Jayadev Sreekanth provides a glimpse into some of the whys and hows of being a good debater.

As a judge, on what qualities/skills do you evaluate speakers?

It depends on the type of debate in question. In parliamentary debates, I generally look for content and persuasiveness, i.e., how knowledgeable does the speaker seem about the subject, and how well is he able to tie that knowledge to a persuasive logic that ensures his point of view is fact and logic-driven. In other debates, I would generally look at the oratory prowess and spontaneity, as much as content.

How should one prepare for a debate competition?

Understand the format of the debate you are going to attend and really get to know it inside out, including what is the style of debating, what are the key areas of evaluation, and so on.

Once you understand the format, try and get in touch with someone who has some experience (YouTube videos can be really useful), and get as much real world practice as possible.

Whether there is an upcoming debate or not, keep abreast of current affairs and know what is happening around you especially in economics, politics, business, human rights and so on.

Can you list some tips and tricks to survive debating competitions?

Few things can definitely help anybody become a good debater. In most quality debates (Parliamentary debates, in particular) content is king. If you have a good understanding of real world issues (you can do that by reading the news and keeping yourself up-to-date on current affairs), you will be far more confident. Another thing I would recommend is to debate (or rather break down) any statement into its parts and analyse. It is also important to not judge your ability relative to others in a debate — the focus should be on your viewpoint and what you can do to prove it. And lastly, try and get some sleep; debates can be exhausting with all-night parties, events and preparation. But seriously, try and get some sleep.

Jayadev Sreekanth is a prominent figure in Chennai’s debating circles. A winner of several debating competitions in Chennai and Kerala while in school and college, he went on to become the adjudicator (judge) of multiple national-level parliamentary debates and corporate debates for the middle and top management.

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