Impromptu Debate

Organizing an Impromptu Debate

Recruit and Instruct a Debate Master

An Impromptu Debate Master, whom we call a Chowder Master in MCDS, prepares and manages the part of the meeting where all members without major roles and willing guests may debate. This role is not as complicated as the Debate Master for the prepared deb ate. It is similar to a Table Topic Master in a regular Toastmasters meeting. In addition to managing the impromptu debate, he creates a resolution beforehand. If he has not performed this function before, then he will need instruction based on the inf ormation below.

Create a Resolution

As with a table topic, the resolution for an impromptu debate should make it easy for the debaters. It should be a simple, declarative sentence, not a question. It should stimulate debaters' imagination and draw upon their casual knowledge rather than r equire them to think hard and scratch their heads for esoteric knowledge. In MCDS, we have whimsical and even silly subjects. We try to have fun during the impromptu debate in contrast to the prepared debate. Consequently, the funniest team usually win s. Here are some of our past topics:

Serious, and semi-serious, issues are okay for the impromptu debate as long as the debaters know something about them or at least have an opinion. In years past, we have debated that cosmetic surgery should be prohibited and that covert action is necessa ry to defend our way of life. Such topics can be debated at bar room level; however, we decided long ago that we want the fun of a light topic.

Adopt a Format

An impromptu debate is short, casual, and fun, but it should also be a real debate. It should have teams; the teams should prepare their cases; they should present their arguments and evidence; and, they should rebut the other team's arguments and eviden ce. To accomplish all this efficiently, you might adapt MCDS's format:

  1. Announcement of topic and team captains
  2. Assignment of debaters to affirmative and negative teams
  3. Planning by teams and deciding speaker order for each team (5 minutes)
  4. Debate in which affirmative and negative speakers alternate (maximum 2 minutes each)
  5. Vote by audience and announcement of winning team

Managing an Impromptu Debate

Announce Resolution and Assemble Teams

After explaining the nature of the activity, the Impromptu Debate Master announces his resolution. He then asks for volunteers to debate on the affirmative or negative sides. He will have chosen and notified the team captains before the meeting. If pos sible, he recruits equal size teams, but he can have one more on the affirmative side if they are uneven. As in table topics, all members who do not have major roles participates, and if there is adequate time, guests are invited. A minimum of three mem bers on each team insures a full impromptu debate.

Monitor Planning Session and Obtain Order of Debaters

The team have five minutes to construct their cases privately. It is important that the Timer keep track of their time; otherwise, they may strategize forever. After the pooling their arguments and evidence, they decide who will argue what to avoid redu ndancy. Usually, the person who thought of the argument can present it best, but not always. At the end of the planning period, the Impromptu Debate Master gets from the captains their order of speakers.

Explain Timing and Introduce Debaters

The Timer explains the signals, and the Impromtu Debate Master introduces the speakers in turn, starting with the first affirmative, then the first negative, then the second affirmative, and so forth. Before starting the introductions, however, he remin ds the debaters that they should rebut the opposing arguments in addition to presenting their own.

Judging an Impromptu Debate

Vote for the Winning Team

If you want to keep with the usual Toastmasters procedure of secret ballots, then you might have the audience--those who did not debate--write their choice of winning side, either "affirmative" or "negative," on the voting slips. You could then count the ballots after both impromptu and prepared debates are finished, as usually happens with table topics and manual speeches in regular TM clubs. In MCDS, we simply have a hand vote after the debate and know the result immediately. When our debaters argue that they should be able to vote, we allow them as long as it inflates the results evenly.

Announce the Result and Make Awards

If you can have a secret vote, then it makes sense for the (Prepared) Debate Master to announce the results of both debates and make all awards at the end of the meeting. In MCDS, we do it differently; the Impromptu Debate Master announces the winning te am immediately. Our members cannot bear prolonged suspense nor have they learned delayed gratification. He then presents little blue ribbons to team members, if the Sergeant-at-Arms remembers to bring them. Otherwise, the winners get only profound sati sfaction of knowing they are champions for a month.

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