Now that you’ve mastered the art of public speaking and in-class presentations, it’s time to move on to refining your debating chops. Having a good handle on debate will not only help you in the classroom, but it’ll also be crucial once you’ve obtained your liberal arts bachelor degree and entered the workforce.
You’ll first need to understand what a debate is. A debate is an argument - no, not the argument you had with your parents when you forgot to clean your room—but a formal, public discussion between two parties, about a specific topic. When you attend a liberal arts college, lively debate is usually an integral part of the curriculum. But did you know that good debate skills have benefits outside the classroom too? Whether you’re pursuing a liberal arts education to prepare for a career in politics or business—or taking a different route, these essential debating skills will prove invaluable to your professional success:
1. Preparation is Key
This is what separates a presentation from a debate—you can memorize the speech you’ll be presenting beforehand, but you can’t anticipate the arguments that may come your way during a debate. Obviously, preparing for the unexpected is challenging, but not completely impossible. You’ll need to research everything on your topic—simply having an opinion isn’t enough. You need data and factual material to support your opinion. The best way to prepare is to argue both sides—this way, you can anticipate what your opponent might say.
Why it’s important now: As a student, being prepared is crucial—your degree depends on it, and seeing it through takes commitment. If you prepare, you’re more likely to have all your work done on time and this will ensure success.
Why you’ll need it later: Job interviews. It’s important to be prepared for any unexpected questions you might be asked in an interview. Be prepared to answer anything about yourself with confidence to ensure that you make a good impression on the recruiter.
2. You’re Not Invisible
It’s true, you do already have a lot to think about during a debate—what you’re going to say, the pace at which you’re going to say it and whether or not you’ll come out victorious. But there are still other factors to keep in mind. Many people mistake debate for something that is solely verbal, but the non-verbal component of debate is important too. Did you know that simply standing straight with a solid stance shows determination and can add weight to your arguments? During a debate, it’s important to maintain eye contact (with the audience and your opponent), keep a good posture, and be mindful of your body language and movements.
Why it’s important now: In a class-room debate you’ll want to make sure that your classmates and teachers are interested in what you’re saying, and strong body language will help capture and hold their attention.
Why you’ll need it later: Your future job may require you to speak publically or pitch ideas. Small things like good posture and eye contact can make all the difference in how your audience responds to what you’re saying.
3. Fake It ‘Till You Make It
It happens—you’ll complete hours of research, gather tons of information and practice until you can practice no more, and when it’s finally your time to shine, your opponent will catch you off-guard. As frustrating as this may be, you can’t hold back. The key to a successful debate is confidence, and you’ll want to present yourself with a lot of it. So when the unexpected happens, take a pause, gather your well-researched thoughts, and proceed with conviction.
Why it’s important now: At some point or another, every student has to perform under pressure. Debate helps us develop and hone the all-important skill of remaining cool and collected when tensions run high.
Why you’ll need it later: Your future job may require you to negotiate a contract with a client, or even a raise with your boss. Being able to resist stress and rally your arguments will go a long way to helping you reach your professional goals.
What life skills have you picked up through the fine art of debate?