Why is Eloquentia the best debate format?

ByNoah van Dansik

Why is Eloquentia the best debate format?

There are many debate formats in the Netherlands. In this new series, debaters tell you why they think a certain debate format is the best. This time: Eloquentia. Do you want to read more about how Eloquentia works? Click here.

I am Noah, twenty years young and the president of ASDV Bonaparte. I am also a municipal councillor for GroenLinks and I study law at the University of Amsterdam.

At Bonaparte, we debate in both the AP and BP format but my absolute favourite is Eloquence (Eloquentia in Dutch, elo for short). Rhetoric and eloquence are central to this format. You don’t win with just good argumentation but you have to actually convince your audience.

An eloquentia debate can be conducted in various formats but I will briefly explain the format recently developed by Bonaparte, which will also be used at the NK eloquentia. Here, four individuals (two proponents and two opponents) debate against each other. They all give a three-minute speech, and in addition, there are free moments of discussion between the speeches. The debate is then ended with a closing phrase for each speaker. Five categories are important in the judging, each of which weighs equally heavily: argumentation, presentation, speech writing, reaction and holism.

As far as I am concerned, every debater should try out eloquentia for the following reasons:

1. It forces you to step out of your comfort zone.

Eloquentia focuses not so much on what you say but on how you say it. You learn to deal with rhetorical tricks, use figures of speech, and work on a strong presentation. In an AP or BP debate, these aspects are not very relevant to your points but more for fun. In an eloquentia debate, your speech really stands or falls with your persuasiveness. Instead of explaining your arguments as well as possible, you really put yourself in the position of your audience and how you can create the best possible story for them. You appeal to their feelings but humour is also a very strong tool to use. This offers you a lot of space to really play with language.

2. You work on skills that are of great use to you outside the debating world.

Besides the fact that working on your rhetoric is great fun, you also develop skills that you can benefit from for the rest of your life. A strong presentation helps you enormously in convincing people, and especially non-debaters. Within the debating world, everyone is very focused on argumentation, and a debater will also quickly poke through a story that does not actually have a very strong argumentation behind it. However, if you learn to combine the knowledge of argumentation from AP and BP formats and presentation skills from eloquentia, you will develop into a very strong speaker that many politicians can learn from. And in the end, you have to admit: a 7 minute long, much too quickly spoken BP speech is not nearly as much fun to listen to as a strong eloquentia debate.

As an avid elo practitioner, I naturally hope that I have now convinced other associations to also practice eloquentia. If this is the case, there are enough fanatic Bonapartians ready to provide a workshop!

Interested in other debate formats? Check out these articles!

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About the author

Noah van Dansik contributor

Noah is a debater from the Amsterdam Student Debating Association Bonaparte. She has served on the board of the association for two years, namely as Social Activities Officer (2019-2020) and as Chair (2020-2021).