'A great debate means hearing both sides of the argument and both sides of the argument hearing each other.'
Founder and Debate Trainer
A former political activist and public relations specialist, Tony launched Debating London in 2009, a debate club for adults who missed out on the opportunity to join one at school or university . Since then, over 4000 Londoners have signed up, and last year Tony launched the Great Debaters Club, the Capital's only 12 month training programme for newcomers to debating.
The former President of the Nottingham University Debating Society, Jason is an experienced speaker and debate judge. In 2009 he joined forces with Tony to launch Debating London and is the club's resident debate judge. No public debate is complete until Jason has offered the audience his analysis of the arguments to help them tell substance from style before they cast their vote.
Read the arguments and analysis of our previous debates
Debating London is a platform for members of the public to learn how to debate, so the speakers are volunteers from our training programme, the Great Debaters Club. We teach them how to structure and deliver persuasive arguments in language anyone can understand, and then we ask them to act as advocates in our public debates to help you the audience make an informed decision about where you stand.
We devote an hour of each public debate to Q&A and invite audience members to either ask a direct question or make a comment. We make sure that every question gets an answer and because we care more about how many people change their mind than who wins, we call a vote both before the debate and after, so we can measure the impact of the speakers. Finally, we invite a small group of audience members to take part in a 10-minute focus group at the end of each debate to help us understand when they made up their minds and why.
One of the things we're proudest of is that we can always count on our members and guests to provide a welcoming and supportive environment for our speakers, so we don't have too many rules. So here are the few we need you to remember:
Keep it civil - disagreement doesn't need to be disagreeable. If you have an issue with someone's else's viewpoint, talk about the argument not the person. We are very proud of how civil and inclusive our debates are and we want to keep it that way. Also, it's just heated rhetoric, not a logical argument that anyone can independently examine, and that really irks us.
Please be brief - we don't impose time limits on audience contributions during the Q&A, but we do ask that you think carefully about the point you want to make and do so briefly, rather than thinking aloud with no end in sight. We also ask that you do not interrupt the speaker when they are responding to you or follow up with more questions after they have finished.
Respect the speakers' privacy - the reason our members volunteer to speak in a debate is to test their ability to think differently, speak publically, and withstand criticism. Part of this is being willing to defend a position they don't necessarily hold in front of a live audience who often feel strongly on the subject. We therefore ask that you do not video them or attribute arguments made during the debate to them in public or on social media without their explicit consent.
No heckling - stepping up to speak in public and submit yourself to the judgement of your peers takes a lot of courage no matter how experienced you are. Please respect this by waiting to be called on by the debate Chair before sharing your views with the room. We do want to hear from you, but only if you show the same courtesy to others that you would in turn expect from them.
If you break ANY of these rules - you will receive ONE polite reminder of the rule followed by ONE final warning. After that we reserve the right to take action to prevent further disruption, which includes ejecting you from the debate and/or refusing you entry to all or any future debates.
about the debates
Adversarial panel debates on current affairs
Debates are contested between two teams over a set motion, which is a proposal that one team must defend (the proposition) and the other team must oppose (the opposition) – e.g. all recreational drugs should be legalised.
The debate begins with a preliminary audience vote followed by a series of five minute speeches from each panellist. This is followed by an hour of Q&A, during which the audience cross-examine the speakers, interrupted only by an analysis of the arguments by a debate judge. The debate ends with a five-minute summary speech from each team and a final audience vote to see who won and who changed the most minds.
The speakers in each public debate are volunteers from our structured training programme, the Great Debaters Club. As they are learning how to examine questions from multiple perspectives, we tell them in advance which side of the debate they will be taking - whether they genuinely agree with the position they are defending or not.
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