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Monday, April 20, 2020

Debating in lockdown #1 - solo debating

We’re all missing a lot of things in lockdown. Seeing our friends; getting out of the house (and away from our families …); maybe even the opportunity to take our GCSEs and A-Levels.

Debaters will be missing the lively, stimulating, face to face interaction that school debating clubs used to give them. And yet, while the strange time we are living through brings many losses, it also offers opportunities for debaters. 

Online trainers like Joe Wicks have been offering virtual exercise sessions to ensure the nation’s muscles don’t waste away in lockdown. It’s no less important for debaters to keep their debating muscles exercised. This week we’re going to be looking at ways in which you can keep your debating skills in trim with some activities you can undertake by yourself.

Solo debating might seem like a contradiction in terms. The whole point of debating is that it is interactive. However, here are some exercises you can undertake on your own which will keep you at peak fitness for when you’re able to return to face to face debating.

1. Practise your preparation

Pick a motion, and take either proposition or opposition. See our earlier post on choosing a motion for ideas for good motions. Give yourself 15 minutes (or longer if you want to practise long prep). Prepare a speech for or against it. See our earlier post here on how to prepare for a debate.

2. Analyse your own performance

Once you’ve prepared a speech, perform it and record it on your own device (NB just as in a real debate DO NOT write it out; give it spontaneously, with as few notes as possible). Then play it back, pausing the video, taking notes. Don’t be embarrassed; no one else is going to see it. Notice how you use tone of voice; pace; timing. See if you can pick holes in your arguments; how could you have phrased them better? When you’ve done all that, record it again. Compare the second version with the first, seeing what improvements you’ve made. Repeat as often as you want, or move on to a new motion.

3. Debate against yourself

Prepare and record a proposition speech as above. Play it back, this time pausing from time to time to give yourself points of information. Respond to your own points of information. 

Then prepare and record a speech for the opposition, and repeat the above procedure.

Practise being a judge by deciding which side won the debate and why.


Next week we’ll be looking at ways in which you can use technology to keep interactive debating going in lockdown. Until then, stay well!

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