1. Once you know the motion to be debated make a list of all the advantages and disadvantages on two sheets of paper, before deciding whether you are ‘for’ or ‘against’. By looking at the subject from all sides you will be able to fire back at your opponents.
2. Decide which side of the fence you fall on – taking into consideration what you think the reactions of the audience will be. If you are a complete beginner, speak for the side in which you believe. That way you will be much more convincing.
3. Begin compiling your ammunition, using newspapers, encyclopaedias, reference books, etc. The more facts you have to back up your argument the better, and the more confident you yourself will be. One problem the beginner often encounters is that there are too many facts and so much to say on the subject that he doesn’t know where to start. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to use all the facts. Take only the major points and leave the remaining ones for other speakers to comment on. To attempt to pack every arguments into your speech will only result in mental indigestion among your audience. Always have more goods in the shop than display in the window.
4. Check and double-check your information to avoid making a fool of yourself. Think of Sophocles – ‘It is terrible to speak well and be wrong.’ Write down all your information first without making any attempt to order it.
5. Having complied your list, one of the simpliest methods of putting the material into order is to take a pair of scissors and cut your notes strips. You can then order the strips into the best combination of facts, putting those that you feel should go together next to each other.
6. Once your facts are ordered the bulk of your speech is prepared. Go through adding any extra evidence to support your argument. Think of links to join your points together. There must be some overall unity to your speech.
7. Now you can make simple notes with headings on a postcard to remind you of each point as you speak. The use of different coloured inks can be helpful – red for headings, blue for specific points, and so on.
8. Become enthusiastic about subject and let yourself go when you speak. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. As Clarence Day put it: ‘ You can’t sweep other people off their feet if you can’t be swept off your own’.