Archive for Debating

Hellfire Toastmasters Meeting, 29th January, 2013

Debate Topic - Government Funding and the Arts

Should the government fund the arts?

With a special Toastmaster vote of appreciation, to this weeks reporter – Richard!


The meeting opened at 8pm sharp with our reserve President for the night, Brian, standing in for our usual general, Susan. He reminded everybody that the Tall Tales competition is taking place and following various pleas by our Vice President for Education (VPE) Bernard, a full schedule of speakers have been found. He also reminded people that the annual membership was due before the end of February and he wouldn’t be the least offended if people gave him money tonight. John Mc, our Sargent-at-Arms, reminded everybody to turn off their phones and pointed out the nearest exit in case of a fire.

Brian handed control of the meeting over to Jim, our Toastmaster for the night. He immediately introduced the first speaker of the night, Richard, to take the floor. Richard was giving a Stage 7 speech which forces the speaker to collect information from a variety of sources. Richard’s speech was entitled “A Dummy’s Guide to Doping” and explained how cyclists’ doped and why they doped. The second speech of the night was given by Sinéad, also a Stage 7 speech. Without having too much time to prepare, Sinéad spoke elegantly about super foods; the everyday healthy foods that we don’t expect can help to fight cholesterol amongst other things. She even had a hand out for everybody to take home.

The last speech of the night was given by Keith. He has quickly worked through the manual and this was a Stage 9 speech, a phenomenal achievement for somebody who only joined a little over a year ago. Keith had to use the power of persuasion in his speech and this he did. Entitled “Yes We Can”, Keith spoke about suicide in Ireland. He reminded us that the Irish people had challenged issues like road casualties and our attitude to drink-driving and that we could challenge suicide and succeed in the same manner. He ensured that the audience didn’t get too demoralised by adding appropriate humour to his speech.

Then came the debate and the motion was “The government should abolish all funding for the Arts”. Marlene proposed the motion and spoke about how the private sector will take the place of the government through patronage and that this money is being taken away from critical areas like education and health. Ger opposed by mentioning that art reflects our cultural heritage and that private companies can have an undue influence on which pieces of art get commissioned and chosen. Furthermore, he pointed out that the certainty of funding from the government gives the artist the freedom to be creative.

There were several contributions from the floor, with some people calling art silly and that it serves no purpose for the economy while others stated that the money given to the artist can trickle through the economy. After the debaters had the chance to summate their viewpoints a vote was taken with the motion being defeated.

Our break followed and everybody had a chance to chat to each other.

The meeting started up in earnest once again with everybody’s favourite* time of the evening, Topics. Noel, our Topicsmaster, had a chance to give everybody a topic given the low turnout on the night, and he started with those not on the roster for the night. Topics included parents smoking in front of their children, horsemeat in burgers, the new drink-driving laws in Kerry, people being able to arm themselves with more than a hurley and the presence of pets in the wedding photographs of Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy.

Then came the evaluations of the speeches, and John Mc, recovering from his earlier appearance as Sargent-At-Arms, evaluated Richard’s speech, Niamh evaluated Sinéad’s speech and John O evaluated Keith’s speech. All were largely positive, with only a minimal number of recommendations for each speaker, including stance in relation to the podium, the use of jargon that everybody may not understand and the use of the hands.

Unfortunately we didn’t have an Em and Ah counter but our General Evaluator, Rose, stood up and gave her opinion for the night. She mentioned the couple of things that the Toastmaster could have done a little better and lamented the fact that we didn’t have an Em and Ah counter. She praised the speakers and the debaters, along with the Topicsmaster, and had some kind words for each of the evaluators, pointing out that John O was the only person who read out the objectives of the speech, and this is what earned him the Evaluator of the Night award. Finally she reminded everybody to fulfil their roles if they were on the roster for the night, as a few people couldn’t attend due to sickness, though in fairness to them, they did have the necessary replacements there.

Jim reminded people of the same thing as it makes the life of the Toastmaster very hard, before Brian closed the meeting and we all went home.

  • Speaker – Keith
  • Evaluator – John O
  • Topics – Kaleigh and Mike

Until next week…

*least favourite

Meeting Report – 22nd January, 2013

Debate: As A Society We Need to Learn To Demonstrate

Should we protest more?

Paulo was the man of the two and a half hours tonight, and an able man he was. He opened the meeting promptly at 8.03pm and President Susan began the meeting by giving us all some gentle encouragement to

Enter the Tall Tales Competition

She’s right, you should.

There quickly followed the admin of any meeting. Barry, featuring as the worlds most unlikely air hostess, pointed us to the fire exits and warned us to switch off our phones. Since no phones went off throughout the meeting, there is evidence that people were practising the essential Toastmaster skill of listening. Following a brief introduction to the art of Timekeeping from Aengus, the meeting proper got under way.

