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2016 USA VP debate: how to defend your arguments in 2 minutes


By Redacción

7 october, 2016

Mike Pence and Tim Kaine struggling to represent their candidates as best they can in 2-minute verbal crossfires. Did they present their ideas clearly?

The one and only USA vice-Presidential debate is the most awaited event before the elections. An occurrence that tit-for-tat lovers cannot miss as the speakers have only two minutes (in theory) per topic to defend or turn the image of their candidates and spar over nine contemporary issues.

Mike Pence and Tim Kaine took the spotlight on Tuesday, 4 October embracing the role of defenders and attackers at the same time, respectively for the Republican candidate Donald Trump and the Democrat Hilary Clinton.

If you have time on your hands and you are into US and foreign politics you can listen to it here, otherwise keep reading to discover the best moves to defend your arguments in 2 minutes during a debate.

Champion and persuade 

Defending your own ideas is the golden rule of a debate. You have to be prepared and convinced of your arguments till death, even though what or who you are defending can be “indefensible”, as Kaine repeated several times to his opponent Pence. Despite the highly criticized Trump’s campaign, the insults, hollow promises and discordance even in his own team, Pence stood up quite well to his rival. Not only was he firm on his arguments, but he delivered them persuasively showing humbleness and respect – contrary to Trump’s well-known oratory.

Stick to your slogan, make short and striking statements like “America is less safe today”, but be careful not to fall into pre-done lines.


Let the other person speak

Being patient and polite during a political debate – especially when a country’s presidency is at stake – is not an easy job. Speakers really get into their arguments and cannot stay calm on their chair waiting for their 2 minutes till the end: they are eager to say their opinions loud out and counterattack their opponents. Senator Kaine couldn’t help intervening indeed during the Governor turn, raising his voice and making light of Pence’s words with a constant smile on his face.

Don’t forget it is preferable not to interrupt the other person every now and then: it can result annoying and often you just end up being redundant.


Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. Credits to: Andrew Gombert / AP

Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. Credits to: Andrew Gombert / AP


Don´t talk numbers 

During the debate Pence sort of “criticized” his adversary as the latter was embracing the role of a roulette wheel delivering a long list of numbers and statistics. Stories are powerful because they connect people and they are memorable. If your goal is to confuse the audience or surprise your public then numbers are the right choice.

I bet the story about Pence’s uncle or about Hilary’s passion for public administration will stick longer to your mind than all figures stated during the debate.


Don´t forget to speak with your body

It doesn’t matter whether you are sitting on a chair or standing up on a stage, your face, your voice and your hands have to accompany your words. A good speaker knows how to convey emotions with his body. As I said in a previous article indeed, it doesn’t count what you say but how you say it.

In this case of course arguments and oratory come first, but an appropriate non-verbal communication inspires self-confidence and indirectly influences the voters’ preference.

Credits to: Jewel Samad | AFP | Getty Images

Credits to: Jewel Samad | AFP | Getty Images


Check your facts and don´t lie!

Etiquette and truth are two elements that don’t go hand in hand with politics. The line between lying and using hyperboles is often blurred, but it’s widely exploited by politicians especially when they know they are talking to a passive audience that will not make the effort of fact-checking. However, it’s always recommendable not to lie especially you are speaking to a small group or experts who actually know about your topic.

If you want to have an idea on Tuesday’s best hyperboles, The Guardian bothered to shed light on some of Pence and Kaine statements.


Argue your rival´s points

Last but not least: use your adversary’s points (in this case policies and/or public statements) to attack him. This technique has been extensively used by Kaine, who often answered to Pence by quoting Trump and putting him in a negative light, or opened his 2-minute speech by comparing Trump’s initiatives to Clinton ones. The cherry on top would be to end your counterattack by comparing again the two candidates with a concise, sharp and effective line.

“Do you want a you-are-fired President or you-are-hired President? You choose”, asserted Kaine.


Written by Laura Zuffi


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