Debate Coach on Presidential Debates


TED: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS. TED SIMONS :FALLOUT CONTINUES OVER LAST NIGHT'S PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE BUT WHAT MAKES FOR A GOOD DEBATE AND WHAT SKILLS MAKE FOR A SUCCESSFUL DEBATER? JOINING US NOW IS ARIZONA'S HIGH SCHOOL SPEECH AND DEBATE COACH OF THE YEAR TIM CORNWELL, A DEBATE TEACHER AT MCCLINTOCK HIGH SCHOOL IN TEMPE. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE THANKS FOR JOINING US. TIM
CORNWELL: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME. TED: REGARDING DEBATING SKILLS, ARE THEY -- CAN THEY BE INNATE OR SOMETHING YOU CAN TEACH?
TIM CORNWELL: I DEFINITELY THINK IT'S SOMETHING YOU CAN TEACH. THERE'S A LITTLE BIT OF A INNATE QUALITIES TO SOMEONE BEING A WARM SPEAKER AND BEING ABLE TO ENGAGE WITH THEIR AUDIENCE BUT MOST OF THE IDEAS OF DEBATING AND SPEAKING CAN BE TAUGHT, ABSOLUTELY CAN BE LEARNED BY MOST PEOPLE, JUST DEPENDING ON HOW HARD THEY WANT TO WORK.

TED: SOMEONE WHO IS AFRAID OF AUDIENCES AND DOESN'T LIKE PUBLIC SPEAKING CAN THEY BECOME A GOOD DEBATER?

TIM CORNWELL: I THINK THIS CAN BE. IT'S DEFINITELY SOMEWHERE THEY CAN BE KNOWLEDGEABLE WITH THE SUBJECT MATTER AND CAN BE COACHED TO BE ABLE TO SPEAK IN FRONT OF PEOPLE.

TED: WITHOUT GETTING INTO THE POLITICAL ASPECTS COMPARE THE DEBATING STYLES OF GDONALD TRUMP AND HILLARY CLINTON.

TIM CORNWELL: DONALD TRUMP IS AN OFF THE CUFF TYPE OF SPEAKER. HE REALLY LIKES TO ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE WITH THINGS THAT SEEM TO BE IN THE FOREFRONT OF HIS MIND. HE'S VERY AGGRESSIVE. IF I WANT TO PUT IT THAT WAY. HE SEEMS TO COME ACROSS LIKE HE REALLY KNOWS WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT. HE DEFENDS HIMSELF VIGOROUSLY AND ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU HAVE HILLARY CLINTON, WHO IS VERY MUCH MORE RESERVED OF A SPEAKER. SHE SEEMS WHETHER OR NOT SHE IS OR NOT, MORE PREPARED WITH SOME OF HER RETORTS BUT SHE REALLY IS TRYING TO KEEP HERSELF CALM WHEN SHE'S REPLYING TO MOST OF QUESTIONS.

TED: IN THE FORMAL DEBATES THAT YOU'RE INVOLVED WITH, THESE ARE HIGH SCHOOL DEBATES AND A LOT OF FUNNY STUFF ISN'T ALLOWED BUT WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT SOMEONE WHO IS VERY AGGRESSIVE AND DEFENSIVE LIKE A DONALD TRUMP, CAN THAT BE EFFECTIVE AS A DEBATER?

TIM CORNWELL: IT CAN BE, AS LONG AS HE;S STICKING TO THE QUESTION AND ACTUALLY MAKING SURE THAT THE LOGICAL ANSWERS ARE FLOWING FROM WHAT THE TOPIC IS. I'D SAY SOMETIMES THE ONLY TIME WHEN HE'S OFF-TOPIC, WE DON'T KNOW WHAT HE'S TRYING TO TALK ABOUT.

TED: INDEED, IS IT IMPORTANT AT TIMES TO SHOW PASSION, TO SHOW ANGER?

TIM CORNWELL: I THINK ABSOLUTELY, AND THE PROBLEM IS YOU DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH. IT CAN WORK WELL TO HAVE SOME EMOTION, THERE'S ALWAYS A LITTLE BIT OF EMOTIONAL APPEAL IN A DEBATE, BUT TOO MUCH YOU COULD LOSE SOME OF YOUR AUDIENCE FOR SURE AND NOT ENOUGH, YOU -- YOU COME ACROSS LIKE A ROBOT. AND THAT NOT GOOD AT ALL EITHER.

TED: I WAS GOING TO SAY, YOU DON'T WANT THE OTHER SIDE EITHER. AS FAR AS BEING PRESIDENTIAL AND SHOWING CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF, A BIG FACTOR YOU THINK ON THESE NATIONAL DEBATES?

