Most of us are quite comfortable speaking in social situations. But what happens when you are the centre of attention and everyone in the room is waiting for you to speak? That’s why you joined Toastmasters – to develop these skills.
This article is about a section of the meeting which you either Love or Hate – Table Topics.
Table Topics is impromptu speaking – giving a short speech without much time to prepare. We use Impromptu speaking in our daily lives and it is a vital skill for success and growth.
Job interviews. Most us in this room have been in job interviews. We are asked questions and we respond as convincingly and enthusiastically as possible.
We speak impromptu in Social situations – and we ask questions of other people.
What sort of work do you do? What did you do on the weekend? Why did you join Toastmasters? How would you answer these questions?
In the workplace we need to speak in meetings with our manager or in a team meeting.
Speaking clearly, confidently and convincingly in all of these situations is a essential for personal growth and success.
What is a table topic?
A table topic is a mini-speech of 40 to 60 seconds. I call it a speech because your response should have a definite opening, a body and a strong conclusion. The body of the speech can be a story – or you could talk about the positive and negative sides of the question or give an example.
You don’t have to be highly creative, extremely funny or deeply profound – the only requirement is to stand up here and speak for about a minute.
It is possible to prepare for Table Topics. Remember when you went for that job interview? I am sure you researched the company, the job description and rehearsed answers to some questions you might be asked like “Why do you want to work for us?”
Toastmasters meetings have a theme which is used by the Table Topic Master. For example, today’s theme is Dreams. You can prepare for today’s session by thinking of five possible questions then practice responding. How about “What is your biggest dream?”. By doing this, you will activate your memory by recalling things about dreams. So my first tip is to rehearse possible questions .
Probably the biggest fear for new Toastmasters is not knowing what to say! How do we get ideas for a topic? Our memories work by association and the best way to recall something is to ask yourself some questions . When the Table Topics master welcomes you – repeat the question, pause, then ask yourself “What images come to mind?” and “What does this question remind me if? “ Maybe you can think of a story or episode in your life. So this is my second tip – asking your memory.
Lie like a politician!
So what happens when you really don’t know what to say. In Table Topics you don’t have to tell the truth – you can make up your response. Be as creative as possible. We probably won’t know if you are making it up anyway.
You can be more adventurous and ridicule the Table Topics master. You can talk about a different topic something in parallel or maybe the opposite. Imagine you are asked to comment about the Australian Open Tennis – you haven’t been watching it so you talk about your experiences learning tennis as a teenager.
My third tip is to Lie like a Politician. Don’t worry about the question – this is Table Topics not a Police investigation!
A genuine concern for new Toastmasters is Fear – the fear of not knowing what to say – the fear of looking stupid in front of the audience. Fear and worry are going to paralyse your brain and stop your thinking . If you them into your thinking, you will become like a deer in the headlights and unable to move.
You need to take a different approach. Approach your Table Topic with the intention of having fun and to enjoy the experience of entertaining the audience with your response. Allowing the spirit will relax you and enhance your creativity.
In summary, take your time in starting your response. Take a deep breath, think of just one thing to say, maybe a story, restate the question to get you speaking and release some nervous energy, then start speaking.
Embrace the challenge of Table Topics, have fun and enjoy yourself. There is nothing to be afraid of and the benefits will be life changing.
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