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How to be a good debater : Tips by Arun Rohamally

15 Jun

On Saturday the 23rd of May 2015, Veerendra Kooshna (as Team Captain), Koshal Gowrydoss (as First Speaker) and myself (as Second Speaker) made our way to the City Council of Port Louis where the 2015 JCI National Debate Championships were about to take what ensued was a thrilling competition where views were exchanged, arguments were offered and ideas were debated. Eventually, we managed to bring home to JCI Curepipe the 1st prize.

Winner of 2015 JCI Mauritius Debate Championship : JCI Curepipe

 
 

I have now been requested to write a small article to share a few debating tips. At the very outset, I wish to point out that I am not myself a great debater, nor do I hold myself out as such. Debating, like any other skill, is gained, developed and perfected with practice. And I am myself very much at the initial line segment of the learning curve. What follows therefore is merely a synopsis of what I have tried, not always with complete success, to implement in myself.

Elocution

Debating is all about trying to convince someone of an argument you are putting forward. It therefore helps this convincing exercise if you can assert yourself persuasively. And you can be more persuasive if you can improve your diction. So the order of the day is: practice, practice, practice. One way you can do this is by reading out loud to yourself. Be not afraid to be termed mad! As Aristotle would have put it: “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness”.

Eye contact

I believe that one of the most effective ways you can grab someone’s attention is to simply look him or her in the eyes when you are speaking to that person. It works like a charm. Especially with the ladies!

Be confident

Let’s be honest – we’ve all had that little tingle of fear before a competition of whatever nature. In fact, it is a good sign that you are competitive and wish to do well. To be apprehensive is one thing, to show it quite another. Never ever let the anxiety transpire. It is sometimes easier said than done. Maybe a little breathing exercise may help.

Be cautious

You have to sometimes adapt your style of delivery to the type of audience that you have. This is a judgment call that you would be able to make only after getting a feel of the audience. If you are in a competition, be careful about the amount of jokes you put in. Also be aware that sarcasm may not always work.

Give examples

There is nothing worse, I believe, than making a bland statement without properly substantiating it with concrete examples. Providing examples will not only help anchor your ideas in the mind of the judging panel but also add flavour to your argument. While providing examples, however, you ought to be cautious of the time factor.

Play on words

I learnt this one from our team’s First Speaker, Koshal Gowrydoss. Sometimes you may invariably end up defending an undefendable motion. One way you may get out of this tricky situation is to play on the words of the motion. The beauty of the English language is that many a times words might have completely different meanings in different contexts. Your task would be to look for the context that is most appropriate and convenient for you.

Be respectful

This is, in fact, the first thing to bear in mind. A debate, by its very nature, is a clash between two, or two sets of, persons. All the while, you have to not only put forth your arguments but also refute what the opponents are saying. Do not take anything personally and do not attack your opponents personally. Disdain will end up costing you more marks than you may think. Also when you refer to your opponents during the course of the competition, do so respectfully.

Lastly but most importantly: Enjoy yourself. Remember this is your moment, this is your day, this is your stage – seize it!

Arun Rohamally

Aspiring Member

JCI Curepipe

 
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