CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Special Reports - What Makes a Good Debater? A Guide for University Students

Special Reports

What Makes a Good Debater? A Guide for University Students

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University life is often called the prime of one’s life experiences. Well, that may itself be a contentious statement, but there is a high element of truth in it anyway. Yes, undoubtedly, university life gives you a potent ground to explore dynamic experiences and glean from them the lessons to be carried forward to the future. One of the ways you accomplish this is by participating in multitudes of activities debates being one of them, and something will be talked about in today’s brief discussion.

What makes a good debater? Well, the question seems straightforward but isn’t. When you are debating in a university setting, you have to follow the conventional school-based approach to it no longer. You cannot expect to nail debate competitions unless you learn new tricks and tips. Well, the tricks may not be new, but the urgency to tell them is certainly there, considering the standards of judgments become higher in such competitions. So, what should be done? Read along, and you might figure out something.

  1. Don’t go all rowdy
    Impatience and noisiness are a big NO-NO. I remember watching a debate competition back in university and becoming excited by the dramatic loud noises and assertions made by a speaker. Only later, I was told that he was behaving inappropriately and was anything but cool and casual. We all become entranced by the casual environment in university, and that ends up impacting our approach toward many things. Avoid that! In debate, you must maintain calm and exercise due patience. Even when pressing an argument, do it sophisticatedly.

  2. Learn the form of debate
    Unfortunately, my school never introduced us to the various forms of debate, and this caused me slight discomfort in university. A debate is not simply about the participation of two parties arguing for and against a motion; it is not that simple. There are quite a few formats of debates, each coming with specific rules. These formats include turncoat debate, British Parliamentary Debate, Asian Parliamentary Debate, and conventional one-on-one debate. In any format, you participate in, ensure that you have learned by heart the rules of the same, or your performance may be jeopardized.

  3. The debate has a language of its own
    That is right! Just like in, say, a moot court competition where the language becomes formal and highly legalese, there is a definite language to debate competitions. Much of it will be learned from the rules themselves. We are generally talking about jargon you should consider using to create an impact; these include motion, treasury, government and opposition whip, and rebuttal. Practice using them to formalize your speech and tune it to the requirements of the debating rules.

  4. Read and read
    I know you must be thinking about how basic this suggestion is. Yes, I am aware of that, yet people disregard it. There is one definite quality that makes a good debater, and it is called specificity. You may have the drama, intonation, and style to your speech, but the moment you make it generic, you lose points. Gone are the days when you could argue on, say, women’s empowerment from merely generic and foundational grounds. It would be best if you backed up whatever you say, and backing up needs facts that you can’t get unless you read. Read news, books, or anything and discuss it with your friends and family.

  5. Listen to your opponent carefully.
    Once the motion is out, you and your teammates discuss the arguments and counterarguments. That is the general strategy, but it won’t be effective unless you hear your opponent carefully. This comes from personal experience that inattentive listening to opponents can cause you points because your counter-arguments won’t be formulated in the context of the other side’s arguments but your own. And it is not rocket science to detect the lack of attention from the arguments. If you want to win, listen well and carefully. Try to find out logical or factual fallacies in their arguments, and you are sure to get extra points for the same.

  6. Be well-paced
    I understand that the tension is real and can affect your performance. A common defense mechanism for debaters to block tension is to speak fast. Unless you can speak fast and clearly, you must not resort to this method. Try to maintain your pace; there is no harm in a slow-paced speech so long as it is well-intonated, emphatic, and clear. This does not come easy so you will have to practice to developing such a speech. Speak in front of the mirror or participate in mock debates from time to time to establish this pace.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Special Reports - What Makes a Good Debater? A Guide for University Students
Ayushi Kushwaha
Ayushi Kushwaha, Staff Writer for the CEOWORLD magazine. She’s spent more than a decade working for various magazines, newspapers, and digital publications and is now a Staff Writer at The CEOWORLD magazine. She writes news stories and executive profiles for the magazine’s print and online editions. Obsessed with unlocking high-impact choices to accelerate meaningful progress, she helps individuals and organizations stand out and get noticed. She can be reached on email