Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!
In Part 1 of this post about debating and its rising popularity as a format, I went through the basic game plan. Now we’re onto the execution stage.
Apart from Prime Ministers’ and Presidential debates, debating is a team activity, so the first challenge is to figure out how to get ready as a group.
One of the drawbacks of many public debates these days is that we hear disconnected speeches, rather than listening to a developing argument with different aspects coming from each speaker, like chapters in a book. It’s far better to make the debate a story that you ‘co-present’. This is not usually done well in public debates so if you can pull it off it will work well.
Preparing will make a huge difference (duh). Get together with your team mates in advance and figure out how to thread your arguments together so they will make an integrated whole. It has to make sense between you, i.e it’s a double act, or a triple act – not discrete unconnected presentations. They must link.
Allow time to prepare properly. People usually underestimate how long it takes to figure out what to say and to co-ordinate the presentation with your team mates.
Decide who speaks first. That person should put forward the thesis or key message and expand on one or two of the most important ideas. The second and third speakers need to argue against what the opposition has said, then make a few more points, and finally, summarise and conclude the case.
In a previous post I’ve provided a rundown on pose of the podium, handling lights, mikes and lecturns. Acting with aplomb as you step up and speak will work wonders with your audience. Remember to eyeball them, and to SMILE. Don’t turn and address your opponents (you’re never going to convince them!). Keep all your magnetism for the audience.
DO listen to the opposition – it’s much more amusing to really get some crossfire going, but it means throwing away the script and having the guts to think on your feet. A good debate is just that – a debate, not a series of pre-prepared speeches in which one person doesn’t respond to what the other guy just said.
Keep to time, it is really important.
Remember there will be tweeting and texting going on around you. It’s spooky because you can’t know what they’re saying about you but you are the subject. There are many useful articles in the blogoshpere about handling this, but at least one action you can take to keep a feeling of inclusion and shared experience alive, is to make some reference to it. Like a teacher who knows there are notes being passed in class but doesn’t know who is doing it, say something about the e-conversation, that way at least they’ll know you understand them.
And finally – on all but the most sombre topics – leave ’em laughing.