Event ingredient: a debate?!

Many event professionals will tell you that “interaction” is an important ingredient for an event. A debate is one of the strongest examples of interaction. Yet, it’s often not part of an event program.

A debate can be easily organized, either with appointed speakers [e.g. subject experts] and even with the audience itself. A debate is very suitable in the context of an industry conference or for an employee meeting. It is often centered around themes that are close to people their work and hearts.

In his Dutch book “Durf te Kiezen”, meaning “dare to make choices”, author Gijs Weenink claims that a debate can be much more powerful to an organisation, than hiring a consultant: it’s quicker, it engages everyone and it’s all about arguments rather than about individuals. A debate is a good thermometer for the culture of an organisation or an industry.


How to setup a debate? | The following ingredients are important for a great debate:

  • Strong statements. A statement needs to be short, positively formulated, not open to multiple interpretation, controversial and needs to carry a suggestion for improvement.
    Some examples:
  • We need more leadership
  • We need to say “no” more often to our clients
  • Everyone is allowed to decide their own working hours
  • Attendees. Attendees can represent their own opinion or can be challenged to defend a point of view that isn’t theirs. The last case can be seen as an exercise or challenge. Are you able to see things from a different perspective? A debate can be small or big in audience size. Yet, the larger, the more complex to operate.
  • Time management. A debate only needs 10 to 15 minutes per statement. It requires attendees to be short and clear in their arguments. The facilitator makes sure that attendees don’t repeat their arguments, that quiet attendees are engaged as well and that all attendees get equal time to bring across their point of view.
  • Space and seating. During the debate attendees can be given the option to change camps. So, if arguments from the other party convince you, then you can move and change to the other side.
  • Independent facilitator. An independent facilitator is able to lead the debate in a neutral way. He or she is also able to ask better clarifying questions, which can help to bring the debate to a higher lever. The facilitator is also responsible for the time keeping.
  • An audience A debate can have an audience. A valuable element can be to first let the audience vote on the statement and to show it either before the debate starts or after. With the results the debaters can be helped to start their debate or they can be confronted with the outcome at the end of a debate.

    Alternatively there can also be a “before” and an “after” vote to see how the opinion has changed through the debate. To make it even more dynamic, you can let the audience respond live throughout the debate. Debaters are then challenged to give their utmost to influence the audience. Via Sendsteps the audience can vote [anonymously] through their smartphone.

  • Follow up A debate can be fun [with even a jury appointing the best debater!], but it is often a very constructive managerial instrument. A summary of the debate can help to discuss issues in tomorrow’s board room meeting! Or changes can be even made on the spot, straight after the debate…

So which topic is trending within your organisation?

Imagine how it can spice up your event on one hand and on the other hand will lead to concrete insights and actions too!

About the author

Robert DaverschotModerator | Presenter | Speaker Coach

Robert is a professional moderator, presenter and speaker coach. Robert has years of experience at home and abroad and works for a broad range of industries. He has interviewed ministers, captains of industry and even His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In his dealings with the audience, he always uses Sendsteps. With it, an audience is able to voice their opinions, whereby attendees can cast votes or send in comments to speakers and panels on stage. As such, events turn into lively dialogues with everyone being able to speak up!

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