The Brains Trust

The Brains Trust

At Early Bird Speakers we are keen to offer our members and guests different kinds of speaking opportunities; to give new challenges, to develop skills for use elsewhere, and just for the pure fun of it! With our meeting on 29th November 2012 we were pleased to introduce our latest meeting format experiment – The Brains Trust.

The Brains Trust is a new variation on our meetings whereby, instead of a Table Topics session, we host two panel discussions on preselected topics of the day. The discussions are led by a Brains Trust Chairman who selects the panelists, directs the questions and facilitates the discussion. This time, both topics were communicated to the audience ahead of the meeting, but no one knew who would be asked to take a seat on the panel.

The goals

For the panelists, this provide a speaking opportunity akin to a round table discussion or a Question Time debate. Panelists have to work with a restriction that many of us face in our day-to-day lives; that of communicating effectively from a seated position. They are also presenting points or responding to opinions in a dynamic discussion rather than a speech scenario. As the topics were known in advance, it allowed the option for audience members to engage more deeply with the subject and reflect on the issues or even research should they wish.

For the Brain’s Trust Chairman, this represents a leadership and communication challenge as they must facilitate the evolving discussion whilst ensuring all panelists get opportunity to speak and keeping order.


Two weeks in advance of the Brains Trust meeting, VPE, Neil Coleman, approached Tony Duff with an outline of the format and its objectives and to offer him the challenge of being as our inaugural Chairman. Tony was happy to accept and within the week had selected his two topics for the session:

“If you don’t vote, its your fault!”
“A Suit Without A Tie is a sartorial disaster”

A week ahead of the meeting, President, Ben Taylor whet the appetites of the members and guests by announcing the topics in his weekly e-mail.
With the staging organised and everything in place on the morning, see how it all turned out in the videos below:

If you don’t vote, its your fault!

A Suit Without A Tie is a sartorial disaster

And, as ever at Toastmasters, we learn through effective evaluation, here provided by Taz Miah:

Panelist Evaluation


The session was well received and the Brains Trust itself created lively discussion and debate, with the President requesting feedback from the floor at the end of the meeting. Comments included:

“Even though I felt quite nervous during & after that discussion (for a short while), I realise that I should be putting myself many many more times in such situations to get over my fear of public speaking”
Dileep – Brains Trust panelist

We’ll be honing and tweaking for our next Brains Trust in 2013 as well as coming up new innovations for our future meetings!

Our Club Mission
To provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment to foster self-confidence and personal growth where every member can develop communication and leadership skills. Join Us!