Last blog I discussed what debating is and briefly outlined the format of a debate. I was asked to explain how debating can help your communication and public speaking skills.

Oral Communication is vital in a debate. However, it is also important to add the visual message to endorse the oral communication. Doing both allows you to exercise your public speaking skills in a different forum. I encourage any person developing their public speaking skills to try debating. It will add another dimension to your speaking skills.

I mentioned that a debate is adjudicated on 3 aspects: matter, manner and method. Matter allows a public speaker to practise putting their speeches together to have clarity of ideas and logical sequencing of the ideas. In other words – organising your speech.

Manner looks at the use of vocabulary and language, the flow and structure of the language used, the appeal to audience through use of humour, reason and emotion and the use of stance and gesture; appearance. Here a public speaker can utilise all the techniques and skills associated with selling your message to the audience.

Techniques such as:
Vocal Variety – putting light and shade in voice. Avoiding a monotone and putting emphasis on words to highlight your message.

Rate of Delivery – how fast or slow you speak will impact on your delivery. Too fast and the audience will not be able to absorb the arguments. Too slow and you will lose the audience and they will begin think you are searching for words and arguments.

Enunciation /Volume – it is necessary for the audience to clearly understand what is being said. If they can’t hear you or your mumble your words vital messages can be lost.

Language and Clarity of expression – Avoid jargon and long sophisticated words and grammar. Clear and simple language using short and complete sentences will connect with the audience.

Pause – allows audience to take on board what is being said. It can be very effective when used to anticipate a vital word or phrase as it captures the audience attention.

Avoid ums, ers, fillers like “you know”, “now, let me tell you” or “okay”. These verbal crutches can give the impression that you are unsure or nervous.

Humour – adds impact and connection with audience if appropriate. Humour is also good for rebuttal to make the opposition’s argument sound ridiculous.

Gestures – appropriate natural gestures enhance the verbal message and give a visual dimension to the speech. The body language needs to support the message or the audience will not believe what you are saying. Facial expressions are particularly important to ensure you are believable.

One of the things that adjudicators look at in Method is the degree, appropriateness and success of “attack”. This allows the public speaker to practise their impromptu speaking skills. They need to be able to listen, formulate the appropriate rebuttal and then present it clearly, competently and concisely.

So next time if you are asked to try your hand at debating – jump in and have a go. As you can see it is a wonderful way to practise your public speaking skills in another forum and in another dimension. Debating gives you opportunity to practise your speaking and communication techniques, develops skills in thinking and formulating arguments and rebuttals and allows you to have fun discussing all manner of controversial and humorous topics.

It will also give you tips on evaluating and assessing debates that you see – especially those lovely political debates that will be coming up as the election draws near. Who is telling the truth, who believes what they are saying, who is good at rebuttal, who can organise their thoughts clearly and competently, who can sell their message to the audience?

Trish @ Trischel

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