As a member of Gaythorne Toastmasters Club I was given the opportunity yesterday and today to share my love of debating and public speaking with Madonna King on the ABC radio. I was asked to share debating tips prior to the Health Care Debate between Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott and some feedback after the debate. Whilst most of the debates I am involved in are team debates – many of the skills and techniques can be applied to the debates between the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader.
Back at the office the question was asked – what is formal debating. Debating is a wonderful way to use all your communication and public speaking skills. Debating develops skills in preparing and delivering affirmative or negative points of view, improves impromptu speaking skills and encourages listening and speaking skills.
Briefly, a debate is a disputation or conflict of opinion between two teams where each team tries to establish superiority of their point of view. Debating is a team event where team members will be required to prepare material for their team case and to quickly develop a response to the opposition’s case.
The debate is based on a statement or proposition. The onus is on the affirmative team to prove the proposition. The negative team must prove their case. In Australia teams usually consist of three members. Each speaker will have a pre-defined time limit (eg 5 or 10 minutes). Each team will speak alternately. Each of the speakers will be awarded points for material supporting their defined role and each speaker and team is adjudicated on a set of criteria.
Speakers have clearly defined roles depending on whether they are 1st, 2nd or 3rd speaker and whether they are speaking for the affirmative or negative team. The first speaker in a debate is the first speaker of the affirmative team. This speaker introduces and defines the topic, introduces the affirmative team, outlines the affirmative team’s case and if time permits begins presenting the affirmative team’s case.
The second speaker in a debate is the first speaker of the negative team. This speaker accepts or rejects the affirmative team’s definition and if necessary redefines the topic, rebuts the first affirmative speaker’s arguments, introduces the negative team, outlines the negative team’s case and if time permits, begins presenting the negative team’s case.
The third speaker in a debate is the second speaker of the affirmative team. This speaker should rebut the first negative speaker’s arguments, restate the team’s definition, if necessary, and present the main body of the affirmative team’s case.
The fourth speaker in a debate is the second speaker of the negative team. This speaker s rebuts the second affirmative speaker’s arguments and presents the main body of the negative team’s case.
The fifth speaker in a debate is the third and final speaker of the affirmative team. This speaker should rebut the negative team’s case, focusing on the second negative speaker’s arguments, may introduce a limited amount of new matter to support the affirmative team’s case and summarises the affirmative team’s case.
The sixth and final speaker in a debate is the third and final speaker of the negative team. This speaker should rebut the affirmative team’s case, not introduce any new matter to support the negative team’s case and summarises the negative team’s case.
The most common system of adjudication groups criteria under three main headings, each with their own weighting: matter(40%), manner(40%)and method(20%. The criteria associated with “matter” relate to what is said. Criteria may include an evaluation of the clarity of the ideas expressed, the logical sequencing of the ideas and the substance of the speech – facts and arguments.
The criteria associated with “manner” relate to how it is said and delivered. Criteria may include an evaluation of 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.
The criteria associated with “method” relate to how it is done. Criteria may include an evaluation of the definition of the topic (first speaker only), clear apportioning of roles to following speakers, the number of arguments supporting the team’s major premise, the degree, appropriateness and success of “attack”, the effective summarising of the speaker’s and team’s arguments and appropriate timing.
Whilst debating is fairly structured as outlined above it can be fun allowing speakers to use all the skills of public speaking and communication. Not only do speakers have to be able to organise their speeches but they must connect with their audiences to sell their message. After all, the purpose of a debate is to convince the audience of their point of view and to present your arguments clearly, concisely and competently.
Trish @ Trischel