The day after tomorrow, I will be dragged into an inter-varsity debate discussing the future of Malaysian English Education held in my university. I feel awfully nervous and anxious at the mere thought of me standing in front of the big crowd and giving a 7-minute speech without making an utter fool of myself. My debate experience is very insufficient to put me on the battle of words despite the fact that I love defending myself and for the things or people I care about, I love arguing with others (though I notice that I have been doing it lesser ever since I’ve learned the lesson of diplomacy) and also the fact that I enjoy public speaking a lot. No doubts, these can be good traits for those who should join debate. However, I think the following abilities are more vital to possess in considering whether you are made for debate or debate is really your passion to pursue for.
- Think fast and faster – you’d think that this is something you can’t practice for, but actually you can. The secret to be able to “think” fast is to have “thought” about something already. That’s why President Obama, Secretary Clinton or other world leaders of great renown can respond probably after two seconds of “thinking”, they must have mulled over the issues, connected the dots and filled the gaps of ideas and resolutions before they were able to publicly provide a set of thorough answers to the questions that have bombarded them on stage, most of the time, live on TV. Hence, you should have thought about the issues in your debate theme in order to debate adeptly.
- Be firm on your side – In a debate, you will be defending on one side of the house, be it the proponent or the opponent. Defending a motion which you don’t personally feel aligned with is trickier and much challenging than having to defend one you agree with. However, that is what they called, the “fun” of debate. You’d need to be firm and adamant in defending your motion. It is easy to agree and nod along with the other side of the house presents a reasonable and sound argument but you should not let it sway you. You should always believe in your side. Be absolutely convinced and display your conviction via words and body language. Don’t sit on the fence!
- Good memory – Remember the facts and arguments. Remember all the illustrations and whatnot that can strengthen your case instead of your enemy’s. Remember everything you have learned about the art of speaking – including to calm your nerve and speak with a calm and civilized manner, arrange your arguments (don’t confuse your listeners), bring in the art of persuasion, how to convince people to believe in what you say…
- Listen! – No kidding. You are told probably in every occasion whereby there is a speaker, you should respect the speaker, listen carefully to what the person is talking about. Recently, I was being enlightened that the word “listen” is spelled with exactly the same letters as “silent”. The lexicographer knows this, so does a 5 year old. If you play Scrabble, you’d know what I mean when I say, you’d score exactly the same with these two words. So, should you seriously, associate listening and being silent? There’s a term, Listening Skills, so Listening involves a lot of skills rather than listening per se. In debate, you have to multitask, apart from listening carefully, you need to think so you can give POI – Point of Information or you can rebut later), some debaters talk to each other to discuss, some think it’s good because it’s teamwork after all, but won’t you miss out some of the points? Perhaps, passing notes to communicate while someone is talking is a better idea.
There are certainly more to those I have stated above when it comes to debating. You may wanna contribute what you know about debate by commenting below. Feel free to share. I gotta go to bed right now. Wish me luck for entering the war on Thursday!