A different take on Table Topics

I am Table Topics Master at my Toastmasters club this week.

It’s a role I’ve done a dozen times before and the format is always the same: the Table Topics Master poses questions and invites members to come up and talk, spontaneously, on the topic for 1-2 minutes. Stuff like “my favorite vacation” or “how would you feel if you had no internet for a day?”. It’s a lot of fun and we hear some great speeches and some not-so-great speeches but it’s always the same format.

This week I’m changing things around and we’re having a debate.

I got the idea from the Toastmasters officer training that I went to tonight. I’ve seen a mini-debate done in Table Topics before but one of the other VP Education officers at tonight’s training mentioned a twist. Something evil. And I’m stealing the idea because it makes me do a little evil happy dance inside.

The subject that I’ve chosen for the debate is “Money is corrupting sports”… a topic that I hope many of our members will feel passionate about one way or the other but also I hope that nobody will feel offended by people arguing against their point-of-view. I chose the subject from an incredible pair of lists at http://www.ada.org.nz/moots.php

So I’m looking for 3 speakers for each side of the debate – I’ve emailed out the subject in advance and asked for volunteer speakers for each side.

Usually with Table Topics you don’t tell anybody the subject in advance… that’s sort of the point. But I need to this week because I want people who are passionate about the subject to step forward. I’ve also warned them that I’d like it to be in the spirit of a normal Table Topics session – i.e. even though you’ve had the question in advance I don’t want you to do a lot of preparation for it.

Except… here’s the kicker…

At the start of the meeting I’m going to tell them all that they’re speaking for the opposite side of the debate to the one that they’ve signed up for.

It’s beautifully evil. But it’s also totally valid. The point of a debate at Toastmasters is not really to persuade people about the opinion that you hold but to make you think on your feet and exercise your speaking skills. Being forced to talk against your personally held beliefs is a perfect example.

I’m still waiting to hear back from the club members. I’ll be sure to post again after the meeting.

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