First up was Mike, who in a rather rousing speech, encouraged us all to bring our speechcraft skills to the masses, and develop skills in others through mentoring programs. Which reminds me, existing members – we need volunteers for mentors. Next up was Rose, who stepped up at the last minute, and put together an interesting and engaging speech about Percy French. Third up was Richard who in a very relevant speech talked about the power of words. All three of these speeches were off stage speeches, always difficult to evaluate. However evaluated they were, and ably so by Elizabeth, Susan and Martin. Each evaluator brought out the positives in the speeches, Elizabeth in particular mentioned several nice examples of specific phrases and alliterations used by Mike. Not to be too nice, all three evaluators also gave good advice on where speakers could improve.

Finally Cian gave his stage five speech, the purpose of which was to bring in body language to make his point. This he did and he did well, with a speech on the psychology of self-defence. His opening was particularly strong, when he woke the audience up by demonstrating how one should yell at an attacker to back off. Nearly sent me scurrying from the room. His speech was evaluated wonderfully by John H, who has recently rejoined the club after a few years absence.  John brought the guidelines of the manual in wonderfully, praised Cian’s speech (praise which was well deserved), and demonstrating the problem himself, gave Cian some feedback on the need to finish speeches in a timely fashion.

After the speeches came the debate. A nice topic this week, not too controversial, not negatively phrased, lots of juicy detail for the debators and the audience to get their teeth into. Mandy was first up for the proposition, and argued her point persuasively in a well structured speech, that really laid out the motion well. Jim opted for the more passionate orator style in his opposition speech, and as usual succeeded well. Then the motion was opened to the floor. There was no wishy washy stuff, everybody spoke firmly either for or against the motion, which is always nice. Martin produced one of my favourite moments of the evening when he pointed out the hazards of demonstrating, people who really don’t deserve entitlements get to keep them simply by being loud, in spite of it being undemocratic, unfair, and bleeding the country dry. After eight contributions from the floor, Jim and then Mandy summed up. Mandy won the motion comfortably, and lo it was time for tea and biccies.

After the tea and biccies came everyone’s favourite part of the evening – Topics.

John G proved himself a master of topics. The topics were varied, they avoided the usual stereotypes, they challenged people, but they didn’t challenge them too much. Particular Kudos goes to the two visitors who spoke – Victor and Julie. Julie in particular got a particularly tricky question that included a Shakespeare quote on the frailty of women, but her response was excellent, and it meant I didn’t get it, which in some ways is the most important thing. I have to say my favourite response to a topic came from Aengus who chose three people to bring to a desert island – Cheryl Cole, Usain Bolt and Barack Obama.

I may see a flaw in that plan there Aengus.

Following the topics, were the evaluations of the speeches, which I’ve already covered. Then Marlene stepped up as em counter. A horrible job, but she did it well. It seems perhaps we made some progress over last week, but there’s still a long long road ahead. Finally there was the general evaluation from Niamh, which summed up the meeting almost as well as this post, and the awarding of the trophies, as follows:

  • Speech – Cian
  • Evaluator – John H
  • Topic – Julie and Victor

and so the meeting ended and we all went home.


Oh What A Year! Jan 8th Meeting Report

Toastmasters Debate

We Are Going Backwards y Becoming Technology Dependent

In spite of the best efforts of the hotel to misdirect our new members, a motley collection of new faces were present to welcome in the new Toastmastering year. Ably guided by the Toastmaster, Barry, the meeting got off to a prompt and energetic start.

First up was Aengus, who gave a fascinating and in depth speech about the history of gun control laws in the US. It was a challenging topic for a stage three speech, but as Rose noted in the evaluation he handled it well and kept it interesting, though it was a little long.

Up next was Marlene, giving her stage six speech, the aim of which is to entertain us with “vocal variety“. And entertain us she did, with a great story about a trip she won at the age of 17. If the drama involved in 17 year olds stranded in a boat that won’t start trying to get back to their sailing ship isn’t a great topic to show your vocal variety, I don’t know what is.

There was quite a change of pace for the final two speeches of the night. Denis practised a three minute speech he is to give at the opening of a very formal and prestigious conference on Friday, and he received some great recommendations from Paulo. The final speech came from Sinéad and was on Ergonomics. Sinéad gave a very thought provoking speech on health and safety in and out of the workplace, though I have to say I’m now a bit worried that I’ll injure myself if I bend over to pick up a pen.

The it was time for the debate . . .

