How one motion sent us over the Tasman and back again

By Kirisha Thanapalasuntheram

Last week’s meeting was a true tribute to our friends ‘across the ditch’ in New Zealand. There were a number of memorable moments: Michael attempting the New Zealand National Anthem in Maori, the men getting out of their shells and attempting the haka and hearing some traditional Maori stories. You may be surprised to know that the highlight of the night for me was actually the frivolous motion.

Just for funnies

It’s common to see Toastmasters jokingly roll their eyes when it is time for the frivolous motion. They know it can (and should) be quite silly. They also know it is a part of the meeting where the combination of wine settling in and a ridiculous proposal means that people tend to become quite loud and animated in what seems like a pointless activity.    

Why it’s useful – The frivolous motion is aimed at testing the Chairman – throw them many curve balls and see if they can handle it. It’s also a chance for anyone in the club to test their negotiation and communication skills as well as their wit. It’s a mock-up scenario of what could happen when you’re put on the spot and asked to form an opinion and also provide reasoning for it. In real life, this could occur at a business meeting or more generally, at work.

Reflection of last week – Last week’s motion was that Pavlova should be on the menu at all Parramatta Toastmasters’ meetings. This ended up becoming a debate about whether Pavlova was from New Zealand or Australia. What I love about the role is that it allows all Toastmasters to argue a point but also bring their unique personalities into their argument. Some people got serious while others were just plain funny. One of our members argued in favour of Pavlova being added to the menu because “stressed spelt backwards is dessert”. That was gold!

The amendments to the motion sent us over the Tasman and back. People became more than a little confused. Eventually the amendments were not passed as they were seen as undermining the purpose of the original motion. After a couple of extensions of time, the motion ended abruptly and we moved on to general business. It’s important to know that it’s okay if amendments are brought in that do not pass or that the debate is not concluded. This is an accurate reflection of what can happen at work when ideas are brought forward that cannot be approved or due to drastically conflicting views, decisions are not made in the allocated time. The frivolous motion role gives all Toastmasters an opportunity to practice being flexible but focused in such situations.  

Motion potion

Here are some handy tips which you can try out when you’re next assigned the frivolous motion role.

Simple is best – Keep the motion brief and don’t introduce any jargon or complex words.

Relate to the people – Make sure Toastmasters can speak to a topic that they know about or could easily comment on. You’re not likely to comment on the notion that all nail salons should sell gel-nail services only, are you?

Get creative – Be imaginative when coming up with a motion. The more angles people can argue about, the higher chance of people contributing and the more interesting the debate will be.  Remember that the point is to encourage members to practice sharing their opinions in a formal setting. It doesn’t matter whether the topic is absurd, as long as it inspires them to speak.

Get organised – Provide Chairman 2 with copy of your option it can be referred to while he or she chairs the session.

Once you’ve done your preparation and put forward your motion, you can watch it take on a life of its own as Toastmasters really guide the debate. Some will get edgy, some will be crafty but witty and some won’t even make sense. One thing you can count on is that if you follow the basic tips outlined above and on our website here, the debate will never be boring. 

That’s all from me. Looking forward to hearing the gem of a motion you come up with when you’re assigned to this role.



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