Lessons from Parliamentary Debate, UTEK 2014

This past weekend I competed in the Parliamentary Debate at the University of Toronto Engineering Competitions. Mi hermano Kazem and I decided to tackle this competition, no prior experience in the debating world. After 6 hours and 4 rounds of intense and aggressive, debate we came out with 1st Place!

Talk about beginner’s luck! Below are a couple of the lessons learned from this past weekend.

On Winning the Debate

1. Leverage Your Team’s Strengths

Early in the day we came to the conclusion that Kazem was a much better ‘closer’ than I was and decided to leverage this strength in each of our next rounds. His strong ability to close provided incredible conclusions to each of our next rounds, with ground-breaking applauses from the audience.

2. Learn FAST and Integrate Feedback ASAP

Neither Kazem nor I had any prior debating experience. Nevertheless, we both were set on winning the competition. After every debate round we discussed what we did well and what we could do to improve. We leveraged the judges’ feedback and quickly incorporated these into the our next debate rounds. Most importantly, we spent the entire day figuring out what it took to become a 1st place debate team.

3. Learn from your Opponents

Some of our greatest lessons came from our opponents. Before our 1st debate we were able to view 3 debate rounds. We studied our opponents, paid close attention to the techniques they employed and the style with which they refuted their opponent’s arguments. We quickly built these into our debate approach and prepared against them.

4. Know what you “MUST NOT DO”. 

Great debaters know which mistakes to avoid so make sure you understand what you “MUST NOT DO”. For example: making absolute value statements, not defining the resolution, not addressing all of your opposing team’s arguments, failing to structure your arguments, etc. Many beginner teams don’t do well because they make fundamental mistakes which set them up for a difficult match.

These are a few of the lessons from the competitions that allowed us to become better throughout the day and come out with a win. But these weren’t the only lessons gained at UTEK.

Before the weekend, I had asked myself: “Why the hell are we even competing in the debate competition?”. Honestly, I had no clue. Looking back , there were a ton of valuable lessons from the experience. The most valuable opportunity was challenging ourselves to expand our comfort zones and having a ton of fun while doing so. Below are the lessons that really matter.

On Expanding Your Comfort Zone

1. Don’t be afraid to try something new… you’ll never know until you try

We had no clue if we’d be any good at the debate competition. Rather than stick to the consulting competitions, we decided that we’d never know how good we could be unless we tried the debate competition first hand. And that’s exactly what we did. And it turns out we were pretty good at it.

2. Expand your comfort zone

Looking back, I can’t stress how valuable the debate competition experience was for us. We tested ourselves in a whole new field and pushed ourselves to expand our comfort zones. The debate competition was critical in challenging our confidence and ability to think critically on our feet and present in front of a large audience. Overall, expanding our comfort zone made us better-rounded individuals, with new abilities that will prove to be valuable in our professional lives.

3.  Just enjoy it…

Many times over the weekend I just wanted to go home and call it quits. The weekend was long and I had no clue how far we’d be able to make it through the day. But at the same time, this was a unique opportunity to have some pretty awesome fun with one of my best friends. One of the things that was prevalent in our success was that Kazem and I were a strong team, and this is simply because we enjoy competing together and always make it a fun time. — Thanks for reading! Hope some of these lessons challenge you to expand your comfort zone and take on new and different challenges! Cheers!

UTEK 2014

UTEK 2014


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