she will call the meeting to order, announce the motion and speaking
times, ask for a demonstration of the ‘dings’ of the bells, introduce the speakers and be responsible for ensuring that the rules of a debate are followed..
Speaking Times and Timekeepers
Speaking times vary from debate to debate, usually a maximum of 10-minutes speeches and a minimum of 2-minute speeches. The length of all the speeches need not be the same.
There is a timekeeper at each debate with a stopwatch and a bell. There should be a warning bell 30 seconds before the end of time and two sounds of the bell at
the conclusion of time. The bell should ring continuously 15 seconds after time is up. Note that marks are deducted if there is an overtime, which the timekeeper
should announce right after the speaker’s delivery, in order to inform the adjudicators.
We recommend you to allow interjections, or floor questions. You can choose to allow interjections from the teams, and also from the audience. If interjections are permitted, the Chair should make it clear that interjections should be short, sharp and to the point. Speakers are required to answer the questions immediately, with
a time limit of 1 minute. While floor questions may be directed specifically to a speaker, anyone in the team may answer the question.
Adjudicators keep the debate focussed and give it a conclusion. It is advisable to have a panel of adjudicators, and you should have an odd number. At the end of
the debate, a representative from the adjudication panel will give a brief description of the debate, and some valuable comments for the debaters.
The role of the audience is to enjoy the debate. They should applaud after the debater has made a speech. They should participate as any polite audience would,
applauding, laughing, and so on at appropriate times.
Feedback on this Article: We welcome any feedback on this article. Was it helpful or not?
What do you agree or disagree with? Any pitfalls you found? What is missing? What should be expanded? At Debate Director, your feedback matters.