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“Effective debaters” are these elusive creatures, hunted by students year-round, at constant risk of being consumed by the masses. The hunt for debate-senpais is real. Everybody wants to be, or at least know, an effective debater. I won’t judge if you admit to wanting that title. Curiously, many debaters think they “deserve” that title (much like “deserving” to win). But that doesn’t teach you, grow you, or prepare you for effectiveness. What are you doing to be more effective as a communicator?  Here are seven tips on how to get there:

  1. Common Terms: use words and concepts your audience already knows, or will readily understand. Know that debate is about communication, not intellectualism.
  2. Structure: organize your speech simply. Don’t over-complicate it. Group arguments, address them in order, and clearly communicate the argument you’re responding to. Highly effective debaters are so adept at organization that they don’t waste time being confused, or confusing their audience. They have the time to focus on outstanding content.
  3. Succinct: slash the volume of your verbiage; concentrate on clarity and power. Choose strong, poignant words. Be blunt and clear. Highly effective debaters do not mince words: they are able to address more arguments because of their bluntness and succinctness. Say less words. Effective argumentation is in word choice, not volume.
  4. Drills…lots of them: drills are scary, but the best debaters lose their fear of being wrong or critiqued. Drills essentially throw away your flimsy cardboard box of tools, and replace it with a steel toolbox brimming over with heavy-duty, outlasting equipment.
  5. Cross-Application: do other activities that enhance and grow your debate skills, and use your debate skills in other, unrelated activities. Keep your skillset fresh, in-use, and honed. Experiment with ways to effectively communicate in other settings.
  6. Relatable: be human, and be pleasant. Be personal and sincere.
  7. Love for the Trade: it can’t be faked. Highly effective debaters love to debate. They love stretching their mind, love asking questions, love learning about the world. They love philosophy and searching for truth. They’re excited about communicating with people, and see it as a portal to human connection, learning, and living in wonder. Highly effective debaters are passionate about excellent debating. You can’t fake that. You can’t learn it. It’s a mindset you have to not only embrace, but immerse yourself in, and constantly fight for. Highly effective debaters know that debate is not the end goal. They debate because it is a ripe environment for maturing in the values they hold, and they can’t help but vigorously love that.

Highly effective debaters are results of ambition, training, passion, and genuine love for exceptional things. Pour yourself into developing these areas, and watch your effectiveness increase.


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