This Blog has now moved to - all future posts will be made there!

4 March 2011

Q&A Debating for "adults"

Here is another question and answer from my e-mail archive.  This one is a common question because once people finish college there really isn't an option for them to continue debating.  The question is about Ireland but I think it can apply to almost any country.  Perhaps a few of us should get together and set something up but in the meantime I hope this is useful to someone.

Hi Colm

I am looking to join a debating club/ public speaking club for adults in Dublin. Do you know of one?

Thank you

Hi Xxxx,

This is actually a very common question but not one I have an easy answer for.  I’ll split my answer to your question into two areas Debating and Public speaking. For debating the options are not very good but for public speaking things are a bit more hopeful.

Debating: I’ve looked a couple of times to see if is a debating club for adults and actually it tends to be a very rare. They pop up every now and then but often they are run to a political agenda (I have seen a few socialist debating clubs advertise events and I know Ogra Fianna Fail do some debating but you aren’t really going to get a diverse range of opinions in events like these).

Some organisations like Macra na Feirme and Junior Chambers hold debating competitions but that’s only an offshoot of their core activities. I came across a Dublin Debating Society a few years ago as they were debating against a Toastmasters club. However I haven’t heard anything about them in a long time and can find no trace of them on line now.

Given the popularity of debating in college I’m always surprised how there isn’t more debating for adults. I once looked as setting one up in Limerick but found that there was not a lot of interest from the general public and we didn’t even have enough people to hold a debate let alone have an audience. I think the key is to have regular interesting guest speakers to attract a crowd and from that crowd the membership will develop. Unlike Limerick a club in Dublin would have a much greater pool of interesting speakers to call on but no one ever seems to have tried setting one up. I know there are clubs in London, Toronto, Singapore etc that seem to do quite well.

Public speaking: I’ve already mentioned Toastmasters above. Toastmasters are often looked down on by university debating and certainly its a very different atmosphere and philosophy.  However it is the only world wide organisation catering for public speaking.  I think this might be an option you should try. A typical toastmasters meeting contains both impromptu short speeches and longer prepared speeches. It’s an interesting mix that seems to suit most people. You will get to make a impromptu “table topics” speech at every week. No one is forced to speak so if you don’t want to you don’t have to but in general once people have settled in they tend to be happy to take part.

Then 3-4 times a year you make a longer prepared speech based on a training manual which develops your public speaking style over 10 modules. Feedback is given by an assigned evaluator (and by the general audience in the form of feedback notes) but in a very encouraging positive way. Once you have completed the first manual of 10 modules there are a number of other shorter manuals you can then take up to develop other areas (e.g. business communication).

I believe the key thing about Toastmasters is finding a club that suits you. The first club I went to was the original club in my city. The member profile was on the older side (I would say the average age was late 40s). There is nothing wrong with that but I was in my 20s and didn’t really feel comfortable there. After that I tried a newer club in Limerick (there are 3-4 in the city) and there I found the member profile much younger and really enjoyed the company of the people there (I actually met my wife there, but that’s another story).

I recommend looking at your local newspapers and see what toastmaster clubs are near you (or try to find a list of clubs). Don’t feel obliged to join the one closest to you. You can normally attend 3 meetings as a guest without joining so you can see if you like the atmosphere and the people. If you don’t feel comfortable there then try another club. Hopefully you will find one that you like.

I hope that gives you some guidance. If there is anything more I can do to help let me know. If you want clarification on anything above let me know.




  1. Anonymous7:21 am

    There are very few hobbies that you have to stop once you leave college. I would love to keep debating but I graduated 2 years ago and thats the end of that.

  2. Anonymous7:36 am

    The "adult" title has so much promise... :-)

  3. Anonymous8:21 am

    Toastmasters! LOL!

  4. Toastmasters may not be perfect (I'm no longer a member because we moved and the club in our new town was back to the "older" membership profile). However if you find a club that suits you then why not join.

    It does highlight a need for something to continue on after college. And toastmasters is hugely successful financially (at least the club I was in was). If someone was looking for a business idea a chain of debating clubs might be one to consider. Not a lot of overheads and certainly it should be more than covered by membership fees and nightly paying on the door.

    "Adult" debating. Come on :-) I think there are telephone lines that provide that "service". :-)


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.