TL;DR — the key points to take away from this story are:

  • Conversations are a starting point, not an achievement, and there should be something to show for them at the end. In this case, that something is a free online resource numerous volunteers worked hard to produce — and even this was just a first step.
  • Focus on a specific problem to solve and keep it modest (especially if you’re doing this for the first time) — if you set yourself the goal of ending racism everywhere, you will become so overwhelmed so quickly that you will almost certainly…

Last Christmas, I discovered the story of a scientist who should be a hero to anyone who values the free exchange of ideas and opposes prejudice in all its forms. Ruth Benedict dedicated herself to the study of culture and shattered gender stereotypes by rising to the top of her field. She also coined the phrase that has stayed with me since — when asked what the purpose of anthropology was, she replied: “to make the world safe for human difference”.

Fast forward to a present day that was unthinkable at the end of last year, and after starting a…


After being asked to comment on what advantages I expect each candidate to enjoy over the other in tonight’s election debate on ITV, I decided to draw on my own experience of preparing speakers for public debates and a few good rules of thumb I’ve learnt along the way about how to separate substance from spin — which is not easy. These rules could prove important in tonight’s election debate when millions will tune in to watch two charismatic communicators vie to win our hearts and minds…but mostly our hearts.

Rule 1: decide what’s important to you first

There is going to be a lot of talking tonight…


The conventional wisdom of our time, echoed in blog posts, training seminars, and panel discussions abound, is that authenticity is a vital component of effective thought leadership. Say what you mean and mean what you say if you want people to trust and respect you.

If this sounds fairly straightforward, perhaps the two TV interviews that hit the headlines this week might give you pause for thought, both of which attracted so much attention not because of the stories they were covering, but because of the breakdown in communication between the people involved.

On Monday, Sky News host, Jayne Secker…


Statue of Horatio Nelson on Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London

Twice a month, the Great Debaters Club hosts a public debate on a topical issue dividing public opinion as part of the club’s ‘Debating London’ series. The audience are presented with a dilemma facing real-life decision-makers that they must vote on to resolve with the help of our panel.

Instead of inviting guest speakers to sit on this panel, we ask members of our training programme to defend the competing perspectives shaping the debate in their own words. …


Twice a month, the Great Debaters Club hosts a public debate on a topical issue dividing public opinion as part of the club’s ‘Debating London’ series. The audience are presented with a dilemma facing real-life decision-makers that they must vote on to resolve with the help of our panel.

Instead of inviting guest speakers to sit on this panel, we ask members of our training programme to defend the competing perspectives shaping the debate in their own words. …


Twice a month, the Great Debaters Club hosts a public debate on a topical issue dividing public opinion as part of the club’s ‘Debating London’ series. The audience are presented with a dilemma facing real-life decision-makers that they must vote on to resolve with the help of our panel.

Instead of inviting guest speakers to sit on this panel, we ask members of our training programme to defend the competing perspectives shaping the debate in their own words. …


Twice a month, the Great Debaters Club hosts a free public debate on a topical issue dividing public opinion as part of the club’s ‘Debating London’ series. Our next one is on a question that has surged to the front pages of almost every newspaper in recent weeks: is Russia now our enemy?

Debate motion

This House Believes Russia is a strategic enemy of the West

When and where

Wednesday 4th April
7.00 pm — 9.30 pm
The Tea House Theatre (see map)
Vauxhall Walk SE11 5HL

Admission

Free to attend and open to all, but advance booking required.
Follow link to book

Why are we talking about this today?

Cyber-attacks, meddling…


The ability to make a strong argument is one of the most sought-after skills in the modern British workplace, which isn’t surprising considering that 8 out 10 jobs in the UK economy are in the services sector.

Are you convinced? I can prove my statistic about jobs is true if that’s what’s eating at you. Maybe you think it’s a problem that our economy is so reliant on the services sector in the first place and that’s why I can’t persuade you, which is a perfectly valid point, but a different conversation from the one I started. …


Panel for the Great Debaters Club Brexit debate in June 2016

Here is the situation: you have been asked to organise a panel discussion for a thought leadership conference, even though this isn’t something you have an awful lot of training or experience in. Nevertheless, this is a unique opportunity for your clients, colleagues, and peers to come together and talk about the future of your industry and the challenges and opportunities it will bring — and you need it to go well. So, what do you do?

Conventional wisdom dictates that you give your discussion a hot topic that will draw in the crowds before selecting a panel of respected…

Tony Koutsoumbos

Tony is the founder of the Great Debaters Club, a social enterprise that teaches adults how to debate.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store