One of the greatest yet underestimated joys of life is experienced when you succeed in convincing someone to see your point of view. And, what better way is there to do so than debating!
In societal contexts, although the term 'debate' is presumptuously associated with argument, nowadays, it is more broadly seen as a skill or even an expression of opinion.
Various national and international debate competitions consolidate this train of thought. In such competitions, two individuals/teams are faced with the challenge to persuade the other that they are right on any speculated topic.
What however, is important to note is that the winner is not the only one to win a prize in the end, but also the participants, who leave with a prize – the award of enhanced confidence; vast knowledge on current affairs; refined problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
The purview of debates is not just limited to recreational debate competitions but also extends to legislative decision-making. The parliament engages in frequent debates to introduce new laws and resolve domestic and foreign matters. This highlights the height of outcomes achieved through debating and the opportunities that can be enjoyed by possessing coherent speaking skills.
The merits of debating lie not only in building self-esteem and confidence or simply helping one break free from the shackles of stage-fright. It paints a way bigger picture wherein amongst these debaters, we also see future leaders whose voices someday will echo in harmony with the nation.
Academic institutions such as schools, colleges and universities form debating committees or councils that organise these competitions annually to encourage active participation of students and the development of good oratory skills.
While addressing debate societies in Bangladesh, two names surface instantly: Bangladesh Debate Council (BDC) and BRAC University Debate Club (BUDC).
"There are obviously some generic benefits such as how it improves your critical thinking, gives you confidence and stuff, but there is a lot more to it than just that," says President of BDC, Asif Mehedi Adi, when asked about the merits of debating.
"It honestly makes your life more interesting. Imagine possessing the ability to look at things from multiple perspectives, having the ability to stand out in a crowd. After I started debating, it was almost as if everything around me started making a lot more sense. This really helps with your overall development in your personal as well as professional life," he adds.
Fardeen Ameen, former President, BDC added that his time as a debater equipped him with a new network and increased knowledge on various topics. He became a better thinker and person on top of being a better speaker.
"I think the main merit for me was the ability to learn so much about almost everything from one activity," says Aliya Fairuz, the former president of BUDC.
"What debating makes you uniquely do is that it allows you to question a lot of preexisting opinions and shapes into a more analytical thinker. Even academically, I think debating has also helped me a lot in terms of presentation skills."
Aliya believes that besides performing in debates, managing debate circuits is equally rewarding. She emphasised that running a club also taught her a lot about dealing with diverse individuals and building accessible networks that she exclusively owes the sport to.
Aliya became the champion of the Edinburgh Cup ESL this year, while Asif participated in the prestigious Doxbridge World Debate Tournament held online last year due to the ongoing pandemic. Fardeen had participated in Presidency University Kolkata's Derozio Memorial Debate 2015 and the West Bengal National University of Judicial Science (NUJS) Parliamentary Debate.
As far as national competitions are concerned, all three have made it as finalists and winners of several open debate championships organised by BDC and BUDC.
When asked about how debates benefit students in general, Wasif Khan, the coach of Team Bangladesh for World Schools Debating Championship 2020, says: "Debating is one of the most complete skill development extra-curricular activities. The process of argumentation requires rapid problem solving and analytical ability. In the modern world, we are dealing with new issues every day, so solving problems and thinking in a structured manner is paramount. Another crucial benefit could be the immense networking opportunities with the broader and increasingly global debating community."
Wasif also stressed how debates equip students with research skills and adds a strong research element to debate, particularly conceptual understanding of almost all issues, ranging from social justice to religion to economics and even global politics. Hence, aspiring debaters can only imagine the benefits of being up-to-date on current events through intense research.
In addition to the World Championship, Wasif has trained the Islamic University of Technology for Malaysia Asian British Parliamentary 2020. He has also been coaching some of the top schools in Bangladesh such as Scholastica, Viqarunnisa, Rajuk, Academia and Summerfield for all competitions across the nation.
Five tips to become an excellent debater
1. Learn your topic vastly
There's no alternative to having thorough knowledge, through profound research on the stipulated motion. The more you know, the more awareness you shall have of what makes your stance strong and what makes it weak. This way, you are always prepared to harbour through the unexpected.
2. Retain composure
It is essential to be in charge of your nerves no matter how stressful the ambience. The key to acquiring complete calmness is shifting the focus to your performance rather than its outcome. If you restrict your thoughts on giving your best without the pressure to excel, you will have overcome any nervousness without even realising it.
3. Maintain requisite body language and etiquette
Our experts have confirmed that sometimes, judges weigh the skills of keeping up good body language as highly as that of delivering a good speech. The combination of solid eye contact with the audience in a firm posture, along with a fluent speech delivery makes you an invincible debater!
4. Stick to your stance
Counter arguments from the opponent can be confusing and, to the point that makes you unknowingly stray away from your standing on the given topic. To avoid this, make sure to stick to your position throughout.
5. Be persuasive
The main point of debate is convincing the other side. So, if you advance your arguments with potency and logic rather than simply patchworking a remnant of the opponent's speech, you will shine every time.