There are countless types of debates, ranging from British Parliamentary to Policy Debates. This article will go over some general facts about debating.


Study previous debates. That being said, don’t steal the contentions made in that debate word-for-word. There’s nothing more enlightening than watching others debate and listening to their style of speaking, strategies, etc.

Be ready to receive a topic to debate on. One team must debate the ‘affirmative’ stance, and the other must debate the ‘negative stance’.
Both teams will be seated near the front of the room they are to speak in – affirmative team on the left, negative team on the right. The timekeeper and chairperson will sit in between, and the adjudicator will sit at the back of the room.
The chairperson will start the debate, and the first speaker will present their speech. The order of the speakers is generally Affirmative, Negative, Affirmative, Negative and so on.

Write your argument according to the designated time limit. Depending on what position you argue, you must follow certain protocol such as defining the topic or presenting a main argument.
Support your opinions/contentions. If you say “I think the death penalty should be abolished,” be ready to prove why this is the best course of action.
Use religion only when appropriate. Things that are written in the bible, torah, koran, etc, are not usually sound resources to use to prove you argument, as not everyone takes these sources to be the truth.
If you don’t know it, don’t debate it unless you have no other choice. If you don’t know much about the topic, try and at least come up with some vague, ambiguous information so that your opponents will have a hard time refuting your contentions. If they don’t understand it, they can’t refute it. Keep in mind that the judge probably won’t understand you so well either, but trying is probably better than saying, “I know nothing. I give the case to my opponents.”
Don’t use rhetorical questions. Always give a clear answer to every question you ask. Leaving a question open-ended gives your opponents room to refute.

Present your argument. When it is your turn, go ahead and present your argument. Be passionate in your speech—a monotone voice will cause people to drift off, and they may miss the point of what you’re trying to say. Speak clearly, slowly, and loudly.
Make eye contact with whomever decides the winners of the debate. While it’s okay to look at your opponents every once in a while, try to direct your argument at the judge.
Give a layout of your argument before you make it. That way, your audience will know what to expect and your judge won’t cut you off unless you run way overtime.

Know when you are and are not allowed to add a point to your support what you are arguing for. Most debates will have rules on this.

Use up all your time (or most of it). The more you talk, the more you’ll convince the judge. Note that this means you should come up with many examples, not that you should ramble. The more the judge hears about why you are correct, the more inclined s/he will be to believe you.

Wait for results. The chairperson will invite the adjudicator to deliver the result. The adjudicator may also give feedback for each individual speaker. The chairperson will ask a member of each debating team to present a vote of thanks to those who have attended.

Wait for the chairperson to declare the debate closed.

When the chairperson invites you to speak, you should be ready immediately, or within five seconds.
There will be a single bell a minute before the time limit, a double bell on the time limit, and a triple bell at thirty seconds over.
Never argue with the adjudicator.
In your vote of thanks, thank the opposing team first, then the adjudicator, chairperson, timekeeper and audience.
There are no rules set in stone. Do what you think makes the most logical sense. If you want to make 100 contentions, do so. if you want to make just 1 contention and argue for it the whole debate, do so. There’s no “right” or “wrong”.

Culled from Wikipedia