A form of debate in which a number of speakers argue for their own favourite from a group. That is, rather than the usual kind of debate where two teams argue pro and con a proposition, in a balloon debate each speaker has their own thing to defend, and the scoring or voting by judges or the audience (or the participants themselves) is to determine which of the speakers have made their cases most persuasively.

The name "balloon" is used because the imaginary set-up is of a hot air balloon that contains all the things being argued about, and which is overloaded. So one of them has to be thrown overboard, and everybody defends their own position so as to stay on board the balloon. Normally the argument and scoring will continue as the weakest proponents are progressively eliminated, until only one is left.

Balloon debates are light-hearted. You can't imagine them occurring in politics, though they're not that far from what actually happens in some political systems. In some cases the speakers play the people they are defending: for example, Germaine Greer might be Johann Sebastian Bach and say "My music has lasted for three hundred years...". (I choose this example because there is one forthcoming on the radio with Greer defending Bach, but I haven't heard yet how it's actually conducted.)

The whimsical set-up could equally well be set on a raft, so these are sometimes called raft debates.

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