10 Debating Tips and Techniques: Discover Classical Debating Skills

One of the hallmarks of Classical education is learning how to debate in high school. To be proficient at this, students must learn good debating techniques that help them dissect the topic they’re studying. In addition, good debating skills will give students the confidence to approach many topics and deal with them in an informed way. In this article, we aim to teach students some debating tips to help them learn how to think more critically about many subjects.

Rebbecca Devitt

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. If you want to do my course on how to homeschool, click here.

Specifically, we’ll talk about:

  • Offensive Debating Tactics: Debating Tips to Attack Your Opponent’s Topic
  • Defensive Debating Tactics: Debating Tips to Protect Your Topic
  • Other Debating Skills
  • The Benefits of Learning Classical Debating Skills and Techniques

Let’s get started!

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Debating Tips and Techniques

The 10 best debating tips and techniques are:

  1. Preparation of your topic
  2. Stay on topic
  3. Speak slowly, clearly, and charismatically
  4. Be confident with your topic
  5. Think about your body language and what it’s saying to your audience
  6. Listen and take notes
  7. Anticipate your opponent’s questions before they’re uttered
  8. Tell a story or give an illustration with an example to make your point
  9. Use a strong conclusion
  10. Don’t take cheap shots at your opponents

We’ll look at these in more detail below.

Offensive Debating Techniques: Debating Tips to Attack Your Opponent’s Topic

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

This point is arguably the most important debating skill, as it affects many of the other debating techniques.

For instance, if you prepare your material well, you’ll be confident and more believable.

You’ll also be less likely to go down rabbit holes yet more likely to give a clear and cohesive illustration of your point.

If you can, try to jot down three points for your argument and three points against your argument.

The latter tip means you’ll also be able to anticipate your opponent’s views and better rebut them when they express them.

Stay on Topic

You only have a limited amount of time to state your case.

If you use that time to go off-topic, you lose valuable time.

So, instead, stay on topic by telling your audience your three points, elaborating on them further as time permits.

Another great debating tip is adding three more points to your first three points (again, this is very time-dependent).

This will help you stay on the topic, too.

Speak Slowly, Clearly, and Charismatically

When students are new to debating or public speaking, they often speak hurriedly or mumble.

This isn’t very attractive or charismatic behavior for a speaker, and, in the long run, it makes it harder for the audience to like you or want to agree with your points.

When debating, you want to be amicable and likable. People want to be on your side when you have charisma.

Be Confident With Your Topic

If you look like you believe what you’re saying, your audience will also have confidence that you know what you’re saying, and have a basis for it.

Conversely, if you look nervous or seem like you don’t really believe what you’re saying, your audience will not be confident in you or your message.

So, be confident with your message.

It’s one of the best debating techniques of the lot!

Of course, you’ll feel most confident when you’ve prepared for your subject well – so don’t neglect preparation.

One debate site put it like this: Always act like you’re winning, even if you’re not.

Think About Your Body Language

Another great debating technique is to make sure you’re using your body language to agree with the points you’re making.

Make sure your body indicates confidence by:

  • Looking at your audience and opponents in their faces (a look, not a stare, is what you need here)
  • Using your arms to talk
  • Smiling (where appropriate)
  • Keeping a relaxed posture
  • NOT folding your arms
  • NOT looking at the ground

When your team member is making their case, make sure you nod and agree with their points.

Your Audience and Judge’s Body Language in Debate

Also, ensure you think about your audience and judge’s body language.

If you do this, you’ll be able to see if you are getting:

  • blank stares of boredom – which means it’s time to make an illustration and spice up your argument or make it more cogent
  • a look of anger or frustration – which means it might be time to tone down the rhetoric or think about another angle
  • rapt attention and interest – which means you’re on the right track. Continue with what you’re doing!

Your audience’s body language can tell you a lot about whether your message is being received well.

So you definitely want to keep an eye on that.

Defensive Debating Techniques: Debating Tips to Protect Your Topic

Listen and Take Notes

Be careful to listen to the main points of your opponent’s arguments.

Don’t try to take notes on everything.

Jot down the major arguments so you’ll be able to rebut this at a future time.

Also, note down any weaknesses in their logic that can be rebutted.

When You’re the Stronger Debating Partner…

When debating on a team where you’re the stronger debater, make sure you’re not trying to answer the points that have been addressed to your weaker partner’s points.

Instead, make sure you compare notes in the interim (while the opponent is speaking), showing your weaker partner how they might best score points.

In this way, you’re teaching your weaker partner to stand up and learn debate skills themselves instead of trying to prop up their argument.

If you’re on a team with them in the future, you’ll find your partner is better than they were when you started.

Anticipate Your Opponents Questions Before They Come

If you’re in a debating competition, you want to anticipate your opponent’s questions in addition to the judge’s or audience’s questions.

The Rhode Island Urban Debate League had these debating tips and tricks about considering the thinking about topics comparatively:

Every argument that you make, at the end of the round, will be compared against something the other team said. If you’re affirmative, for example, you should always be thinking in the mindset of “how does my plan compare to the status quo?” [i.e., doing nothing, what the negative frequently advocates]. For both sides, the most effective way to do this is through impact calculus. You should always be weighing the relative importance of arguments, especially ultimate impact claims against each other. A nuclear attack by terrorists because of the collapse of the Pakistani state is undoubtedly extremely bad, but is the spread of nuclear weapons to many more states even worse? If you make comparative claims about why your arguments matter more than the other teams, you can win the debate round even if the other team wins their arguments! A good flow will help you keep track of the arguments.

Improve your children's public speaking skills by teaching them these debating techniques. Discover these cool tips which allow children to become more eloquent and graceful with their speech. #debatingtips #debatingtechniques #debatingskills

Other Debating Tips

Tell a Story or Give an Illustration with an Example

If your audience doesn’t look convinced, yet you feel like your argument is convincing, and you know the debate topic well, tell a short story (very short) or give a quick illustration to make your point.

