5 tips all new debaters should learn to outargue the opposition

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Whether you’re for or against any given motion during a debate, these are some key things all debaters should keep in mind
In this new school term, you’re probably wondering which activities to sign up for and debating is sure to be among them. It’s very popular in Hong Kong, especially for those wanting to go into law or politics, or just to work on their confidence and critical thinking.

Debating gives you the skills you need to put forward ideas and to foresee other people’s reactions, which allows you to be ready to answer their questions.

Young Post went to a debating workshop hosted by Stan Dyer, Hong Kong Secondary Schools Debating Competition co-ordinator, at Diocesan Boys’ School. Here, we have the top five things you need to know to compete in debating.

Debates need a lot of preparation. What you see during the debate is only the final product, and a lot of time and effort has gone into producing just the right argument. Often, though, speakers don’t do this on their own. They can have a team behind them to research and help.

Once the research has been gathered, the team will meet to plan who will say what. Members will also provide ideas about what the opposing side might talk about, so that these points can be countered, or spoken against. Some of the arguments are best used right away, while others are best saved for later.

The structure of an argument

When it comes to presenting an argument, you need a clear assertion, reasoning and illustrations. The assertion is deciding on what your argument is. Your reasoning will explain your argument. The illustrations are examples to give the judges a clear idea of how your argument works.

For example:
Assertion: Guns should be illegal.
Reasoning: If guns are legal, criminals will be able to use them to kill people.
Illustration: The recent shooting in Las Vegas in the US.

Who does what on the team

Usually, there are three people on each debating team, and each of them has a different job. Each of these roles needs different skills.

The first affirmative speaker does not have to talk about any arguments from the other team. They can focus on presenting their team’s case in a way that gets attention. The first speaker should have the skills of an actor.

The third speaker, on the other hand, should be more of an “arguer”. They should enjoy finding weaknesses in opposing arguments and coming up with strong counter-arguments. The final speakers, or “closers”, should have excellent logical thinking and be able to think of rebuttals (answers to the other team’s arguments) on the spot, as it’s difficult to know beforehand what the opposition will say.

The second speaker needs to advance the team’s stance while countering the main points made by the first speaker of the other team. They need to be cool and clear, almost like a teacher.

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