How to debate: Conveying your side effectively

Members of the Granite Bay Speech and Debate Team share some insight on debating.


Shreya Nagunuri

2019-2020 Granite Bay Speech and Debate Team Back row, from left to right: Easha Narayanan, Srinidhi Chandraskaren, Sriyanka Mandava, Avanthika Panchapakesan, Ipsha Pandey, Ishna Pandey, Shrina Pandey Front row, left to right: Avanti Ramraj, Shreya Nagunuri, Kriti Vasudevan

Not a soul searches for squabbles, but somehow the most sympathetically sweet humans still end up in some. 

Here are multiple tips and tricks directly from some of the Granite Bay Speech and Debate team members in order to assure you are presenting your side of the argument in the most efficient way possible. 

Junior Shreya Nagunuri has been competing in speech and debate for about five years, and junior Claire Sawyer has also competed in speech and debate since middle school.

According to Nagunuri and Sawyer:

  • Be confident in your opinion, whether or not you are prepared for a debate 

“A lot of people don’t sound confident…(even) when they’re 100% correct,” Nagunuri said. 

When you don’t sound confident, you are unknowingly showcasing that you either are not educated on the topic or are wrong in the argument, which is why mere confidence can have a powerful impact Nagunuri said.

  • Be understanding of all perspectives, even if you disagree with them. 

“You have to be open minded,” Nagunuri said. “You might not agree with it, but you have to get to a place where you can say, ‘I might not agree with you, but I can see where you are coming from.’”

Having an understanding of your opponent’s situations makes it more possible for you to make valid points that they will agree with, she explained.

  • Be mindful of the situation, especially when touching on someone’s personal life. 

“(For example) personal matters should have been distanced from policy matters in (the presidential debate),” Nagunuri said.

“Don’t be scared to talk about any topic…but also be mindful of words that come out of your mouth,” Sawyer said. “You can argue your position in a respectful way while also dismantling your opponent’s argument.”

  • Organize your argument into a few main points

Having a few main points to fall back on helps you stay on track while debating, especially if your opponent is interrupting you. It also helps keep your thoughts organized, instead of chaotic sentences that don’t fit together Sawyer said.

  • Back up your argument with logic and facts and know your facts

“You can’t just throw a bunch of numbers out there and (say) ‘See, this is why I win the argument’,” Sawyer said.

Many people assume that because they have a percentage or a big number, they automatically win the argument. Frequently, people also recall numbers wrong, and then insist that they are correct.

  • Have an analysis

“You need to have good analysis for your facts, which is very important,” Sawyer said. “(In other words, explain) why this (fact or piece of information) is important to my argument, this is why (my argument is) going to impact the real world and this is why I don’t think you’re right.”