In the past few weeks, this column has discussed various benefits of debate, including critical thinking, current events, research and organization. Eventually, after numerous hours researching and organizing the information to support a position, the time comes to debate and win. Debaters must deliver their arguments in a confident and convincing way that will persuade the judges and score a victory for their team.
Consider what Lee Iacocca, CEO of Chrysler, said, “…I joined the debating team, which was sponsored by Mr. Virgil Parks, our Latin teacher. That’s where I developed my speaking skills and learned to think on my feet. At first I was scared to death. I had butterflies in my stomach – and to this day I still get a little nervous before giving a speech. But the experience of being on the debating team was crucial. You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your brains won’t get you anywhere.” (Iacocca, 16)
A survey conducted by The London Times found that 41 percent of the 3000 respondents listed “fear of public speaking” as their number one fear, while only 19 percent listed “death.” Despite the apprehension, we know that good public speaking skills are necessary in order to succeed in school and in life. In academic life, students are required to present book reports and engage in classroom discussions on significant historical and current events. In the workplace, managers and executives are often required to speak before groups of stockholders, clients, employees and, sometimes, the public. Excellent presentation skills are crucial to the successful outcome of important scholarship and job interviews.
Debate is the most effective way to introduce students to public speaking. It provides a safe environment with fellow students in a friendly classroom setting, significantly reducing anxiety and fear. The interactive nature of debate also makes competition fun as students exchange arguments and counter arguments.
During debate, students learn how to deliver convincing arguments. Not only must they have pertinent facts and evidence to support their arguments, they must also argue in a passionate and concise way to convince the judges that their team should win. Typically, they have five minutes to make their arguments. Students must learn how to manage that time, incorporating all of the arguments they have prepared, and handle objections as well. They must package the information in a succinct manner that does not belabor a point and waste time.
(To be continued in the next edition)