I’ve lately been involved in many online debates, and have also learnt a lot from foreign debaters. I wanted to share some of the new tips I gained with my readers and also keep a record of the new strategies that I am learning.
1. Say why the problem is ESPECIALLY significant in a modern day context.
The more your argument is grounded in reality, the more persuasive it is. I think this is quite clear even without examples.
2. Especially for clashes about human actions, organize your responses into “scenarios.”
Human beings are unpredictable creatures. By the same token, human actions are also unpredictable and on a spectrum. So often in middle school level debates, people (including myself) often have quarrels about whether a certain actor is rational enough or not. Then, it is not enough to negate your opponent’s characterization. You need to tell the judge why in both scenarios your case works. For instance, in a debate about decapitation of terrorist organizations, while one team would argue that terrorist organizations fragment by themselves, the other team would argue that these organizations adapt to decapitation and change in a much more dangerous way. As the team claiming for the effectiveness of decapitation strategies, you can negate that organizations change. But that isn’t enough You should say: “Mr, madam speaker, two scenarios. Number one, when these organizations fragment. Number two, when these organizations adapt. I will tell you why in both scenarios, we win in this debate.”
3. In all debates, state a metric to judge this debate, and explain why your team is better doing it.
Let’s say that we are debating about apples versus oranges. Side apple can talk about how apples have more vitamins, have more diverse kinds, and what not. Side orange can talk about the benefits of orange as well. But if both has benefits and harms, there needs to be someone who doesn’t only explain the benefits and harms, but also weigh it against them. So in such a debate, side apple might state that modern people lack nutrients due to a homogeneous and unhealthy diet, and thus the amount of nutrients must be the metric of a “good fruit.” That way, you now explain the importance of your benefit and state why it is more important than that of the other side’s benefit. It is, in fact, best to do this at first speaker, and have all three speakers continue this on for the entire debate. If your opponents do this, you can engage using these two tactics: (1) if first speaker does this, actively contest those metrics and state your metric. Third speaker might even compare the two metrics and say why your side wins. (2) But always, an even if case helps. So if the metric comparison now becomes a deadlock (or is likely to become one), use their metric to judge your team, and say why even on the grounds of your opponents, you still win. Rhetoric: “Okay, mister and madam speaker. Side (gov/opp) continuously states that their metric is better, probably because they know that they cannot win outside those grounds. So I, as (_th speaker), will accept their characterization, and fight on their grounds and metrics. Then, if we prove to you that we can win even on the metrics of side (gov/opp), it is clear that we win this debate.”
4. Always keep on eye if their characterization works well with their arguments.
Often, some characterizations work against some of their arguments. If this happens, exploit it. Even if it doesn’t, you can use burden-pushing to first make their premise sound worse than it is, and use it against them.
5. Use illustrations, personal examples, or analogies to make it easier for the judge to understand.
I think this is quite self-explanatory. But the scary and empowering thing about rhetoric is that it often renders logical fallacies sound logical and smothers gaps in logic.
That level requires a lot of practice, but even if you don't reach that level, good rhetoric acts like glue between bricks.
6. All arguments should end with the motion.
Link ideas back to your stance or main point
7. Finally, tie ideas together.
This is different from “link the ideas back to your stance / main point.” By the moment it becomes second speakers’ turn to speak, there will be a lot of ideas lying around. It is your role as second speaker or whip to clean them up, and tie them together. Also, when ideas are tied together, they become extensions of oneanother, thus complementing and strengthening each other. So, for instance, under the motion “THW not allow the super rich to participate in elections,” gov’t would run an argument about democratic ideals, claiming that we value “inclusivity” in democracy—the idea that anyone should be able to advance their idea, and not be placed at an unfair advantage because of their wealth. Let’s say that opp claims that this is excluding the rich, and thus is undemocratic. You will probably refute this by saying that there will be politicians that represents the need of the super rich, even under your side because is democracy is inclusive and all-encompassing when it comes to beliefs. Do you see how you can tie your argument and your rebuttal here together? While they have different content, the idea is basically the same: inclusivity in democracy. Now you do not only have a powerful extension, but you can also attack with more nuance and depth.