Four Ways How Debating Can Help Advance Your Career

It's hard to imagine that Yao Kun, President of the SIM Debate Club, once struggled with public speaking and debates. His ability to articulate his thoughts in competitions and classrooms makes it seem as though he's no stranger to such anxiety-inducing situations.

5 Mar 2020

5 mins read

By Diyanah Syafiqah


It's hard to imagine that Yao Kun, President of the SIM Debate Club, once struggled with public speaking and debates. His ability to articulate his thoughts in competitions and classrooms makes it seem as though he's no stranger to such anxiety-inducing situations.

Drawing from his numerous debate experiences, Yao Kun shares how the skill sets that he has gained are also essential in preparing him for the workplace of the future.

#Prepare Well
Oftentimes, how well you prepare translates into how well you deliver.

During debates, we are assigned a side (government or opposition) and topics are only given on the day of the competition. The topics range from US Politics to Artificial Intelligence and Economics and we're only given about 15 to 30 minutes to prepare without the usage of electronic devices or the Internet. Therefore, good preparation involves having a good grasp of world affairs.

If I rush through this process without rehearsing, my speech will become incomprehensible. I learned along the way that preparation is key because it helps you organise your thoughts and ask the right questions. Improving my preparation skills help boost my confidence and improve my debating abilities. Being prepared is essential not just for debates but different aspects of life like university and work. With a clear mind, it is much easier to execute your tasks well.


From being a debater to being a judge - I was awarded “Best Institutional Judge” at the Singapore Novice British Parliamentary 2019

#Learn The Art Of Analysing
Sometimes in debates, we are assigned tough topics that we're unsure of. One advice that I received was to break down the topic sentence and analyse it from the viewpoint of each stakeholder. This advice has made me better at approaching tough topics and analysing them in greater depth! This approach is useful when I go on to tackle tough projects at work as I'll be able to consider different viewpoints and approaches before working on them.


Participants at the ‘Introduction to Varsity Debating' workshop - an annual workshop for newcomers to familiarise with University debate formats

#Get On The Same Page
Debating is a team sport. Likewise, communication among your peers at university or colleagues at work is key to achieving your goals.

At debates, it is important to communicate with your teammates to fend off rebuttals by opposition teams.

I recall once when my teammate wasn't able to communicate his ideas to me during preparation time. This meant that we were not able to defend his arguments, missing out on the quarter finals.

This illustrated the importance of communication between teammates. I carried this lesson with me since then, making sure that the entire team is on the same page so that we can optimise our performance during tournaments.


A list of periodicals and books that have helped me along in my debating journey

#Accept Feedback Positively & Gracefully
After suffering a loss during a competition in 2014, I talked to a friend, a veteran debater, about how the judge's feedback didn't make sense to me, amongst other things. Upon listening, he remarked, “but you still lost.”

Although he was implicit in his remark, it highlighted that we should take responsibility for losses despite the circumstances or other external factors.

In my case, the way to improve is to consider the judge's point of view - perhaps it could have been a string of sentences that did not sound convincing enough or a choice of word that wasn't quite right.

Ultimately, we have to strive to receive feedback with grace and reflect upon them to improve. Setbacks are an inevitable part of life. At the workplace, you are bound to run into challenges and even negative feedback. However, if you choose to utilise them to improve, you will eventually succeed.

From being able to share your ideas confidently to finding common ground and improvising on your feet - honing these skills will undoubtedly make you a valuable individual at your future workplace. Ready to take your public speaking skills to the next level? Learn more about the SIM Debate Club here.