TIM CORNWELL: I THINK IT REALLY IS, PEOPLE'S OPINION OF HOW A PERSON PRESENTS THEMSELVES, IT COMES ACROSS IN THEIR SPEAKING STYLE. WHEN THEY'RE CONFIDENT AND NOT FLUSTERED BY LITTLE MINOR THINGS OR LITTLE BARBS OR INSULTS, I THINK IT SHOWS A LITTLE BIT MORE OF PRESENCE AND ABILITY TO LEAD.

TED: AS FAR AS PREPARATION, YOU MENTIONED THIS, BUT CAN YOU BE TOO PREPARED?

TIM CORNWELL: ACTUALLY I THINK YOU CAN BE. IF YOU'RE TOO WORRIED ABOUT ALL OF EVIDENCE YOU'RE TRYING TO PRESENT, IT CAN OVERWHELM YOU AND YOU CAN SORT OF LOSE THAT EMOTIONAL APPEAL AND BE VERY ROBOTIC AND KIND OF BLAND. WE DON'T WANT THAT, NEXT A MEDIA DEBATE.

TED: AS FAR AS BEING UP PREPARED, YOU CAN -- BUT -- BUT THERE ARE SOME FOLKS WHO LIKE TO BE OFF THE CUFF AND MAY NOT KNOW X, Y, Z BUT KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT A, B, C TO BE OK. HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THAT?

TIM CORNWELL: IT CAN WORK EITHER WAY. BEING UN PREPARED TO ANSWER SOME QUESTIONS IF THEY DON'T KNOW FACTS OR NAMES, THAT CAN BE A REAL BIG PROBLEM, WE SAW THAT WITH ONE OF THE OTHER CANDIDATES IN THE NEWS RECENTLY. BUT THAT OFF THE CUFF STYLE REALLY ENGAGES A LOT OF PEOPLE. IT CAN REALLY BE EFFECTIVE AS LONG AS IT'S REELED IN AND YOU DON'T GO TOO FAR OFF TOPIC.

TED: NOW AGAIN, FOR YOUR HIGH SCHOOL DEBATE, NO INTERRUPTIONS ALLOWED, CORRECT?

TIM CORNWELL: NO INTERRUPTIONS ALLOWED.

TED: ARE INTERRUPTIONS EVER EFFECTIVE?

TIM CORNWELL : I THINK IN THIS SORT OF MEDIA DEBATE THEY CAN BE BECAUSE CONSTITUENTS ARE SOMETIMES LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO STAND UP FOR THEMSELVES. AND I THINK BOTH OF THEM WERE TRYING NOT TO BE RUDE BUT THEY WERE REALLY TRYING TO STAND UP FOR THEMSELVES AS MUCH AS THEY COULD.

TED: THAT'S THE PERSON WHO DOES THE INTERRUPTING.

TIM CORNWELL: YES.

TED: IF YOU'RE INTERRUPTED, HOW BEST TO RESPOND?

TIM CORNWELL : THERE'S SO MANY WAYS TO RESPOND. YOU CAN RESPOND BY ARGUING BACK WITH THEM. SOMETIMES THAT GETS DROWNED OUT. OR YOU COULD BE VERY COURTEOUS AND TRY TO LET THEM HAVE THEIR TIME BUT ONCE AGAIN, IT'S CUTTING INTO YOUR SPEAKING TIME.

TED: RIGHT, YOU HAVE TO STAND UP FOR YOURSELF TO A CERTAIN DEGREE.

TIM CORNWELL: YEAH.

TED: WHEN YOU'RE DEBATING AND LETS SAY IT'S SOMETHING YOU WANT TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS, YOU'VE DONE YOUR STUDYING, YOU FEEL GOOD -- YOU'RE CRUISING OUT THERE. HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE CONNECTING WITH THE AUDIENCE, NOT TALKING PAST THEM OR OVER THEM, NOT CONDESCENDING TO THEM? HOW DO YOU KNOW, WHAT DO YOU DO?

TIM CORNWELL: I THINK THAT MIGHT BE ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS YOU DO IN A DEBATE -- REALLY TRYING TO CONNECT AND ADAPT TO THE AUDIENCE BECAUSE MAYBE YOUR AUDIENCE CAN BE DIFFERENT AT DIFFERENT TIMES BUT JUST TRYING READ THEM AND ENGAGING THEM ESPECIALLY IN A TOWN HALL SORT OF DEBATE. TALKING TO THEM AND ACTUALLY MAKING EYE CONTACT CAN MAKE A REAL BIG DIFFERENCE IN THAT SORT OF DEBATE.

TED: WHEN DOING DEBATING AND YOU ARE MAKING YOUR POINT, IF YOU WILL, CAN YOU TELL IF -- YOU MAY THINK YOU'RE CRUISING BUT CAN YOU TELL IF YOU'VE GOT THE AUDIENCE WITH YOU, THE MODERATOR AND EVERYONE WITH YOU?

