Effective debaters continually work on their skills to improve their style, technique and public speaking strategies. Debating is a subjective goal, so you may need to apply different methods at different times. However, some skills generally apply to all forms of debate. Focus on ways to get your points across clearly and effectively, leaving little room for your opponents to question or discredit your statements. Great debaters know how to work the audience, invoking intelligent responses and enthusiastic participation.
Organize your thoughts before you speak, so you don't ramble, repeat yourself or stumble through your words. Before you start your argument, think through the chronological order in which you want to present your statements. Start with a powerful statement and support your comments with research and viewpoints from professionals in the field. Conclude your argument with compelling details that force listeners and opponents to examine what might happen if they choose not to support your arguments and angles. A strong debater is organized, strategic and persuasive and avoids unnecessary manipulation.
Confident Body Language
Focus on ways you might improve your body language. Opponents, judges and listeners can usually tell by your body language if you're defensive, angry or flustered, or if you think you've lost the debate. Signs of confidence might include a firm stance with few jitters or movements. Keep your hands to your side or on the podium and only raise them to make calculated hand gestures, such as pointing your finger in the air to signify point number one. Make eye contact with your opponent when possible, but don't stare him down. Stand straight, so your opponent doesn't think you're bored or lazy. Signs of insecurity might include running your hands through your hair, touching your face, staring at your notes without looking up or tapping your pencil on the podium.
Create and maintain a tone that's respectful and easy on listeners' ears. Always avoid whining, complaining and yelling; emotional responses often come across as unprofessional. You don't want competitors, judges and listeners to think you're overwhelmed by emotion and can't present logical arguments. Increase your volume slightly to stress extremely important details, but use volume fluctuations sparingly. When responding to your opponent's arguments, use a firm, respectful tone and avoid sarcasm or mockery. For example, you might use a tone similar to one you would use if you were doing a class presentation.
Address your opponent's viewpoints head on and don't beat around the bush. Prove to the judges and the audience that you're a good listener and are willing to analyze viewpoints from all angles. You might politely mention flaws in your opponent's line of reasoning or address factual errors. You can also agree with part of your opponent's argument, but show ways that the argument doesn't hold up as a whole. Assertiveness, kindness and attention to detail are debating skills worth mastering.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.