We are going backwards by becoming technology dependent

Myra was first up as the proposer, and she put the case extremely well, discussing how technology interrupts our daily lives and makes it more difficult to really be in the moment and enjoy real interaction with real people. Zanya countered by bringing in the enormous benefits technology in healthcare, food production and transport has brought to human lives. The floor then got involved with several excellent contributions, including the best quote of the night from a guest, Axel who spoke against the motion. I can’t get it word perfect, but a picture is worth a thousand words and what he discussed was the cartoon in the top left corner.

The debate, unusually, but showing the skill of both speakers, ended in a dead heat, and so we adjourned for a tea break.

After the tea break, Brian stepped up as topics master and with a clear knowledge of current affairs generated some great contributions from the floor. Again a guest – Brendan, made the best response, in this case to a question on Pat Kenny and his ability to retire.

The night then finished with the evaluations and an excellent (as always) general evaluation from Mike, who spoke in praise of the toastmaster Barry, the topicsmaster Brian and the president Susan. Mike also complimented the speeches and the evaluators. Really the only quibble was with the lack of a sergeant at arms speech, which turned out ok since the building didn’t go on fire. It should be sorted for next week though.

So all that remained was to award the trophies and wrap up the meeting:

  • Topics – Brendan
  • Speech – Marlene
  • Evaluator – Niamh


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January’s Program and Debate Topics

So the January Program has been sent around, and as usual it looks to be a fun-filled month.

This months debate topics are:

January 8th We are going backwards by becoming technology dependant
January 15th Gender quotas should be introduced in the Dáil
January 22nd As a society we need to learn how to demonstrate
January 29th The Government should abolish funding for the arts

I’m looking forward to it already!

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How to Debate

If you’re interested in Debating regularly, Hellfire is the club for you. At Hellfire we have a debate every week. They’re a great opportunity to practice arguing a point, speaking off the cuff from the floor and from the podium, and to think about issues you never normally think about.

The four keys to the art of debating are:

  1. Passion: Nothing wins a debate like passionately believing in your side of the argument. Let that passion show through in your voice, in your stance and in your gestures.
  2. Preparation: Know your argument and almost as important, know what your opponent is likely to argue. Arm yourself with responses to answers and not only will your arguments hold together and be more convincing, knowing that you’re well prepared will give you the confidence to relax.
  3. Poise: Even if your opponent is right, they don’t have time to double check. Have the confidence to act like you’re right and you will win.
  4. Performance: Then bring it all together on the day!

The most important thing at Hellfire is to have fun, with the topic, with your opponent and with the audience. Take the opportunity to try out new techniques, speak quietly, loudly, in front of the podium, use an anecdote. Hellfire provides a safe space to practice and a safe space to fail, so that when you go out and argue in the real world, you’re fully prepared to succeed.

Meeting Format

A Hellfire Toastmasters Meeting

Meeting in Progress

Every club does slightly different things at meetings. Some meet every week, some every fortnight, some do debates, some focus more on speeches, some have a summer break, some don’t.

At Hellfire, we meet every Tuesday at 8pm, in the D4 Hotel, Ballsbridge

The weekly programme is usually:

Speeches: These are given by members old and new, on topics from online dating to dancing, to the history of the German national anthem. Most meetings have three or four speeches and most speeches are about six minutes long.

Debate: One of the more unusual features of Hellfire Toastmasters is that we have a debate every week. The proposer and opposer both speak for 4 minutes, then all meeting attendees can comment on the issues raised. This gives everyone a great opportunity to practice thinking on their feet, and gain the confidence to give short impromptu speeches. The opposer and the proposer are then given two minutes to sum up and the winner is decided by public vote.

Tea Break: Because sometimes it’s nice to chat.

Topics: A “topicsmaster” will state a question or topic briefly and then call on a respondent. Each speaker receives a different topic or question and participants are called on at random and have up to two minutes to reply

Evaluations: Since toastmasters is about improving your public speaking abilities, every speech is evaluated by an experienced toastmaster. Every speaker is given constructive feedback on what they did right, how they met the aims in their speech and what they could do better next time.

General Evaluation: (almost) finally, the evening as a whole is quickly summed up by one person. The general evaluation can comment on any aspect of the meeting, but it’s usually used to give feedback to the debators, the topicsmaster and the evaluators.

Trophies: At Hellfire, we award three trophies at every meeting

  • Best Topic Awarded by the topicsmaster for the best response to a topic
  • Best Evaluation Awarded by the General Evaluator for the most helpful evaluation
  • Best Contribution Awarded by the general evaluator to whoever made the best contribution of the evening.

And then we go home!

If you want to read a bit more on a meeting, there are regular blog posts about our weekly meetings in the News section, or simply come along and find out for yourself!

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