There comes a time when every leader needs to prepare themself for a debate. It may be a new initiative, a change in direction, or a general organizational adjustment. Either way, someone is going to disagree. When they do, leaders must be able to speak convincingly and with conviction. These days, Bill Nye is a pro.
Bill Nye the Science guy is a staple of modern day edutainment (a mix of education and entertainment). He had a wildly popularly show teaching children the mysterious of science and continues to host events throughout the country. In the last year, Bill has also garnered a reputation as a champion debater on the topic of creation.
This new phase of Bill’s career began when he made an offhand remark on a website. The interviewer asked about creationism. Bill sighed and said, “When you have a portion of the population that believes in that, it holds everybody back.” This video went viral and led to an invitation for Bill to debate the founder of a religious movement intent on building an exact replica of Noah’s Ark. The debate became a national story as did Bill’s passion about thwarting the downfall of the American education system.
For Bill and leaders alike, it’s easy to feel passion about our beliefs. However, passion in itself does not win a debate nor does it convince others to change their point of view. Here are a few tips to help you win your next argument.
Intent. Determine what you hope to achieve with your debate. Bill wanted a public platform to defend reason in the face of extreme faith. Are you trying to educate others? Maybe change their minds? Is this an opportunity to vent your frustrations? Knowing this will help you prepare.
I want to destroy him, and I’m in a unique position to do so.
Research. It goes without saying that winning a debate is reliant upon knowing your topic. You need the facts, figures, and history to support your ideas. Study your opponent’s point of view and be prepared with counterarguments. If you’re thorough, you’ll also plan for the counterarguments that you are likely to face.
Engaging. Once the debate begins, turn on the charm. Maintain your composure, focus on both your opponent’s and the audience’s reaction, and keep your emotions in check. Don’t fall for the traps or pressure points that can knock you off your game.
So, the worst that can happen in this debate is I lose my temper, [my opponent] is suddenly empowered, his Ark Park gets built, and it’s all my fault.
Exit. Just because it’s over doesn’t mean your ability to influence has ended. I’ve seen too many people close out a strong debate only to display the ugliness of a sore winner. If you had the audience before, you will lose them now. Keep your ego in check, be respectful of your opponent, and don’t celebrate until you are a safe distance away.
Leaders are in a unique position to influence a large scope of people. When the opportunity arises, do your homework. Keep your cool. And don’t flaunt your triumphant success. You don’t need a bow tie or lab coat, just the drive to “solve the mysteries of the universe.”