This guide is here to help you become a better debater in both your committee sessions as well as inside the chambers. Many of these suggestions are easy to do. They should get you recognized more often and improve your persuasive skills to the other delegates. The sum total of these two gives you an edge in getting the bills that you favor passed!
Get out of your chair!
Each presiding officer has their own method for deciding who is going to have the floor, but one thing is for certain – if the presiding officer doesn’t see you, they will never call on you. So, that person in the far corner of the house with their hand half raised has close to no chance to get called on if other people are trying to secure the floor.
Your objective should be to get seen, get noticed. There is no better way to do that than to jump out of your chair with your hand raised! Maybe yell, “Mr./Mme. Speaker/President!” Maybe do both. You are then forcing the presiding officer to take notice. Go ahead – you may feel a little silly the first time. However, when you get called on that first time, it’ll be all the people that didn’t stand up that will wonder why they didn’t do it!
Divide and Conquer
You may not know this, but members of the assembly can defer their time holding the floor to another delegate as long as they have not begun speaking on a bill. A group of any number can attempt to gain the floor and when the presiding officer recognizes any one of them, they may yield the floor to any delegate on the floor. For example, if you really want to speak on a certain topic, you could get others in your area to also try to get the floor even though they do not really want to speak. Once they get the floor, they would simply say, “I would like to yield the floor to my fellow delegate,” and then point in your direction. You may then take the floor and begin speaking!
Make your comments mean something
Nothing but the facts
If you have already been in the chambers during debate, I am sure that you have heard a lot of people making statements beginning, “I think…” and “I believe…” Opinions are just that, opinions of one person. Why should anyone listen to your opinions when they have their own. The only people that you have a chance to persuade are the ones that truly have no opinion on the subject at hand. Those that already have an opinion formed may just dismiss you as being wrong.
Have you ever seen what happens when delegates introduce strong, watertight facts into the argument? All of a sudden, those opinions of other delegates may start to crumble under the weight of a mountain of facts. Let’s take a look at an example:
A bill comes up in chambers, which would abolish the death penalty in Illinois. Let’s say that you are in opposition to this bill. Which of these two arguments would be more likely to sway your opinion?
Delegate 1: “I believe that the death penalty is wrong and that it does not help to deter crime. I feel that it is a cruel and unusual form of punishment which is outlawed by the US Constitution.”
Delegate 2: “When Governor Ryan suspended the death penalty in Illinois pending a full review of the program, he noted that, in the last 10 years, there had been 12 death row inmates that had been released after it had been found that they had been wrongly convicted. The Department of Corrections also reports that the average cost of incarcerating an inmate for life in prison is less expensive than holding an inmate on death row, going through the available appeals, and then finally putting the inmate to death.”
That second delegate sure has her act together! Not only does she have a mountain of facts supporting her position, her preparedness has given her the appearance of being an authority on the subject – someone that you can trust and believe!