I love walking in the countryside. However, sometimes it is quite a stressful experience.

When I walk in the English countryside, much of my time is taken up with looking at the map, holding it sideways, upside down, the wrong way round, looking at this tree and that mountain, trying to work out if we should have turned left at that stile or right at that stream, trying not to argue with whoever I'm walking with. This is partly because I'm rubbish at map reading, but it is also because there are very few signposts in the English countryside.

When I walk in Switzerland, though, it's a different matter. There, they have neat, tidy, yellow signposts every mile or so pointing you in the right direction and telling you that it is 1 hour and 10 minutes to the lake, 1 hour and 40 minutes to the river, and 2 hours and 5 minutes to the town (where you will find toilets, a bus stop and a cafe serving delicious hot chocolate). Walking in Switzerland is a very low stress experience.

What has this got to do with debating?

  • You want your listeners to have a low stress experience as they listen to your speech. Make your speech like Switzerland. Fill it with signposts, telling the listeners where you are going.
  • Say what you're going to say. Say it. Say you've said it. Then say it again. Don't be afraid of repetition.
  • Start by stating what your three points are (and don't have more than three).
  • Then introduce your first point.
  • Amplify and expand on your first point.
  • Remind everyone what your first point was.
  • Repeat this for each of your three points.
  • Finally, remind everyone what your three points were.
  • Say what you're going to say. Say it. Say you've said it. Then say it again. Don't be afraid of repetition.

See what I just did? You won't forget my point about signposting. If you use signposting well, your listeners won't forget your points either.

And remember: amongst your listeners are the judges, who decide who wins the debate. Signpost well, and they will remember your argument.

You need to remember something before you can understand it. You need to understand something before you can be persuaded by it. Debates are won by the side who are more persuasive. So effective signposting can point you the way to victory.

Put in lots of those lovely yellow signposts in your speech, and you'll soon be relaxing at the cafe of victory, tucking into the hot chocolate of triumph.