The goal of competitive debating is to persuade.
The Toronto Debating society follows parliamentary debate procedures. The forms of debate are similar to that in the House of Commons, with all remarks addressed to the Spearker or Chair, and Members referred to as "honourable", standing on each side of the house to oppose each other. The side in favour of the motion is the "government." The question at hand in a debate is a 'motion', also referred to as a 'resolution', or a 'proposition'. For example, "Be it resolved that Canadians should drive on the left." We have also evolved our own set of rules and scoring criteria to suit the purposes of the club.
The key to being persuasive is to present arguments that support a position and counter arguments that refute an opposing position. By itself, however, presenting well-reasoned arguments and counter arguments will not usually be enough to guarantee success. A debater's speech must be well organized so s/he makes good use of his or her time. The logic should be impeccable and the speech should be delivered with clarity, confidence and flair. Finally, debaters on a team should display evidence of working together.
We don't necessarily believe a single word we're saying!
To debate effectively, you don’t have to believe in what you are saying about a particular subject; you do have to make convincing arguments about your proposition and persuade your audience that your point of view is more sound than your opponent(s). In fact, a good challenge for all debaters is to take the side of an argument that challenges any given belief.
The Toronto Debating Society fosters an environment of encouragement and support. We also aim to balance fun and formality. The formality is derived from guidelines which we adhere to during a debate.
There are few rules of decorum we follow as a group. Upon arriving at the podium, a debater should thank the Speaker for the introduction and address the House. Comments should be directed to the house (i.e. audience) and not to the opposing debaters. Debaters must respect any instructions from the Speaker and they should adhere to the given time limit. Debaters should also remain behind the podium while delivering their presentation.
Banging on the table and heckling (defined as “an occasional single-word outburst; e.g. “source”, “shame”) are acceptable end encouraged - in the spirit of good-natured fun. If the outburst is well timed and comical, the adjudicator may even award points for it. Beyond this, the Speaker will get involved to put the debaters back in line and the adjudicator could deduct points for rowdiness.
Electronic devices (used to communicate or search the internet) are not permitted during a debate, with the exception of using a device in lieu of pre-written paper notes. This prohibition also applies before an "Impromptu Debate," where advance research is specifically disallowed. Props are not permitted.
Take the plunge and sign up
You will need to become a member at this point because only members are allowed to sign up for official debating duties.
Browse upcoming debate topics in the 'Debates' section. Ideally, it's best to start with a 'Beginners Debate'.
Connect with your partner to decide how you will approach the resolution and make your case.
Prepare 2 -3 arguments to support your case.
Consider the arguments your opponents are likely to make and be ready to refute them.
Remember to find one or two points to support your partner.
During the debate, listen carefully to your opponents and find one or two points of rebuttal.
Finish by asking the audience to support your point of view.
- Listen carefully to the adjudicator's feedback and comments after your debate.
Discuss the debate with other members, all of whom can provide feedback and suggestions for improvement.
Watch your debate on video. Take notes on what worked and what didn't, including vocal tone, body language and eye contact.
With a few exceptions for special debate formats, the Toronto Debating Society uses the following format for our debates:
Prime Minister (7:00)
The PM sets out the government's arguments in favour of the resolution and these in turn will set the direction of the debate.
Leader of the Opposition (7:00)
The LO provides the opposition philosophy, presents the opposition counter-thesis with supporting arguments and rebuts the PM's arguments
Member of the Government (5:00)
The MG proves an overview and further develops the government position, attacks the opposition's analysis of the government's position, rebuts the arguments of the LO and introduces new arguments.
Member of the Opposition (5:00)
The MO reviews the opposition philosophy, attacks the government's analysis of the opposition's position, rebuts the arguments of the MG and introduces new arguments.
Opposition summation (2:00)
The LO lists the opposition's arguments, addresses the main issues arising from the debate and restates the opposition counter-thesis. There will be no new arguments.
Government summation (2:00)
The PM concludes the debate by summarizing the round. The PM shall: list the government's arguments, highlight dichotomies between the two sides and underscore the need to support the resolution. There will be no new arguments.