6 Ways to Win a Debate Without Even Speaking | Terry Guo

Remember: Prep Phase is IMPORTANT

1. Quality over Quantity Remember, you DO NOT need to have 3 arguments for your side of the debate. Inexperienced debaters might have an obsession over thinking of three arguments during the 15 minutes of the preparation phase, but what matters in the end is making sure that your arguments stay intact by the end of the debate. Compared to 3 weak arguments, two robust arguments are more likely to stand by the end of the debate.

2. Impwaafect Definitions are ‘kay

Another mistake inexperienced debaters often make during the 15 minutes of preparation time is that they spend too much time looking up the perfect definition that will best suit their side. Although definitions are definitely somewhat important in a debate, they become gradually less important in debates with more experienced debaters. This is because both sides will often be able to reach a consensus on the way terms in a motion should be defined. It’s also very important to never resort to definition debates, as it shows the judge that your team has a very low-level analysis of the motion. If you happen to disagree with your opponent’s definition, respectfully tell your opponents and judge on the points of contention and explain to them why your definition is better by citing a more credible source or telling the judge why your definition is more appropriate for the debate.

3. Define outside the box

You do not need to take the definitions in a motion literally. For example, during the 2017 Shanghai Regional Round, one of the debate motions was: “We should revive great leaders from the past”. The word “revive” here does not need to be in the literal sense here; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, revive could also mean to “restore interest in or the popularity of”. By doing this, you make it a lot easier for your team in argument construction. In the end, it’s all about using the most efficient amount of time to find the definition that best helps your side of the debate.

4. Causation =/= correlation

Never mix the two up. When thinking of arguments, always pay close attention to whether two parameters in a debate have a correlative or causal relationship because mixing the two up would make it very easy for the opposition to rebut. Always tell the judge the threshold for a certain outcome and how your side of the debate fulfills this threshold. Let’s consider the motion for the 2017 ToC debate showcase: “That is is more important for a country’s citizens to be happy than well-informed”. The affirmative first speaker came up and talked about depression leading to suicide and that it is a bad thing. However, how much depression leads to suicide? Is being well-informed equivalent to higher rates of depression? Again, be careful when using extreme examples to support your argument. There is no doubt that suicide is a terrible thing, but you must prove how your side of the debate fulfills the threshold before you can have access to the impact.

5. Dodge the Bullet

Ever found yourself spending most of your time thinking of rebuttals for the opposition’s first contention and not having much to say for subsequent arguments? Well…don’t do that, but also use it to your own advantage. There’s a tendency for debaters to spend a lot of time trying to take the first opposing argument down. Sequence your stronger argument later in your case and your weaker first so that there is higher chance that the stronger point will still be standing by the end of the debate.

6. Do the Work

Darren has already said in the OG Debate Guide that WSC debate does not support high-level frameworks, but there’s still much you can do to frame the debate. Identify the crux of the argument for both sides of the debate and add it into your case. For example, in a debate about whether or not humans should put more research in artificial intelligence, one can say the following to set up a framework: “Our team believes that the crux of this debate is a matter of who can have full control of artificial intelligence and here’s why our side of the debate fulfills this”. Let’s face it, judges don’t like to do the work figuring out what is most important, so you need to instead. Single out the most important thing in the debate that will lead your team to victory for them; once you fulfill what you said is most important, there’s no reason for the judge to vote for the opposition! ​

Finally, implement these tips slowly and build on that. Don’t go into a regional round trying to use every single tip without practice, it will screw you up!