TIM CORNWELL : YOU CAN DEPENDING ON HOW THEY'RE WEARING THEIR FACE. SOME PEOPLE, YOU CAN SEE EXACTLY HOW THEY'RE REACTING, AND SOME ARE GOOD AT STONE FACING, THEY CALL IT IN DEBATE, YOU HAVE NO IDEA IF THEY'RE AGREEING WITH YOU OR NOT.

TED: A POKER FACE?

TIM CORNWELL: EXACTLY.

TED: AS FAR AS APPEARANCES GO, DONALD TRUMP COULD NOT STAY OUT OF THE SHOT WHEN HILLARY CLINTON WAS SPEAKING. HE WAS HOVERING AND SOME THOUGHT IT WAS EFFECTIVE AND SOME THOUGHT IT WAS WEIRD. BUT FROWNING AND SLUMPING, SPEAKING DOWN, ALL SORTS OF STUFF. WHAT DO YOU TELL YOUR KIDS?

TIM CORNWELL: HONESTLY, WITH MY KIDS, I WOULD NEVER PUT UP WITH ANY OF THAT. WE'RE TRYING TO MAINTAIN SOME DECORUM AND OBJECTIVE AND BEING PROFESSIONAL WITH MY STUDENTS IS NEVER USING LITTLE EMOTIONAL APPEALS OR FACING OR ROLLING YOUR EYES. IT'S KIND OF A RUDE GESTURE. AND PROBABLY IN THIS CASE, MOST OF THAT WAS DONE ON PURPOSE. I MEAN, AND TO A -- MAYBE TRUMP'S CONSTITUENTS MIGHT ENJOY THAT.

TED: IT'S A RUDE GESTURE, BUT YOU'RE GETTING YOUR POINT ACROSS.

TIM CORNWELL: YOU'RE GETTING YOUR POINT ACROSS WHETHER OR NOT THAT'S THE POINT YOU WANT TO MAKE.

TED: HOW BEST TO PREPARE FOR A DEBATE? MAKE SURE YOU'RE NOT -- EVERYTHING IS COMING OUT OF YOUR EARS OR WAKE UP AND ROLL OUT OF BED AND GO AND DO A DEBATE? WHAT'S THE BEST WAY?

TIM CORNWELL: IT'S KIND OF AN EQUILIBRIUM, A BALANCE TO MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY, WHAT YOUR MESSAGE IS AND TO DEFINITELY BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR MESSAGE AND PRESENT IT AND EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT EXACTLY CONFIDENT INSIDE YOU HAVE TO SHOW THE CONFIDENCE. EVEN IF YOU'RE JUST FAKING IT.

TED: INTERESTING, AND WHEN ONE OF YOUR STUDENTS, OR ONE OF YOUR KIDS, ARE ACCUSED OF SOMETHING OR ASKED A QUESTION BY THE OTHER PERSON, AND IN THESE NATIONAL DEBATES NO ONE EVER ANSWERS A QUESTION. THEY MOVE ON TO WHAT THEY WANT TO TALK ABOUT. WHAT DO YOU TEACH YOUR KIDS? IF I'M DEBATING YOU, AND I SAY DIDN'T YOU DO SOMETHING, I THINK YOU DID. DO YOU ANSWER THE QUESTION OR DO YOU FRAME YOUR OWN?

TIM CORNWELL: USUALLY YOU'RE RIGHT, DEFLECTING THE QUESTION CAN BE GOOD, AS LONG AS YOU'RE KEEPING IT ON TOPIC. MAYBE REPHRASING IT TO THROW IT BACK AT THEM. BUT USUALLY STRAYING FROM THE TOPIC IN A HIGH SCHOOL OR COLLEGE DEBATE IS GENRALLY FROWNED ON, BECAUSE THAT'S NOT WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT AND YOUR OPPONENT CAN POINT THAT OUT AND THE JUDGE OR MODERATOR IS GOING TO MAYBE TAKE THAT INTO ACCOUNT.

TED: THE JUDGES ARE LOOKING FOR DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF DEBATE, AS OPPOSED TO JUST WINNING OVER THE AUDIENCE. THERE ARE FORMALITIES THERE THAT DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

TIM CORNWELL: ABSOLUTELY, WHEN YOU'RE LOOKING FOR LOGICAL ARGUMENTATION AND EVIDENCE COMING THROUGH AS WELL AS THE EMOTIONAL APPEAL BUT SOMETIMES IF IT'S ALL EMOTIONAL APPEAL , IN A FORMAL DEBATE THAT COULD HARM YOU.

TED: CONGRATULATIONS ON BEING THE DEBATE COACH OF THE YEAR. IN A POLITICAL SEASON, GOOD FOR YOU.

Hear what an award-winning debate coach thinks of the debate styles of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Tim Cornwell of McClintock High School in Tempe will tell us more.

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Tim Cornwell, debate coach, McClintock High School

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