What is Debating?

A debate can be seen as a game with different sides, which are either in favour or against a certain motion. The goal of the debate is to defend your side and convince the jury of your position. This requires a strong presentation, but even stronger argumentation, listening skills and analysis.

Debating is tied to a certain set of rules, which differs, depending on the form. At GDS Kalliope, we regularly debate in either an American or a British Parliamentary format. This means we either debate with 2 or 4 teams and you will be appointed a certain position you need to fulfill. The debate is always about a certain motion. An example is the following:

“This House forces parents to attend a parenting class before having a baby”

After you have heard the motion, you are appointed a position. This could be either in favour or against the motion. Then you get 15 minutes preparation time, after which you will give a speech of a few minutes in which you will convince the judges of your case. The judges will look at your argumentation, your presentation and your eloquence.

During our workshops, winning is not that important. You learn debating by practice. That is why we always provide our members with lots of feedback and room for improvement.

Why Debate?

Almost every day, we encounter situations in which we are posed to present and support a position on some contested issue – be it in discussions with friends or study situations. Knowing that you are right in these situations is one thing, but convincing other people why you are right is often surprisingly difficult. Debating teaches you how to come up with the best possible arguments, and how to communicate them most confidently.

One central feature of our debating format is that teams get to know the motion they’ll debate and the side they’re on only fifteen minutes before the debate starts. This not only forces you to empathise with positions you disagree with, but also to be creative in coming up with arguments for and against unexpected topics. Debating teaches you to quickly analyse problems, to assess them critically, and to separate main issues from side-issues. This is an incredibly useful skill to have: in workplace situations, for instance, the ability to oversee and form a position on newly arisen challenges in a short amount of time is highly valued.

Having thought up arguments, the decisive thing is of course how you can present them to the people you need to convince. It can be very difficult and even frightening to speak up during seminar discussions or to give presentations in class. Like any skill, however, speaking with confidence improves with practice. And what better practice than a friendly and supportive debating society where you can improve your speech in a safe environment?