Forming a picture in your listener’s eyes can do much as ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.

If your audience is also suffering from a somnolescent attitude, a story might help pique their interest once again and get you in their good books.

Use a Strong Conclusion

Even if a person wanders a little in their debate, a person with good debating skills can finish nicely with a strong conclusion that states their thesis point and main points clearly.

If this is done with confidence, a lot can be forgiven!

Also, if you’re taking part in a debating competition, you want to look the judges squarely in the eye as you send your point home.

When Debating, Don’t Take Cheap Shots.

Avoid taking cheap shots at your opponents, as the audience might think you’re a jerk. This also indicates that you’re arrogant and you don’t care for your opponents.

As debaters, we’re not called to agree with our opponents all the time. However, we can still love them and deal amicably with them. After all, your opponent might be on your side one day!

Specifically, don’t take cheap shots by:

  • Making fun of a speaker when they’re nervous, or they’ve made some fault
  • Making racial slurs or commenting on a person’s physique or background
  • Don’t heckle your opponent while they’re speaking – this isn’t polite and shows you are ill-mannered
  • Taking the other person’s words out of context – this is infuriating to your opponents, and your judges may not be too happy when they discover this.

This all comes down to being the better man (or woman).

Be gracious to your opponent in all situations, even if they’re rude.

But perhaps this isn’t just a debating tip – it’s a general lesson for life.Debating skills are one of the best things you can give your children. They allow them to argue persuasively, learning debating tips which make them more eloquent and well-spoken. Discover great tips to help children become gracious public speakers. #debatingtips #debatingskills #debatetechniques

The Benefits of Learning Classical Debating Skills and Techniques

The benefits of learning debating techniques are many.

Here is a list of the benefits you’ll find when you debate:

  1. Improved critical thinking skills as students evaluate the topic and research it beforehand
  2. Debtors acquire better poise, speech delivery, and public speaking skills
  3. Increased student information retention as students engage in active learning over passive learning
  4. Improved listening and note-taking skills. To rebut well, students must listen to their opponents closely and take clear and precise notes.
  5. Increased self-confidence. After debating for a while, students relax and become more confident in what they’re doing. This leads to more self-confidence in general.
  6. Enhanced teamwork skills and collaboration. Debating is a great way to bond with those around you, especially those on your team!
  7. Learning better ways to graciously state one’s point with gentleness. While we often find informed minds in society, we don’t always find these people have gentleness. Similarly, we may find gentle minds but not always informed minds. Having both characteristics is rare and beneficial for all listeners.
  8. Help students identify holes in their theories and concoct more balanced arguments. When we debate, we must humbly admit that we’re not always right and that our arguments could use a little change. Debate helps us refine our arguments as such.
  9. Help students better structure their thoughts. Often, we derive arguments based on our emotions, unexamined beliefs, experiences, or (even worse) hearsay. Debating helps us put our thesis on the table while other people work on picking that theory apart. If we’re humble, we emerge with an argument that stands up more rigorously to testing.
  10. Debating is lots of fun! Not only is debating another way to educate yourself, but students also get a lot of enjoyment out of the process.
  11. More confidence to stand up for the truth when a discussion is promoting falsehoods or inaccuracies. This is the ultimate aim that homeschooling parents desire. We don’t just debate for debating’s sake – we debate to teach a skill – and this is it.

You can look at the benefits of debating more closely in the article, 10 Benefits of Debating in the Classroom: Importance of Debate in Education.

A Book With Debating Tips and Tricks

The Debater’s Guide, Fourth Edition is a book with good debating tips.

This book (whose first edition was written in the 1960s) is aimed at students debating in a team – that is, professional debating.

It shows students how to:

  • resolve the key problem faced by debaters
  • present arguments forcefully and clearly while answering criticisms effectively
  • build a case, step-by-step
  • review strategies for refutation and defense
  • engage in cross-examination
  • do solid research
  • think critically about the topic at hand.

It also shows you how to budget your limited time and organize your thoughts with an outline.

The Debater’s Guide is also practical as it gives you engaging examples and graphic presentations.

It’s a relevant book geared towards college and high school debating (which is where formal debating happens most).

How can you make your children better at persuading others graciously? Learn great debating techniques! Here you can learn wondeful debate tips to help you to convey your point in a winsome manner. #debatetips #debatetechniques #debateskills


Not only can you learn plenty from learning classical debating techniques, but you can also have plenty of fun as you learn how to use your words to their full potential. Debating tips you learn in the classroom can also be invaluable as you learn to navigate the real world and make your points known without giving undue offense to your listeners. Debating skills also weed out your ‘not so amazing’ arguments to help you develop a more rounded worldview.

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Rebecca Devitt

Most adults don't particularly want to relive their schooling experience on a daily basis. They would gladly move on to a new life devoid of homework and teachers. Very, very few adults will passionately blog about their schooling some 15 years after graduating. This makes Rebecca Devitt somewhat unique. As it happens, she was homeschooled. And she loved it. Still does. And she wishes every kid could get a taste of homeschooling at its very best. Her website How Do I Homeschool, is a springboard for parents to see what a life of homeschooling could be for both them & their children. When she's not blogging Rebecca is still homeschooling her-adult-self by learning Latin, growing weird vegetables and most importantly looking after her two children Luke & Penny. She has a husband Tristan and is a participant at Wollongong Baptist Church. She's also written a book about why parents should homeschool called 'Why on Earth Homeschool'.

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    • Haha…thank you. I think that was all that I had in my head. They always say that if you can’t do it, teach it, haha! But, I think these are the things I wished I did more when I was debating in college.