Tony Koutsoumbos

Tony Koutsoumbos

Tony Koutsoumbos is the founder of Debating London and is a member of the Cogers, Sylvans, and the 104 London Debaters. Having been a contestant for 4 years, Tony has now become part of the judging panel and is looking for contestants that have an argument, he wants them ‘to set out their stall and make a case’. 

Tony is a debate coach and runs a weekend school debate training programme in partnership with Thomson Reuters and the University of Leicester.

What Tony loves about public speaking is “the adrenaline rush. I still get nervous standing up to speak and it’s those nerves that keep me sharp, on the ball, and electrified with excitement throughout. The line between nerves empowering you and overpowering you is very fine indeed.”

The best advice Tony has to give to public speakers is that ‘understanding what you want your audience to take away from your speech is more important that knowing what to say.’

Please describe your job in detail?

I am the founder of Debating London, the debate club for adults. My role as founder encompasses every major function of the business, from accounts, business planning, and reporting to the things I am most known for, organising and chairing debates, running training workshops, representing the club to the press, forging partnerships with like-minded organisations, and growing our new community: the Great Debaters Club.

How would you describe yourself?

Tired. The job I described above isn't even my day job (that's being a recruitment consultant in the charity sector). These days, I have taken to describing myself as a debater because - as pretentious as I realise the title sounds - the extent to which my obsession with promoting debate as an essential component of a participatory democracy (not to mention a kickass transferable skill) has taken over my life in the last 3 years has led me to define my identity by it.

What attracted you to being part of the judging panel?

The immense respect I have for the judging panel having placed myself at their mercy for four years in a row and eventually being rewarded with a third place finish in 2013.

What advice would you give to beginner public speakers?

Understanding what you want your audience to take away from your speech is more important that knowing what to say. So, don't write a speech, but instead identify your top three messages and take some time to think about the best way to convey those messages in language that even a seven year old could understand. Get that right and you won't need a speech, you'll just need to get up and start talking.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your career?

Don't run before you can walk - though I'm probably still learning that one. I've taken many risks in my career without really thinking them through. As a result, I've had some terrible experiences as well as many great ones. This doesn't mean rush to the other extreme and stay in your 9-5 job until you die, but it does mean not being so quick to chuck it all in just because you think you have a great idea that you haven't actually tested yet.

What do you love most about public speaking?

The adrenaline rush. I still get nervous standing up to speak and it’s those nerves that keep me sharp, on the ball, and electrified with excitement throughout. The line between nerves empowering you and overpowering you is very fine indeed. That is the only different between me and someone who is afraid of public speaking.

What are you hoping to see from the contestants?

An argument. I want them to set out their stall and make a case rather than just seduce me with flowery rhetoric that ultimately rings hollow. The person who stands up and opens their speech by declaring what they intend to prove to me is the one who is going to have my undivided attention.

Have you had the opportunity to contribute to any magazines or national/local press?

Regrettably not yet.

What do you feel is your contribution to the world of public speaking?

Unifying the worlds of speaking and debating to prove why the two don't have to be mutually exclusive, though I'm still working on that one.

Are you a member of any specific speaking clubs and/or groups?  

Debating London, Cogers, Sylvans, and the 104 London Debaters.

Please list your own website, twitter, LinkedIn details.

www.debatinglondon.com

@debatinglondon