A) How to debate in english: 

What is your position in the debate? What you must do depending on your position in the debate:

First Affirmative  Contextualise the debate – clearly set out your team’s interpretation of the topic.  Provide definitions if necessary. Provide 2 or 3 arguments supporting the motion.

First Negative  Re-contextualise the debate and resolve any definitional issues – if you have disagreements with the definition given by the Affirmative these must be handled immediately. If you want to challenge the definition then you must prove that you have the most appropriate definition.

There are three main steps in a definitional challenge:

Clearly state your definition

Provide your arguments as to why this is the superior definition

Rebut the Affirmative’s arguments supporting their definition  Rebut the arguments made by the First Affirmative.  Deliver 2-3 arguments against the motion.

B) How can you prepare for the debate? 

  1. Prepare the Context – explain what is happening in the area that relates to this issue. For example, maybe the government of a country is debating banning smoking in public buildings and you decide to define the term “passive smoking” during the debate
  2. Spirit of the motion – topics are chosen for a reason, think about the sort of debate that was imagined when the topic was chosen

It is important to research the context, and see if there has been a recent significant event related to either topics – the media is the best place to look. For example, if the topic was smoking in public buildings, search the media so see if you can find a shocking report that may have recently been revealed in the media, showing the widespread effects of second-hand smoking.

C) How to prepare the Basic argument structure 

There are various ways of dividing up cases according to groups of arguments, such as, social/economic/political etc. You could assign each speaker to handle a group.

Place the most important arguments first.. This is true for three reasons. Firstly (most important argument)… Secondly…, Thirdly (least important argument)…” To structure an argument follow these steps:

  1. Claim – present your argument in a clear statement. This claim is one reason why you’re in favour of/against the motion, and it establishes your argument.
  2. Evidence/Warrant – the evidence supporting your claim, such as, statistics, references, quotes, analogies etc. It justifies your claim and establishes why the claim is true
  3. Impact – explain the significance of the evidence – how does this support your claim?. It outlines why people should care about your argument.
  4. Rebuttal Arguments are weakest at the evidence stage as it’s easy to argue against, for example, the evidence may consist of isolated examples or there may be counter evidence. But it’s not a good technique because the opposition can provide more evidence or rebut your criticisms. It’s difficult to rebut claims because they are usually reasonable but if you can attack a claim then that speaker’s whole argument falls apart. So if you think a claim is vulnerable then rebut it but you will need a strong explanation to show why it doesn’t matter.

D )Important skills for debating.

To meet the judges criteria you will have to develop certain skills, consider the following:  You points must be relevant to the topic.

Provide evidence whenever you can and not your personal opinion.  You must put aside your personal views and remain objective when you debate so your argument remains logical. You can be passionate about a topic but interest can turn into aggression and passion can turn into upset.  Consider the audience’s attention span – make it interesting, for example, don’t just present lots of complicated statistics.  Use rhetoric to persuade – consider using the three pillars of rhetoric: o Ethos – the ethical appeal o Pathos – the emotional appeal o Logos – the logical appeal  Use notes but keep them brief and well organised. Use a different piece of paper for rebuttals.  Similar to looking at conclusions to create rebuttals, think comparatively by asking yourself “How does my plan compare to what’s happening now/what would happen in the world if the other team won?” You can win the debate if you can make comparative claims about why your arguments matter more than the other team.  Only tell jokes if you’re naturally good at it otherwise this can backfire.  Flexibility is important because you might get allocated the side of the argument you don’t agree with. You’ll have to work hard to overcome your views. Also use this insight to think of the potential arguments you might make and then plan for counter arguments. Voice  Speak clearly and concisely.  You must talk fast enough to have the time to deliver your speech but slow enough so you can be understood.  Project your voice to the back of the room.  Incorporate dramatic pauses.  Emphasise important words and vary your tone appropriately. Confidence  Have a relaxed pose and posture.  Avoid filler words.  Know your material.  Emphasise using gestures and avoid nervous gestures.  Maintain eye contact with the audience. Language  Keep your language simple to avoid confusion.

E) Scoring

Judges generally score the speakers looking at these criteria: Remember that during the debate, the judges will be analyzing every move, here you can check some of the criteria to take into account in your interventions:

  • Organization and clarity: make sure your arguments and responses are delivered.
  • Use of argument: the sources you use to defend your arguments are reliable and veridic.
  • Use of cross-examination and rebuttal: demonstrate your capacity when identifying the other team’s weaknesses and your ability to refute their arguments.
  • Presentation style: the way you talk during the debate, using both verbal and non-verbal language has to  show your ability to persuade the public and the judges.

Here you can find the rubric of last debate(link).

The rubric can change for the next debate through a decision of the Board.

F) Content / Matter – What the debaters say, their arguments and evidence, the relevance of their arguments.

When preparing the debate, make sure you and your team spend a considerable amount of time immersing yourselves in the topic. Before stating arguments and rebuttals, you have to become an expert of the subject by reading and absorbing as much information  as you can about the topic. During this process, you have to pay a special attention to the sources you rely on, make sure they are official, contrast the different kind of information you find and share it with your fellow challengers. This way, even if you end up not putting everything you have found in your principals arguments, you may find it very useful for the refutals. Once you have spent a considerable time researching, you can start formulating your arguments both in favour and against, creating for each one of them a rebuttal. That way, you become aware of the ways the other team may attack your arguments anticipating the situation.

G) Style / Manner – How the debaters speak, including the language and tone used. 

While the quality of the arguments and information you prepare as a team are very important, don’t forget you are in a debate! The way you transmit your message is key, and can turn any argument and rebuttal to your favour if you have the ability to communicate properly. Make sure you practice and prepare every intervention before the debate takes place, practice with your team and explore all the different scenarios you may face. Both the verbal and non-verbal language play an important role: using the proper voice tone, showing conviction, moving confidently around the place where the competition takes place… all those factors must be taken into account and are the ones that will make an average argument become an outstanding performance. Even if you are nervous at the beginning, you will see how the adrenaline of the moment will help you take control of the situation, and above all, don’t forget to enjoy and have fun!

H) Strategy / Method – The structure of the speech, the clarity and responding to other’s arguments.

It is crucial to have a good structure of both your arguments and rebuttals. Clarity is key when you are debating and the lack of order mixed with the nerves of the moment can play a dirty trick on you. As a team, you have to make sure every part of your interventions are easily understood and that you follow a standardised style and strategy to avoid confusion.