Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Help! I have to be in a debate!
This clip shows PM Kevin Rudd trouncing his opposition leader Tony Abbott in a debate last May. K Rudd has now been ousted as Prime Minister but we don't know yet if Mr Abbott will be the winner. The commentary provides interesting insights into what works with an audience (and what doesn't). Given their recent role reversals, debaters everywhere might do well to watch and take notes.
In Part 1 of this post about debating and it's 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. The issues that apply to preparing group presentations are in play.
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 (if you have that many) must argue against the opposition, make a few more points and conclude your case.
Preparing will make a huge difference (duh). Talk to each other in advance and make the debate a story that you ‘co-present’. 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. This is not usually done well in public debates so if you can pull it off it will work well.
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.
In a previous post I've provided a rundown on handling lights, mikes and lecterns. Acting with aplomb as you step up and speak will work wonders with your audience. Remember to eyeball them, and to SMILE. Don't talk to 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 thinking on your feet.
Keep to time, it is really important.
Remember there will be tweeting and sms-ing going on around you. It's spooky because you can't know what they're saying, 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.