How To Use The Debate Format for Your Forum Presentation

The debate format is a great way to engage your Forum in a civil discussion where the presenter is torn between multiple options. To use the debate format, the presenter must first identify the topic and then create separate teams among the Forum members that argue for a specific choice. The team that presents the most persuasive argument with evidence and logic prevails in the debate.

If you want to run a successful debate-style forum presentation, below are some tips on how to structure the presentation:

The Debate Format

  • Presenter Background (15 mins) – The presenter should cover three main things
    • What’s the core challenge you are facing?
    • What would you like to hear from the group during the debate?
    • What background info is needed to understand the situation better?
  • Q&A (10 mins) – The group asks questions to the presenter to better understand the situation.
  • Debate Prep (4 mins) – The teams break into small groups to craft their convincing argument for the side they are debating.
  • Debating (12 mins total) – Each group is given an uninterrupted equal amount of time to share their argument with the presenter.
  • Blind Window (8 mins) – The presenter turns away from the table and the group runs through the Blind Window process.
  • What I Would Do (4 mins) – While the presenter is still turned away from the table, have each person share their answer to this statement, “If this were my challenge, here’s what I would do next…”
  • Final Thoughts (2 mins) – The presenter turns back to the table and shares their final thanks and thoughts to the group in a few sentences.

Facilitator Tips

  • Make sure you coach the presenter ahead of time to get really clear on the core challenge and the different options that will be debated.
  • Divide the teams up ahead of time and let them know so they can take notes during the Presenter Background section to support their side.
  • It can be fun to purposefully put people on the opposite side of what you think they would do as a way to challenge them and the thinking within the group.
  • Each team should debate the side they were given, regardless of their own personal opinion on the topic. They’ll have time during the Blind Window and What I Would Do sections to share their own thoughts.

Heads Up

A few drawbacks to the debate presentation include limited personal experience sharing and difficulty in moderating. If you’re interested in running a successful debate presentation, try adding these additional actions to help make the presentation successful:
  • Create a cheat sheet for each side of the debate to give to each group.
  • Provide links ahead of time for any supplemental materials needed.
  • Keep a strict eye on the time so no group runs too long.
  • Add in a section that allows the groups to ask each other questions and challenge each other.
  • Extend the preparation time past the allotted four minutes so groups can better prepare.


The debate format is a great way to mix up your Forum presentations. Engaging participants, driving good discussion, and educating participants on the topic are all great benefits of the format. Try it out next time and let me know how it goes.