The surprising truth: How students really feel about debating and public speaking

29 September 2022

Why do students love debating and public speaking so much?

Though some may see debating and public speaking as nerve-wracking experiences, many students love participating in these activities. In fact, there are many advantages to debate and public speaking for students. By encouraging participation in these activities, through enrolling in a course or a school program, parents and educators can help students develop important skills that will last a lifetime.



The surprising truth we learn from student feedback

At Speaking Schools Australasia, we work with thousands of students each year across various debating and public-speaking courses. With a strong focus on having fun and learning practical skills, we often see a lot of smiling faces in our programs. We run an in-depth survey with students who attend our programs. The resultant student feedback is a ‘guiding light’ for the many improvements we are constantly making to each unique program. The results we get are overwhelmingly positive, and shed light on the much-asked question: why do students love debating and public speaking so much?


If you, like many other parents we work with, grew up without learning public speaking skills in a fun and encouraging environment, the answers might surprise you.



What are the benefits of engaging in debating and public speaking?


Confidence Boosting

Many students lack confidence, especially in front of large groups of people. Participating in a course about debate or public speaking can help students overcome this hurdle by gradually building up their confidence over time. Through real-life experience, they’ll learn how to project their voices, make eye contact, and speak with conviction—all important skills for success in school, university, and the workplace context.



Thinking On Your Feet

When you’re in a debate, you can’t always take lots of time to consult your notes or think about your next argument—you have to be able to think on your feet and come up with a response on the spot. This is an extremely valuable skill that will come in handy in all aspects of life, from job interviews to difficult conversations with friends or family members. While the search for an argument or point on the spot can be difficult at times, it strengthens our ability to deliver arguments that contradict the other side of an issue at a moment’s notice.


Persuasive Writing

One of the key components of successful debating and public speaking is being able to write persuasive arguments that are easily understood. This involves doing extensive preparation on a topic so that you can anticipate your opponent’s arguments and counter them effectively. By honing their persuasive writing skills through debating, students will be better prepared for persuasive assignments such as essays and expositions.



While all of these advantages make sense to us, they are not always the reasons that students have such a great time learning the skills of debating and public speaking.


What did our students have to say?

We asked our Term #3 students how they really felt about debating and public speaking at SSA. The evidence we collected showed that the quality of education that our courses offer has been paying off for our young speakers. We measure the data and calculate the percentage of students who agree with certain statements in the survey. You can see some examples of the results from Term #3 below.



Did you enjoy the programs?

Over 95% of students said ‘YES’! This is a big part of why kids love these activities – speaking in front of an audience and sharing your opinions can be a lot of fun. In fact, when we frame debating and public speaking as an opportunity rather than a chore (as many schools, unfortunately, portray these skills), we notice a lot of students experiencing a new-found enjoyment while speaking in front of a group.


Do you feel more confident about debating/public speaking after completing the program?

100% of students said ‘YES’! This is an amazing result, and one we’re very proud of. We put a lot of emphasis on having fun while learning practical skills, so it’s great to know that this comes across in the way our students feel about themselves.


Do you think that you can structure your speech better now than when you started?

Over 95% of students said ‘YES’!  This is another indication that our programs are successfully teaching students practical skills that they can use in their everyday lives. Learning structure can really demystify the task of writing a speech, allowing students to spend more time thinking about the fun things they want to talk about. This is true for debate speeches as well as public speaking.


Do you think that your speaking manner has improved?

Over 95% of students said ‘YES’! Speaking manner is how you speak. It encompasses elements such as pace, pitch, posture, hand gestures, and eye contact. Sometimes the reason students are not having a good time in debating and public speaking is because they perceive themselves as ‘bad’ at public speaking. Learning the elements of speaking manner and simple tricks to improve through our courses is often a huge confidence booster that makes speaking more fun.


Would you like to come back again and have another go next time?

Over 95% of students said ‘YES’! Nothing reveals how children feel about their extra-curricular activities as much as asking them whether they want to go back and do it all again.  We’re thrilled that so many students want to come back and continue learning with us.



What would you say to someone who is thinking of joining a debating or public speaking program?

‘Just do it!’ was the overwhelming conclusion of our surveys. You are far more likely to have a great time in one of our courses than you might think.

Our students understand that the skills they’re learning are valuable and that the best way to learn is by getting out there and giving it a go.

We hope this gives you a better idea of what our debating and public speaking courses are all about, and why kids of all ages love them so much.

Debating and public speaking courses offer many advantages for students, from boosting confidence to teaching important life skills such as thinking on your feet and persuasive writing. If you’re looking for ways to help your child thrive both inside and outside the classroom, encourage them to participate in these activities!