What Does a Debate Chair Do?
A good Chair sets the tone for the room with everything they do, not just when they speak, but also by observing the participants, and by listening to speakers with respect and interest. Their objective is to facilitate the debate, not to be in the spotlight.
They know and apply the rules consistently and even-handedly and engage with good-natured confidence in the running of the debate. The Chair encourages those who are new to this kind of conversation to speak, even if they are anxious about talking in front of others. They provide correction and offer guidance with kindness and tact.
What are the Expectations for a Debate Chair?
The Debate Chair is expected to:
- Collaborate with or coach the debate’s organizers on the choice of the debate topic.
- Help the group recruit the first four speakers.
- Consult on the date, venue, and publicity.
- Help greet participants, and creates a welcoming, friendly tone as people arrive.
- When the body has assembled, welcome everyone, offer introductory remarks, explain the debate process, and demonstrate some debate elements if the group is not experienced.
- Call the debate to order and facilitate it.
- Bring the debate to a close and offer participants the opportunity to respond to a feedback question, popcorn-style.
What Qualifications are Expected of a Debate Chair?
This role may be a good match for you if:
- You’re comfortable in front of groups.
- You can create a welcoming atmosphere for often-nervous participants.
- You’re able to notice and willing to intervene promptly with sensitivity, humor, and authority when people deviate from the format.
- You can set your personal views aside and show no positive or negative reaction to the views participants express.
- You can create space for everyone to participate, including as many people as possible.
- You’re willing to set aside what you already know about debates in order to learn and apply the debate model we use.
The Training Pathway for Debate Chairs:
- All Chairs must be members of Braver Angels and have attended a national debate.
- Chair trainees must complete the Chair Training module in the Members Portal of the BA Website including written material and videos: Braver Angels Debate Chair Training Manual
- If you want to be an On-land/in person Chair only, you will then attend an orientation session with an experienced Chair, observe a debate as a staff/observer and then be qualified as an in-person chair only. (Please email us at email@example.com when you have completed steps 1 and 2 to schedule an orientation)
To chair online debates:
- see above
- see above
- Read the Whip and Chair Training Guide, view the Online Whip Training Video and the Online Chair Video
- Attend an orientation session with an experienced online Chair. (Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org when you have completed Step 3 to schedule an orientation.)
- Participate in an online debate as a staff observer
- Chair a local online debate through the SODA team
You are then qualified to be both a local and national Debate Chair, on-land and online.
What Does a Debate Whip Do?
If you are considering being part of the dynamic Debate Team, and like to help people feel welcome, engaged and comfortable in speaking out during debates, a Whip position may be right for you. Whips identify and interact with potential speakers, answer questions from participants and support the Chair in creating a balanced, vibrant and smoothly run debate. Their direct communications with attendees have a profound effect on how participants view the debate experience, their willingness to take risks in speaking or asking questions, and their ability to feel engaged in the debate even if they don’t speak.
What are the Expectations for a Debate Whip?
- Collaborate with the chair and other whips and staff on the debate team
- Participate in predebate meetings
- Be familiar and comfortable with the technical requirements of whipping, sharing a google doc, using backchannel communications
- Be able to monitor the Waiting Room, Chat and Participant Windows
- Be able to project a welcoming, encouraging and nonjudgmental presence via brief written comments to keep attendees engaged and foster their willingness to participate actively
What Qualifications are Expected of Debate Whips
- Willingness to learn a modest set of technical skills for the Zoom environment
- An ability to scan and multitask across Zoom screens and boxes
- Comfort and enjoyment in functioning as part of a team
The Training Pathway for Debate Whips:
- Become a Braver Angels Member and attend at least one debate
- Become trained as a Participant Manager (PM) through the ZEM training program (Enroll here). Once enrolled, you will be given access to the ZEM training website which contains the training materials (see below).
- After qualifying as a PM (or while doing your PM training), complete the Whip Training Module which consists of reading a training guide and watching a video.
- Schedule an orientation session with an experienced whip.
- Observe a debate as a staff/observer
You are then a qualified Debate Whip for both local and National online debates!
We will be delighted to welcome you to the Debate Team and will add your name to the roster of available Debate Chairs and Whips!