Of the two debates I participated in for the Intramural Debate competition on Thursday, I found my negative position debate to be the more effective and challenging of the two. The type of speaking that was being encouraged played much into the style I feel most comfortable with, where quick thinking and eloquence of opinion are more focused upon then research and fact (since few had done much if any research prior to the debate). I also noticed a few distinct advantages and disadvantages that speaking after the affirmative debater would pose that had to be accounted for if my argument were to succeed. First, by allowing the opponent to speak first, he was effectively setting the attitude of the debate and influencing the judge before I could speak. Also, my opponent was allowed three times to speak, getting not only the first but also the last word. In my favor however, I noticed that my speaking blocks were actually longer than my opponents, allowing me to fit more information into each round.
These facts influenced my speech in a couple ways. Because my opponent spoke first, I thought it was paramount that I address and counter all of his points before I tried to develop any of my own. By focusing the first minutes of my speaking on accomplishing this, I assured that when I did reach my points the judge would no longer be thinking about anything my opponent had mentioned, as I had already countered his. By accomplishing this quickly, I allowed myself a large amount of time to raise many points of my own (10 in all). By splitting up my argument into so many separate claims, I raised the chance that my opponent would not be able to address all of my points. I move quickly and confidently through each one, laying down only the basic information and not allowing myself to become sidetracked, as the quicker I introduced information the less likely my opponent would have time to formulate responses. The plan worked: my opponent was able to address only about half of my points before his time ran out, preventing him from raising new points of his own. I repeated this pattern again in my second round, addressing his arguments quickly and efficiently, and then using my remaining time to expand and enhance the points I had already mentioned, freshening them in the judge’s mind.
By effectively “blasting” my opponent with a large quantity of information, I ensured that I was on the offensive and he would spend most of his time defending against my points rather than making points of his own. This strategy both mitigated the amount of damage he could do with his last round (since he spent the whole time talking about what I had said rather than speaking about his own plan), and presented a bit of a psychological advantage: by speaking confidently and quickly, showing no hesitation, I managed to throw him off balance and feel threatened rather than in charge. There was a marked difference between his first round, which was delivered coolly and eloquently, and his second and third rounds, which were hesitant and ineffectual.
Both of our debates were utterly lacking actual textual information or statistics, instead primarily relying on the exchange of opinions and predictions, meaning that authority and believability of our points was based entirely on a mixture of eloquence, confidence, and logic. While I feel my opponent and I both had very logical arguments for and against the resolution, I spoke more confidently, which in turn lowered his confidence and eloquence significantly. In a speech where one cannot have the luxury of hiding behind expert opinions or actual statistics, I feel that once again confidence is one of a speaker’s major assets, as they must build credibility for themselves. I emphasized the point that I was actually in the class being debated, and used that to give myself an appearance of authority even though it in truth made my opinions no better than my opponents. Even when I was presenting rather tenuous rebuttals to my opponent’s arguments, I focused intently on giving the appearance of strength and confidence, while speaking from “personal experience”. With the amount of material I was covering, and the hurried nature of the debate, attitude seemed to carry more weight than relevance, as I noticed the judge nodding whenever I spoke loudest and clearest with the least hesitation in my voice. Specifically, using definite “It is” statements rather than “I think” seemed to make my points more authoritative and difficult to assault, while my opponent’s frequent use of “I feel that…” allowed me to attack his perception rather than his points, which made for an easier target.
Overall, the two most important parts of my argument were my structure and my poise. My structure ensured that I would address more information than my opponent, while my poise contributed to a perceptual advantage that left him uncertain and perhaps affected his argument negatively. Content, as seems to be true in most public speaking, brought up a distant third.