This November, we’re celebrating UK Parliament Week with posts and blogs about getting to know our political system and empowering you to get involved.
Politicians will often facilitate debates, where they talk about the pros and cons of a law, policy or decision. These will be about important subjects, such as healthcare, education, economies or environmental issues. While the issues themselves are important, the skills needed to debate successfully are just as key.
Tips and skills for debating
- Speak clearly and with confidence
- Give your audience eye contact
- Don’t make up facts or statistics
- If you disagree, attack the idea you disagree with, not the person
To sharpen our skills, let’s create the debate… we might include some silly examples, but it’s a great way to take the pressure off debating heavy subjects and learn how to present your arguments, persuade your audience and (if you wanted to) get votes!
- Assemble your committee
It could be your unit, your friends, or your family. It might be in person, or you could do a video call.
2. Establish the rules
Some basic rules include:
- Don’t interrupt when someone is speaking
- Give each debate a set amount of time
- No idea is a bad idea
3. Bring forward your chosen topic
- Why jaffa cakes are/are not cakes
- What is the best pet?
- Is a cup of tea objectively better when made by someone else?
- What defines a sandwich or salad? Is a calzone a sandwich?
- Which is the best kind of birthday cake?
- Is summer better than winter?
- Would colonizing Mars solve overpopulation on earth?
- Is the internet truth or an alternative reality? Is it multiple alternative realities?
- Is social media generally positive, or generally negative?
- What do you think about footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to get free school meals for children during the holidays?
- If university classes are all online, should students pay less than £9,000 in tuition?
- Can you think of any more?
4. Decide a winning argument
You could declare a winner in a few ways:
- Once you’re done putting your arguments forward, you could have people raise their hand to say which side of the argument they agree with. If a majority agree with you/the same argument you do, congrats, you won!
- With some planning of the topics, you could have 2 people debating opposite sides (e.g. person 1 is trying to convince the group jaffa cakes are cakes, person 2 is trying to convince the group they are not cakes). Give each person a set time to put their argument forward. Once both parties have said their piece, you could have time for audience questions. Once that is over, have a vote. The person with the most votes wins.
- Some debates don’t have a clear answer at the time. That’s ok. When this happens, it’s fine to declare the debate over after a time and leave people to their own conclusions!
Want to debate more serious topics such as crime, diversity and equality, the environment or travel? UK Parliament Week has their The Great Debate activity.
If you want to have a debate, take a look at this complete guide to debating. Be warned, it's a long read!