On Monday I have a debating competition. It’s with a couple of school’s from our area, and determines whether we make it through to a bigger area. First and second go through, and last year our school came third. It’s all spontaneous debating. Our team will more than likely be made up of the youngest members. And it’s on Monday… That’s two days.
So yeah, the pressure is on.
I’m in a team with two really good friends, Mustard and Flannel, (not their actual names but just go with it), and another girl in our year who I don’t really know that well (She seems nice though!… let’s call her Rain). Mustard is a more experienced debater, and was basically the one that got me and Flannel involved in debating. She’s also debated a lot in the past with Rain, so she’s probably our best speaker…
…Then again, when Flannel and I went against her, we won 72 – 61. (Which is a huge amount in debate terms… except her debates partner was a little… inexperienced? Untalented? Bad?
Rain has taken part in several competitions, and so has Mustard, but this is my and Flannel’s first. To be completely honest, I’m terrified. I doubt Flannel is going to be any good at spontaneous debating, and god knows about me.
We’re definitely playing four matches, and if we do well in all of them we’ll play more. Because our team has four members, one of us will have to sit out for each match, and I’m just praying I get to sit out on something I’m unfamiliar with. We’ve been given all the categories, and they’re pretty stereotypical for debates categories i.e. Capital punishment, the selling of organs, etc.
Our school also has another team, made up of older students… Who are far better than us by the sound of it. I really hope we don’t have to go against our own, but we probably won’t unless we both make it to the final (which has about a 1 in 10000000 chance of happening lol).
So, moving along, if there’s any talent I possess, it would be procrastination. I’m quite literate, and I don’t think I’m half bad at expressing my opinion in an intellectual manner, however I am also incredibly lazy. Hence, I have not even started practising for this debating competition. Of course, I’ve had the off round with my friends, but actual, serious, debating? Nope.
Because of this, it seems only right to make a blog post about how you should prepare for a series of rapid fire debates about a topic you are given ten minutes in advance… otherwise known as the horrors of spontaneous debating.
How To Prepare For A Debating Competition
- Do your research.
Probably the most important part of preparation. You can practise speaking all you want, but unless you know the ins and outs of what you’re arguing, you’re a little screwed. It’s far harder to sum up points, when you’ve no clue what you’re going on about. Before my research on selling organs, I literally had no clue what the argument was. That was pretty much the reason I chose it, (that and my everlasting love of medicine), and I’m glad I did. Before my research, god knows what I would have been saying, but I can only accurately guess it would have ended in either blood or flames – quite possibly both.
2. Practise speaking.
Maybe this seems a little obvious, but you’d be surprised. You don’t have to practise with your friends (although that might be good if you need to practise points of information..), and you don’t have to practise with serious topics. The idealism that debating is only about controversial topics with good arguments, is absolute nonsense. Of course when you’re in a serious debate, this is what you’ll be talking about, but when you’re on your own in the bath, debate about whatever the flip you want, whether that’s if pineapple should be on pizza, or if Samsung is better than Apple. You don’t have to argue with yourself about the death penalty, if you’re more interested in what you’re having for evening meal! One of my favourite ways of doing it, is when something dramatic happens on a TV show I’m watching, I like to debate with myself whose side I should be on, and whose fault the drama is. Lame, but effective. Practising speaking isn’t about the content, it’s about the presentation.
3. Dependence, and Independence.
You have to remember that team debating, is team debating. Mustard, who did lose against me and Flannel, immediately blamed her partner, when actually she got them a time penalty and lost them five points. Flannel and I had our own squabbles about the debating, but we sorted that stuff out… and we won. You’re in it together. There shouldn’t be a leader unless everyone is ok with that. There shouldn’t be one person letting others do the work. If you’re all there to debate, debate as one. I think a good example of teamwork was when me and Flannel were practising for our first debate, a much older student debater and her friend actually gave up one of their lunch times to help us. I don’t know how we would have done without that, and I’m incredibly grateful. They helped us, because helping us would benefit the team in the long run. In turn, this also means you have to pull your own weight, Find the happy medium between dependence and independence.
4. Develop Your Skills
Debating requires a number of skills, that can never be mastered. A high level of confidence, politeness, understanding, communication, articulation, self-control, vocabulary, strategy, patience, focus, and various other qualities, is really what separates the great debaters from the rest. All these skills are easy to develop, but take time to manifest and grow, and can come only with experience. Of course most of these assets can be attained through all manners of things, and are probably easier to attain in other activities rather than debating. Personally, I think I have quite an advanced understand and vocabulary, but could probably work on how I communicate each point. Mustard, on the other hand, has the tendency to lose her temper, or to rebut when it would not be considered appropriate. Yet at the other side of the spectrum is Flannel, who has very little confidence when debating, yet has an exuberant amount of patience and focus. It’s all about figuring out what you can’t do, and working on it. There’s no such thing as a perfect debater.
5. You can only be average, without hard work.
It seems a little harsh, but is horribly true. We all have a different set of characteristics, flaws, and strengths. Referring back to point for, you have to try. Don’t do what I’m doing right now and procrastinate, apply yourself and see the results. You can only be what you are now, if you stop working now… And are you ready? That’s the most important question in debating competitions. Are you ready? Ready to reply to that point of info? To lose? To come last? To argue that topic you hate? To be the first speaker? To try your best? To win and move forward? Chances are, if you have to ask yourself, you’re not. And that’s your starting point.
And that’s all folks! If you have any tips on debating, please please please leave a comment, and wish me luck for Monday!
(Also if I don’t make a post – Happy Mother’s Day!)
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