Debate - English Oral Skills Notes

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  • A formal contest of argumentation between two sides is what debate is.
  • Debate embodies the ideals of reasoned argument, and tolerance for divergent points of view.
  • There are two sides in the debate: the proposition and the opposition.
  • These two teams are presented with a resolution, such as, ‘Girls and Boys Should play in a mixed football team.’
  • The teams are given enough preparation time.
  • The team affirming the resolution speaks first.
  • The opposing team then must refute the arguments offered by the affirming team and offer arguments rejecting the resolution.
  • Both sides are given the opportunity to present their positions and to directly question the other team.
  • Neutral judge (s) then evaluate the persuasiveness of the arguments and offer constructive feedback.

Preparation Time

  • This is the time you have from when the motion is announced to the beginning of the debate.
  • During this time:
    1. Research on the motion to get facts. The facts can be got from the teachers, other students, etc.
    2. Write notes on the facts. You can once in a while look at them during your presentation.
    3. Practice how to speak. Do it in front of friends and relatives, as well as in front of a mirror.
    4. If anxious, do some physical exercise. You can also take a deep breath just before your presentation.
    5. Dress decently.

Points Delivery

Here are the points that will help you be successful during your points delivery:

  1. Deliver your points in a confident and persuasive way.
  2. Vary your tone to make you sound interesting. Listening to one tone is boring.
  3. Speak quite loudly to be comfortably heard by everyone in the room. Shouting does not win debates.
  4. Make eye contact with your audience, but keep shifting your gaze. Don’t stare at one person.
  5. Concisely and clearly express your points to be understood by your audience members.
  6. Provide a proof for each point you put across. If you don’t you will not earn a point.
  7. Speak slowly and enunciate your words. When you slow down your speech, you give your audience and the judge more time to process your strong points.
  8. Use gestures to elaborate on your points.
  9. Pause to divide your major points.


  • Only supportive and argumentative heckling is permitted.
  • Heckling is a brief phrase (about two words) or other non- verbal actions that are directed to the judge of the debate.
  • They are reminder to the judge to pay close attention to the message immediately expressed by the speaker.
  • There are two types of heckles:
    • Those that are non-verbal, such as,
      - Rapping the knuckles on the desktop.
      - Rapping the palm on the desk.
      - Stamping the feet

      They are meant to encourage the judge to heed a particularly strong point being made by the speaker.
    • Those that are verbal, such as,
      - Objective
      - Evidence
      - Point of information

      They are said after standing up by one member of the opposing side. These are meant to alert the judge to a problem in the opposing side’s argument.


After you deliver your points during the debate, everyone claps for you. How could you have delivered your points to earn their heckling?

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