Debate is a passionate art, and therefore it can be easy to feed into strong emotions when reflecting on a past performance. There are no hard and fast rules with which to determine a debate’s “winner,” but it is usually pretty obvious when a debater has underperformed, or if he or she has been outperformed by his or her opponent.
If you find yourself in this situation, you might feel down on yourself. After all, you likely poured your heart into your performance, straining every ounce of your rhetorical skill and reactionary ability in the process. However, tempting as it may be to spiral into self-doubt, it is imperative that you pick yourself up and regroup; otherwise, you cannot hope to do any better next time.
Here are some quick tips for bouncing back following a poor debate performance.
Analyze what went wrong, but not for too long
When rectifying a bad debate showing, the best and most obvious rule of thumb is to first identify what went wrong in your performance. Did you come on too strong, depleting yourself of all your tricks early? Perhaps you got caught off guard by too many arguments and ended up looking ill-prepared. Maybe you simply did not study the opposing viewpoint enough. Whatever the reason, take a moment to determine your tragic flaw(s), make record of it, and move on in a relatively timely fashion. A common mistake is to spend too much time focusing on these matters, which can quickly become a portal into more unconstructive self-doubt.
Change up your regimen
If you determine that your shortcomings stemmed from a lack of preparation, take a moment to reevaluate your current regimen. There are a variety of ways to effectively prepare for a debate, and there may be some you have yet to explore or tailor to your unique style. A shake up, in this regard, can actually bring a fair amount of stability when applied properly — just make sure to keep the parts of your approach that clearly worked in the past.
Leave the past behind
After you have revisited your poor performance, identified the reasons it went wrong, and made the changes necessary to your improvement, it is highly important to leave matters as they are. Do not wait too long to get back in the game, though a period of inactivity may be helpful in getting your head back on straight. Once you are ready to face down another opponent (or, perhaps, the same opponent), do your best to detach yourself from any insecurities lingering from your past performance. You should be a sharper, more seasoned orator now, and this time should yield better results.