Introduction to Public Speaking and Debate (Part I)

Coach Cookie
Post by Coach Cookie
Introduction to Public Speaking and Debate (Part I)

Skills Students Are Learning from Public Speaking and Debate

From U.S. presidential debate to TED talk to group discussion, we emphasize the importance of public speaking and debate. But what exactly are they? What skills can they cultivate? What benefits can they bring to students?

Before jumping into the answers to the questions, pardon me for another question: what is public speaking, and what is debate? Or maybe another: are they the same?

Many people think public speaking is just to speak in front of people, and debate is about arguing.

You may think those answers are wrong, but they are not entirely. Public speaking is about one speaker facing an audience, explicitly speaking for a specific purpose with confidence AND humor/seriousness. Debate is about arguing, but arguing effectively to persuade the judge to vote for their side.

If you want to learn more about public speaking and debate, keep reading!

In this series of articles, you will be able to learn about:

  • Gain a basic understanding of what skills students will learn from public speaking and debate
  • Know the applicability of those skills, aka, if those skills learned can be used in academic and real lives
  • Most popular public speaking and debate formats

While encouraging students to think logically and critically, both public speaking and debate require the student to have a clear speech structure for others (whether a judge or an audience) to clearly flow with the speech and gain information more efficiently. But different public speaking and debate formats cultivate different core skills that will help the students in different ways. Here are some example skills:

Analyze from different viewpoints

Definition: Analysing from different viewpoints means students will put themselves into somebody else's shoes and think from their perspectives.

Application in different courses: While this is one of the core skills students learn in the storytelling course, students apply this skill to other settings. In more advanced public speaking and debate settings, it is called "stakeholder analysis," students will analyze from different perspectives to talk about benefits and harms brought by a particular thing.

Benefits of learning: Learning how to analyze others' perspectives encourages students to empathize with others and think from their mentalities.

Audience Analysis

Definition: Audience analysis means students will analyze their speech from the audience's perspective: what is their education level? How much do they understand this topic? What would be attractive to them? So on and so forth.

Application in different courses: This is a skill used often in public speaking settings. Young students try to make their speeches fun and engaging, while older students in more advanced levels adjust their tone based on the audience groups.

Benefits of learning: Learning how to analyze the audience group helps students to adjust their tone, speech content and message. Students are making their speeches more accessible to an audience.


Definition: Contextualization means students will provide a context for their speech, making it easier for the audience to understand.

Application in different courses: Contextualization is used both in public speaking and debate circumstances. Young students contextualize their story to make the audience feel for their characters, while older students provide contexts for their speech to visualize more easily.

Benefits of learning: By practicing contextualization, students are able to make their speech more visualized to their audience and make analogies to enhance persuasion.

Compile evidence

Definition: Students will prepare evidence which they can use in their speech as examples.

Application in different courses: While compiling evidence is a required skill in Extemporaneous speech, it can also be used in a wide range of debate and public speaking formats as prepared examples for students' speech.

Benefits of learning: Learning how to compile evidence does not only help students to improve their research skills and test them on how to use the example to support their claims properly.


Definition: Delivery means how confidently students present their speech via hand gestures, eye contact, stage movement, vocal variation, and so on.

Application in different courses: Delivery is more widely used in a public speaking setting, while some debate formats (e.g., World School) have set delivery scores in the contest. Younger students are asked to make their speech more dynamic via delivery skills, while older students will adjust their delivery based on their tones.

Benefits of learning: Learning delivery skills encourages students to be confident on stage and express themselves freely, both verbally and nonverbally.


Definition: Persuasion is a skill that students use to convince others.

Application in different courses: Different debate and public speaking settings emphasize other persuasion skills. Public speaking focuses on ethos, logos, and pathos, while debate emphasizes argumentation and comparison.

Benefits of learning: Learning how to convince others (audience or judge) enables students to boost their speaking and critical thinking skills.


Definition: Refutation is how students refute their opponents' ideas or how they disprove counter-ideas strategically in their speech.

Application in different courses: Though many think refutation is a skill used only in debate, public speaking applies refutation differently. In public speaking circumstances, students use this skill to compare their arguments with potential attacks.

Benefits of learning: Learning refutation skills helps students think comprehensively about an issue and build a more thorough understanding.

Keep reading for Part II & III below!

Part II: Where Students Apply Public Speaking and Debate Skills

Part III: Popular Public Speaking and Debate Formats

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Coach Cookie
Post by Coach Cookie