The Cambridge Debating Society was founded almost 200 years ago and is arguably the world’s oldest such society. The Society is drenched in history and has hosted a myriad of world leaders, religious leaders, scientific minds and Olympic legends. The debating chamber echoes this rich history with opposing rows of leather chairs arranged expectantly and assorted photographs of previous debaters adorning the walls.
It is here then that I find myself, my debating team having just been grilled with questions from the house, coiled to deliver a rousing summary of my team’s argument and carefully preparing rebuttals to the opposition.
However, five days previously, I would have answered honestly that I knew little of serious debating other than small meeting room melees. Here began my introduction to the DMGT Big Debate. In which sixteen participants were selected from across the organisation and provided a motion around which to research and prepare.
After a desperate week of frantic research, the debate day began with an introduction to debating format and etiquette. The first realisation being, how important team work would be in presenting an argument: as the first speaker outlines the argument after which the following speakers present points in support before the final speaker summarises and refutes any countering points.
The team work element provided an excellent opportunity for delegates to share knowledge, ideas and experiences from within their respective business units. Given the nature of my entry to DMGT as an acquisition, for me personally this provided a fresh insight and perspective into the diversity and operations of DMGT. Meanwhile, I hope influencing others own perceptions.
Late in the day each team was informed which side of the motion they were to argue. This presented a unique challenge; in developing an argument potentially conflicting with personal views. However, again the quality and diversity of colleagues within my team enabled a broad range of experiences to be analysed, in order to develop a succinct and persuasive argument.
As we developed our arguments in anticipation of the final showdown, we were further coached in delivering our arguments. Personally, I found this to be the most informative and interesting process. Similar to presentation and sales skills each speaker was encouraged to present information in a manner the audience could engage with. However, given the particulars of debating; developing atmosphere and applying persuasion through movement, theatrics and engagement were essential in winning the audience.
In addition, each speaker must listen intently to previous arguments in order to refute the opposition’s points, which can only be achieved through flexibility and adaptability of one’s own argument. Furthermore, the audience and opposition are able to present points of information during each speaker’s time. The ultimate combination of which is a true test of knowledge, logic and presentation, requiring fast thinking.
The coaching, preparation and team support all provided me with the confidence and ability to finally deliver the closing statement I imagined. Leaving only the final unnerving experience of observing the audience filter out of the chamber through two door labelled ‘yay’ and ‘nay’.
The event and experience exposed me to the diversity and individuals within DMGT, stimulating innovative ideas and potential collaborations. In addition, the skills gained have provided further confidence in presenting under pressure and in new environments. Desmond Tutu is quoted as having said “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument”, sensible advice, although my personal touch would be to throw in a dash of theatrics.Ben Furlong