How to Gain Confidence for Debating

Three Methods:Debating with ConfidenceSharpening Your Debate SkillsCalming down Before a Debate

Debating can be a challenging and engaging activity, allowing you to pit your skills of persuasion against someone else's. However, debating can also be a nerve-wracking experience. Public speaking combined with a panel of judges can make even experienced debaters a bit nervous sometimes. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to relax during a debate, allowing you to focus and have the competitive advantage.

Method 1
Debating with Confidence

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    Be prepared for the debate. Many debates will give you some time to study and research your topic before the actual debate occurs. You'll want to spend plenty of time looking into the subject, doing your research and preparing your arguments. Feeling comfortable with the issue and your arguments can go a long way in keeping you calm during the debate.[1][2]
    • Don't be afraid to research positions that you might not think fit your argument's direction. You may miss a line of argument by skipping over apparently irrelevant research material.
    • Take plenty of notes when doing your research.
    • Learning more about the topic can help you stay flexible and adapt your arguments during a debate.
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    Remember that the audience and debate committee are on your side. Although it may not feel like it, the audience, judge and the committee all want to see you succeed. Everyone attending has come to see a debate in which all participants are at their best and enjoying themselves. Worrying about the audience silently judging your every word will only make you feel more nervous. Instead, focus on how much everyone is rooting for you, to help you relax and do your best.[3][4]
    • The audience isn't there to watch a disaster.
    • The arguments are the only thing being judged during a debate.
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    Build confidence amongst your team. Some debates will be between teams of debaters. If you are on such a team, you'll want to work together to encourage one another and build off of each other's arguments. Knowing that you have a good team to back you up can help you feel less alone and more confident during your debate.[5] [6]
    • Don't criticize your team-mates for mistakes during a debate. Focus and build off of what your team members did correctly to help your team look strong.
    • Use what your team-mates have already established during their arguments to build your own discussion points.
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    Don't worry about being perfect. Although you will want to try your best during a debate, focusing on perfectionism can actually hurt your performance. Thinking about saying the right thing at every moment can slow you down and may actually cause you make a mistake. Avoid worrying about having a perfect debate and allow yourself to relax and do your best.[7]
    • Let mistakes go and redirect your attention towards what you want to say.
    • Dwelling on a mistake can cause you to become even more nervous.
    • Staying positive and focusing on your overall direction can help you relax during your debate.
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    Act confident. Even if you don't feel confident, you can still act like you do. It's important to remember that you won't look as nervous as you might be feeling. The audience or judges won't notice if you're sweating or a bit shaky during your debate. So even if you aren't feeling confident, you can relax a bit knowing that no one else will notice.[8]
    • Acting confident can sometimes help you to actually feel confident.
    • Remember that everyone is there to hear your arguments, not judge you on how nervous you may or may not be.
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    Don't be afraid to engage the judge. It can be hard to know who to look at or speak to during a debate. You may not feel entirely comfortable looking up at the audience or the judge. However, directing your attention to the judge at times can be a great way to make your argument stick out. Knowing that the judge heard your arguments and is interested in them can help you relax and do your best during a debate.[9]
    • Give the judge a nod once in a while to non-verbally involve them in your argument.
    • Make plenty of points and give examples for the judge to take note of.
    • If the judge rejected a point, don't let it make you nervous. Be agreeable and confident that you can do without it.

Method 2
Sharpening Your Debate Skills

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    Get in a lot of practice debates. As with most other skills, practicing your debating abilities will make them stronger. You will also begin to feel much more comfortable during debates the more you are exposed to them. Make sure you get in plenty of practice to increase your skills and help you feel more at ease during your next debate.[10]
    • Try practicing with your debate groups as often as you can.
    • You can practice by yourself, taking both sides of an argument.
    • Try to replicate the style and form of the debates that you will be engaging with.
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    Find your debate style and stick with it. Although you may have been told one specific method that you are supposed to debate with, finding your own style can be a big help. Some people will prefer to speak quickly and briefly cover multiple points. Other debaters will prefer to speak more slowly and cover a few topics in depth. Whichever debate style you have, playing to your strengths and weaknesses can help you become a better debater.[11]
    • Don't be afraid to let some of your personality come through in your arguments.
    • Avoid forcing yourself to debate in a style that doesn't fell natural to you.
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    Work on how you make your arguments. Focusing on what you are saying is a big part of debating. However, it's just as important for your to focus on how you say your arguments. Delivering your arguments with the right body language and tone can go a long way in making them even stronger. During your debates, you'll want to use your body language to convey a sense of confidence.[12]
    • Avoid speaking overly fast.
    • Remember to make eye contact with the audience and judges.
    • Don't look at your note cards throughout the entire debate.
    • Stand up straight and avoid crossing your arms.
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    Take some helpful courses. There are many courses available that can be helpful to your debate practices. These courses will expose you to the history, form and practice of debating, allowing you to reflect on and improve your own skills. Consider taking a few of courses in these areas of study to help round out your debating skills:[13]
    • History
    • Logic
    • Political science
    • Philosophy
    • Debating courses

Method 3
Calming down Before a Debate

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    Take deep breaths. When people get nervous, they tend to breath poorly, resulting in even greater feelings of anxiety. To help combat any growing sense of nervousness, you'll want to take a few deep and full breaths. These deep breaths will help restore a normal breathing rate and can help you to quickly calm down.[14]
    • Breath in slowly through your nose, filling up your lungs entirely.
    • Allow your breath to naturally and easily flow out of your lungs on your exhalation.
    • Take as many slow and deep breaths as you need to help you calm down.
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    Move around. Feelings of nervousness will often result in excessive energy. This energy may actually make someone feel more nervous if it is allowed to build up. To help you relax before a debate, it can be a good idea to move your body and expend some of the extra nervous energy you might have.[15]
    • You could try swinging your arms to help reduce how nervous you feel.
    • Doing some squats, sit ups or push ups can help get rid of excess nervous energy.
    • Taking a brisk walk can help you feel more relaxed before a debate.
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    Try listening to music. Many professional athletes have found that listening to music before a game can help them calm down and focus. You might try doing the same thing before a debate. Listen to some of your favorite music to help get you in the right mindset and move beyond your feelings of nervousness.[16]
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    Accept that you are nervous. It's perfectly normal to feel nervous before a debate. Even well experienced debaters and public speakers can feel nervous before going out in front of an audience or judges. Accepting your nervousness can help you feel at ease with it, allowing it to occur without engaging it.[17]

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Building and Maintaining Self Confidence | Debates