Suggestions for Debate Sessions
Debate. The Debate session type can be an effective
way to present opposing views about a topic. One structure for a debate is to
have a moderator and two, two-person teams. The Debate begins with the moderator
stating a position. One team then presents arguments that affirm the proposition
and the other team presents arguments against the proposition. Each team member
has a fixed amount of time (e.g., 10 minutes) to present arguments. Time for
rebuttal can be incorporated into the sessions and/or a discussant can sum up the
main points of the session. When submitting a debate proposal, be sure to
include a statement of the proposition to be debated and descriptions of the
major points likely to be argued by each side.
Suggestions for Effective Debate Presentations
Have Your Discussion Points Completed Early Enough to Send to
Other Session Members.
The best sessions are those that have a coherent theme and are
well integrated. This is best
accomplished when session members, including the Discussant, have advance notice
of each others discussion points, overheads, or main issues. Do not wait until the last minute to make these accessible.
A common rule of thumb is to distribute these 2 weeks before the
Preparation of Visual Aids.
Visual aids can greatly improve the effectiveness of a
presentation. While increasing an audiences interest, well-prepared slides or
overheads can be extremely useful for clarifying and supporting key points in
If you need to refer to a particular slide more than once, prepare
duplicates of the slides such that you do not need to scroll back and forth
during the presentation.
A picture is worth a thousand words. When feasible, including
figures will more effectively communicates your message than a large, extensive
table or words.
Error Check Visual and Computer Aids Beforehand.
There is nothing so distracting to a presentation than presenters
fumbling with technology (e.g., projector, LCD) while the audience patiently
waits. If at all possible, error
check any visual or computer-based aids you intend to use before the session
Ask Yourself, Whats the point?
A visual serves one main purpose; to help make a point. This concept sometimes gets forgotten, and tables or charts
are included in the presentation for no apparent reason. It is better to figure out your message and then determine
the best way to share that message.
Interpret; Dont Just Report.
As the presenter, you are the expert on the subject being
discussed. The data speak for
themselves is a common expression. The
trouble is, they oftentimes dont and they often say different things to
different people. Your job is to
use your expertise and insights to help others understand the information.
Do not forget to allow time at the end of the presentation, and
prior to giving suggestions for further research, to summarize the main points
of your presentation. Keep in mind, many of your audience members, during the
presentation, may have been engrossed in one particular element of your
presentation, and missed other key points.
An overhead for this purpose can be useful.
Realize That the Chair is in Charge.
The Chair has the job of moderating the session and ensuring it
runs smoothly. So please respect
his/her position. If you run long,
dont get mad at the Chair for telling you to sit down.
By adhering to the Chairs suggestions, the session should run more
smoothly for everyone.
Respect Other Presenters Time.
You want time to discuss your research, and so do the other
presenters. Please respect their
timeit is the polite and courteous thing to do.
As a general rule of thumb, plan on spending roughly one
minute per slide. Therefore, if you have 12 minutes to present, you generally
dont want the number of slides in your presentation to exceed 12-15.
Make Sure Each Visual can be Read Without Strain From All Parts of
A common complaint about presentations is that the audience
cant read the visuals because the typeset is too small.
This merely shows a lack of consideration and concern for the audience.
Sometimes, for things such as large correlation matrices, it is
impossible to present the information adequately.
In such cases, it maybe better that the entire correlation matrix should
not be presented, or handouts would be more useful.
Make sure all your visual aids can be read from a distance.
We recommend that you use a font size no smaller than 20 point in order
for your visuals to be legible. Try
the floor test: you should be able to read an overhead placed on the
floor from a standing position.
Bring Plenty of Handouts.
If you are using handouts, assume you will need a minimum of 40
copies. You might want to
double-check the room size for your session.
You will probably also want to have a sign-up sheet available in case you
run out. If instead you prefer to
post your materials online to be downloaded, please bring mailing labels or
cards that contain your Web site. Asking
participants to write down long Web addresses will almost ensure that mistakes
will be made.
Remember, They are Visual Aids Only.
