Join | Donate | Volunteer:


Become part of a 5,000+ community which believes that speaking and listening skills are central to personal fulfilment and cultural understanding

Become a member


One-off or regular donations are vital to our work, helping us ensure that young people everywhere have the oracy skills they need to thrive

Support our work


We’re hugely grateful to those who volunteer their time in helping to organise and run ESU programmes and competitions. Find out how you could help


‘We rely on the generous support of our members, donors and volunteers to ensure we can reach those children who need our help most’

Home > Resources > Skill sets – Expression and Delivery

Skill sets – Expression and Delivery

Expression and delivery sets debating apart from competitive essay-writing. Students need to be able to convey their thoughts with their audience in mind.

A persuasive speaker:

  • Speaks with confidence, as indicated by voice, body language and the absence of a verbatim script (although notes for reference are encouraged)
  • Engages the audience with variations in the tone and volume of their voice
  • Chooses vocabulary and sentence structure carefully, to maximise their rhetorical impact

The first step towards ‘good style’ is gaining and expressing confidence. This moves quickly into the art of seeming authoritative when speaking. There are many types of ‘good style’, and it’s important for debaters to find a way of speaking that they find comfortable.


Students are often pre-occupied with the idea that a funny speech is a stylish speech. This can be true, but there are many other ways to be stylish.

Instead, they should focus on ensuring the tone, volume and vocabulary are appropriate for the content of the speech, and on making sure they’re not speaking too fast. Debaters still need to be (a) comprehensible and (b) slow enough that the judges can understand and write down their speeches and make written notes.


It’s natural to make hand gestures when speaking – a speech with none would seem odd. But somehow, in the stress of debating, people start making strange, distracting gestures.

Focus students on what to do with their hands and body language, rather than a list of ‘don’ts’.

two children in blue sschool uniform presenting to class in a classroom
Discover Debating children

Activity - Make it sound good, make it sound bad

Learning Objectives:

Students understand how they can use different vocabulary to make a point more effectively and persuasively

Average time: 10 minutes

Use with: All age groups (debating and public speaking)

Activity Plan:

Divide the students into small groups, and give each pair of groups a ‘neutral’ statement (e.g. ‘London is a big city’, or ‘Birds can fly’). Ask one team in each pair to present the statement to the group so it sounds good (‘London is a big, multicultural, thriving city’), and the other to present it so it sounds bad (‘London is a big, dangerous, noisy city’).

Download the full resource at the top of the page

Share Page