The Final Debate Speech: How to Deliver the Closing Argument

Teaching Debate in Chile

Teaching Debate in Chile

The debate is almost over. You’ve got one more speech to make, the final one. What do you do? What do you say? How do you say it? Does it even matter?

Let’s face it, if you haven’t been convincing by now, it’s too late. Judges are humans. They make decisions based on first impressions, rarely on last impressions.

That’s just the way humans are – we’re “wired” that way. Where does it come from, this “make up your mind early” way of making decisions.

Answer: I don’t know. But here’s an experiment: Ask anybody, male or female – if they would consider dating someone who made a bad first impression. My guess is that 75% (for No) is a conservative estimate.

One more experiment I have for you. Ask anyone who has to interview people for a job, for employment. Ask that person if they would consider giving anyone a second interview – if they had a bad first impression. My guess is that 90% (again, No) is a conservative estimate.

What’s my point? I’m simply trying to say if you have 2 speakers – a “weak” speaker and a “strong” speaker, then where you put the speakers matter.

If you’re like most debate coaches, your weak speaker is first and your strong speaker is last. Right?

It’s human nature to “save the best for last”.

Well, in debating, don’t do that. Do the opposite. Why?

Debating is a verbal sport, and as such, you want to “verbally hit” your opponent hard and often – before they hit you back.

Think of it like being in a physical battle. Unless you are Muhammad Ali, do you really want to be “hit” by George Foreman, hard and often, until George gets tired, before you “hit” George?

Not me. I put a sledgehammer in my gloves and go to pounding on George, hard and often, before he hits me. (Many people speculate that Muhammad Ali suffered Parkinsons as a cumulative result of being hit by George Foreman and Joe Frazier. Don’t let heavyweight punchers hit you – it’s bad for your health)

Enough boxing metaphors. Let me be clear.

In the evolution of the human race, species, early Cave Men had to make a split second “Friend or Foe”, “Fight or Flight” decision every time they met a new person. This was our survival instinct.

Well, we as a species, the human race has evolved, but the survival instinct is still intact. We still got those survival tendencies. Quickly size up a person, decide whether or not someone is trustworthy, and quickly move on to other business.

Well, judges are humans. Don’t make them wait until the end of a debate to find out you have a strong debater on your team. Let that strong debater speak first, and have the other debaters build on what was accomplished – through the use of the team line and the team split – and your final speaker – the “weak speaker” will have a wonderful time closing out the debate for your team.

On those rare occasions when the debate is evenly matched, a cohesive strategy – from beginning to end – keeping your arguments unified while constantly showing your arguments are bigger, more important, more relevant, cheaper, causing few drawbacks while achieving the greater good, the most benefits – then you will be in a positive position for the final speech, a winning speech.

Finally, what does a winning final speech look like, sound like, feel like? How do you deliver this important speech?

Let me give you a scenario:

You want to be the Prime Minister of Canada. The debate is now down to the final speech. What would you say to the people of Canada?

Why should Canadians trust you? Is there anyone who they should distrust? What are you going to do that somebody else is not going to do?

Honestly, I don’t have a clue. But take a moment to try to answer the questions. Then watch the video that follows. Listen to what they say. Listen to how they say what they say.

Next, turn the sound off. Watch the body language. Who is looking at you? Who is moving their hands in a natural manner? Who is reading a prepared speech to you?

Who do you trust? Why?

Well, now you know. Now you know how to deliver a final speech, a closing argument. Now you can argue, without arguing…


About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Debates, Education, EFL and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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