Mandy's page of exercises for debaters

Here is a link to a page of exercices prepared for you by our great coach Mandy!

Have fun!

Just A Minute

Just a Minute is a BBC Radio 4 radio comedy panel game.The four panellists are challenged to speak for one minute on a given subject without "repetition, hesitation, or deviation".

  • Repetition:
  • You should avoid repetition of any word or phrase, although challenges based upon very common words such as "and, I etc" are generally rejected except in extreme cases (for example, when repeated half a dozen times or more). The only words you can repeat are the ones of the subject.

  • Hesitation:
  • "Hesitation" is watched very strictly: even a momentary pause before resumption of the subject can give rise to a successful challenge, as can tripping over one's words.

  • Deviation:
  • “Deviation” refers to deviating too far from the subject, deviating from the English language as we know it, deviating from grammar as we understand it…

A panellist scores a point for making a correct challenge against whoever is speaking, while the speaker gets a point if the challenge is deemed incorrect. The points system means that great rewards may go to those who make entertaining challenges, even if they do not speak for very long. An often rewarding time to challenge is a few seconds before the minute ends. Here, one could get a point for a challenge, not have to speak very much, and get another point for speaking "as the whistle went".

Try it, it is great fun! It challenges you reactivity, sense of humour, vocabulary and wit!

You can find out more about this great game here: BBC4 Just A Minute Page.

Good Warmup Exercises

Some debate exercises learned by Pierre Richemond at a Rotterdam debating workshop and kindly passed on...
3 random facts about someone

It basically involves everyone standing up and walking around the classroom. I have to stop and greet people who come my way, and we should exchange names and memorable facts about ourselves ("Hi, I'm Pierre, I'm lefthanded, how are you ? - Fine thanks, I'm Mandy, I have a pet dog named Snowy").

Then, everybody sits down and for each person in the room, other students have to remember facts about him/her until at least three facts have been given.

Chris used this exercise the very first day as an icebreaker and I must say it was very effective. The room design helped us walking too ;p

I couldn't disagree more

This one functions as a chain. I give a statement (eg, "the pope is not sexy at all") and my neighbour has to immediately come up with a rebuttal, a single counter-argument starting with "I couldn't disagree more". Then he passes another statement to his neighbour etc... The purpose is to cycle faster and faster through students. Hesitation is banned. This is a killer training for accepting points of information.

Examples of game sequences in Rotterdam include : " Pedophilia is bad - I couldn't disagree more ; it actually helps to bridge the generation gap. Your wife is lovely - I couldn't disagree more ; not only is she lovely, but clever and delicious as well." Brilliant when everybody's awake ; a favourite of mine.


The most complicated one. In the beginning, the classroom is secretely split between "mafia" and "peasants" (the teacher gives people little papers to choose from - the ratio should be approximately 3 or 4 peasants for 1 mafia). It should include at least 10 people for it to be fun. Then each round, everybody closes their eyes, the mafiosi "wake up" and choose one peasant to kill (ie, to remove from the game).

Everybody goes to sleep again, and wakes up, and a "free for all" debate starts about who the peasants should kill (their purpose is to eradicate a member of the mafia ; these members are hiding amongst their ranks and they have to unmask them !

Debate arguments frequently include individuals' behaviour/body language and mafia killing patterns). The lucky one is happily removed from the game and the teacher announces whether s/he was a mafioso (peasants are relieved) or not (cannibal peasants are sighing). A new round is about to start, unless there are not enough people left and the last man standing's team wins.

The game might be complicated by adding a special role - a "detective" peasant who'd ask the teacher each round while everyone's asleep if someone is mafia or not. Of course, he should try and influence peasant debates since he's got more information, but he doesn't want to show off too much since he's got no additional protection - if the mafia guesses who he is, his time will be running out...

It's a highly political game, better played with about a dozen people. Of course, it's not fun when you're the first one removed ;p