The most important part of the presentation is you, the presenter.
Visual aids may be a very important tool, but your words and conduct are
primary. Be particularly careful
about the number and amount of information in your visuals, and the number of
handouts. After all, if the entire
message is on the visuals, why do we need a presenter?
Accessibility of the Presentation.
SIOP is committed to ensuring that conferences are accessible to
people with disabilities. Each and
every member of your audience deserves the opportunity to benefit from your
presentation. Please help us with
this effort by using the following guidelines:
Assume that There Will be Some Members of Your Audience with
Remember, disabilities are not always obvious.
Some people will likely have difficulty seeing your visual aids and/or
hearing your presentation. Be
prepared. Design presentation materials that will be user-friendly to
your whole audience.
Describe the Information Presented in Your Visual Aids.
Help the audience see the information by describing and
summarizing whats being presented.
Whenever Possible, Offer Materials that are Easy to Read.
Handouts with black print on white paper are generally preferred.
If possible, provide large print copies of your presentation when
Make Yourself Visible to the Audience.
For the benefit of those who are deaf or hard of hearing, your
mouth and face should be in direct view of the audience throughout the
presentation. When speaking, avoid
turning your back to the audience or standing in dimly lit areas of the room.
Use the Microphone.
Even if many audience members can hear you without it, those with
hearing disabilities may not. Also,
each presentation is recorded and sold, and if you are not using
the microphone, it is often difficult to be heard on the audio.
Turn Audio/Visual Off When Not In Use.
This will reduce background noise that is potentially distracting
to your audience.
Allow Extra Time for Reviewing Information Presented on Visual
Assume that some members of your audience will need time to look
at the visual aids and then focus their attention on you for further
Show Enthusiasm for Your Presentation.
If you cannot be excited about your topic, how can you expect
anyone else to be? To the extent
you feel comfortable doing so, show that you are excited (e.g., Now here is
the cool part, Would you look at this?
Can you believe this is what we found?).
Suggestions for Effective Debate Chairs
Preparation is the key to success.
Planning for the session and helping presenters prepare will
contribute to an interesting and informative session overall.
Plan the Use of Time.
Start and end the session promptly.
As presenters are approaching their time limits, give them a prearranged
signal that they should begin to conclude their presentations.
You may need to stop a presenter in order to keep the session on track. To do this, you may want to politely say, We really need
to move on so we can stay within our allotted time.
Plan a logical and informative segue between each presentation, so
that the debate flows smoothly and the audience understands clearly how the
presentation being introduced is related to the other presentations.
The best way to ensure the session runs on time is to let
presenters know before the conference how much time they will have and
the order in which theyll be presenting.
Prepare an overall plan and approximate time schedule for the
session. Allow sufficient time at
the end of the session for audience discussion and ample time for setup of the
next session in the room.
Encourage your presenters to practice their presentations to be
sure they wont exceed the time allotted.
Be sure to sit in a visible position for the presenters to easily
see the cue, and that presenters know where you will be during the presentation
beforehand. A good rule of thumb is to let presenters know when they have 5, 2,
and 1 minute remaining in the presentations.
Help Presenters Prepare well Before the Debate.
Offer to review the presenters presentation, plans, visuals, or
handouts. Note any duplication in
the content and suggest revisions to avoid excessive repetition.
Have volunteers, or volunteer yourself, to place overheads for
Try to Ensure That Session Members and the Discussant Can Review
Each Others Discussion Points Before the Conference.
It will be much easier to see similarities and differences between
perspectives when everyone has a chance to consider them beforehand.
It will also be possible to reduce redundancies in the presentation.
A particularly effective strategy is for the moderator to provide some
guidance for how the session will go (e.g., who goes first).
This way, other presenters will know whether or not they should spend
time on introductory material. If
the presentations all address different aspects of a topic area, moderators may
consider spending a few minutes discussing the topic area more generally so that
each presenter can focus on what is unique in his/her perspective.
This may be difficult, as some presenters will simply not prepare
until right before the conference. But
as a general rule of thumb, session members should have any potential materials
to the discussant at least 2 weeks before the conference (some may want more
time, so be sure to check).
One useful technique is to set up an e-mail list that includes all
session members. This makes it
easier to communicate, and ensures that everyone has access to the same
Assist with Seating of those with Disabilities.
Ensure that each member of the audience can see and hear the
presentations. Reserve a couple of
seats in the front and back of the room for persons using wheelchairs, canes,
crutches, or motorized vehicles.
Count the Number of People in the Audience.
Estimate the number of people attending the session.
Provide this information to the Program Chair after the session.
If possible, ask a volunteer to perform a head count at the entrance to
the conference room.
Moderate the Debate and Audience Discussion.
Provide a clear description as to the nature of the debate at the
start of the session to orient the audience to the issues.
Repeat each question or comment before responding so that all can
hear. For taping purposes, this will
also ensure that the question or comment is recorded.
A few minutes before the session is scheduled to conclude, politely
announce that the next question will be the last.
If necessary, politely interrupt the speaker.
Try to encourage a friendly feel to the session.
Work Collaboratively With the Discussant and Presenters.
Together, can you come up with an interesting spin to the
session? Are there unique
perspectives that can be addressed?
Ensure Session Members Audio/Visual Needs are Met.
Check with each presenter to ensure that his/her audio/visual
needs have been met. However,
please realize that no new requests can be made at this late date.
Further, SIOP discourages the use of video projectors (e.g., as hooked up
to a laptop) because of the excessive cost.
Show Enthusiasm for the Session.
Your first few comments will set the tone for the entire session.
If you can show excitement for the session, it is more likely that the
audience will as well.
Suggestions for Effective Debate Discussants (when appropriate)
Remember That You can Make a Big Difference.
The Discussant can tie a diverse set of perspectives together into
a coherent theme. In many cases,
the Discussant can make an otherwise good debate exceptional.
The best way for this to happen is to prepare in advance.
Be Constructively Critical.
A Discussant who finds nothing to add to a set of papers is as
uninformative as a Discussant who finds nothing good with them.
Remember, you were asked to be the Discussant because you are the expert.
Now is the chance for you to demonstrate your expertise and provide
insight into the domain of study. You
may not like a particular perspective, but please do critique it in a
professional manner. Remember,
critique the research, not the person conducting the research.
Try to find at least one:
good thing to say about each perspective.
limitation of each perspective.
connection among the set of perspectives.
implication for research.
implication for practice.
Try to avoid spending too much time on each persons
presentation individually; focus on connections across presentations and general
themes. Be sure to give each
presentation equal attention.
Overall, focus on the positive.
Have General Discussion Points Prepared Beforehand.
The best way to guarantee an interactive session is to have a set
of discussion points that strike to the heart of the session.
For example, why were differences between studies found?
What are the implications of these studies for research in this area?
How can these studies improve practice?
Preparing these questions before the session ensures that the session
moves along smoothly.
If possible, consider making some overheads that convey this
Please have at least a couple of questions ready for the audience
(e.g., has anyone found this in your own research?).
Try to Avoid Excessively Talking About Your Own Research.
Although you may have useful research that bears on the issues,
remember that your role is to discuss and critique the presentations.
This is not the forum for introducing your new ground-breaking study. Mention it if it is relevant, but focus the vast majority of
your attention on the presenters research.
Realize That You Might Not Have Much Time.
Even the most well-intentioned Session Chair cannot control some
presenters, and it is possible that the session will leave you with little time.
Anticipate thiswhat would be the one or two comments you would want to
make sure everyone hears? And if a
presenter does take too much time, please take the higher road and avoid the
temptation to chastise the presenter for his/her inconsideration.
Realize You Might Not Receive the Papers in Advance.
If everyone does their job, this wont be issue.
Dont assume they will, and that you might have to comment on the
presentation while it is given. Having
read and commented on the other papers beforehand will make this easier for you.
Give Presenters a Copy of Your Remarks.
Many presenters will not have the time or energy to write down
everything you say. Providing them
with your comments after the session could help your comments have greater