Table Topics – What? Why?
Table Topics are impromptu or extempore speeches. The purpose of the Table Topics section is to help members think on their feet and speak on a given subject for between one and two minutes. It also allows speaking opportunities for those who are not programmed for other roles on the agenda.
If you are wondering why, we have table topics or impromptu speeches in our meeting? Is it just a game to fill up the time, have a bit of fun or embarrass perhaps. NO!!!!, there is a purpose and a specific plan around Table Topics. Have you ever been asked for your opinion about something in a meeting or gathering, only to have your mind go blank? Have you given your opinion, but it was so disorganized that the point you were trying to make was lost?
The ability to “think and speak on your feet” is an important communication skill that often determines your success in job interviews, official meetings, seminars for example and even day to day activities. We do this extempore speech in everyday activities while greeting persons, answering phone calls etc. Thinking on the feet and organising the thought procedure is also one of the most important aspect for the leadership development.
That’s why the “Table Topics” portion of the Toastmasters club meeting was developed.
• Table Topics provides the opportunity to practice impromptu or extempore speaking.
• By answering brief Table Topics questions, you learn how to present your thoughts clearly and convincingly, with no more than a few seconds of preparation.
• You also learn to listen constructively and improve the flexibility in thinking.
• Table Topics practise is invaluable because it will teach you to focus on one subject and perhaps even more importantly, to trust yourself.
Table Topics – Preparation?
When I first joined Toastmasters and heard about Table Topics, it seemed impossible to prepare for it. People said, “You cannot prepare for Table Topics! You just have to get up and do it!” I probably propagated the same thought to others. The idea is part truth; part fiction. While you cannot prepare the answer to every question you are given unless you work for a psychic hotline, you CAN prepare your thinking procedure so that you can give yourself more chance to succeed. Below are the few ideas I use to prepare for speech
Don’t Panic - If you can, just stop caring about table topics. Remember, everyone in the audience has been in your position, has probably dried up at some point and is willing you to do well, so you don’t need to worry about their reaction.
Buy Time - Give yourself time for your nerves to die down and for you to think of something to say. Take time to get up the chair. Acknowledge the audience, Table Topics Master and repeat the question. If you need to, just talk for a while about something vaguely related to the theme, or even about something totally unrelated: sooner or later, ideas will come.
Express an opinion at the beginning - Unless you’re a beginner, try not to give a long introduction. Instead, answer the question or express an opinion, and do so at the start. This is easier for closed questions (e.g. “What was your favourite Movie?”), but you can also do it for open questions (e.g. “Talk about Traffic”). So long as you can seize your little idea and turn it into something concrete.
Remember the rule of three – You can put structure in your speech by breaking it down into three main points which helps you to justify your answer.
Own experiences - When you’re given a table topic, first try to see if anything relates to you that will answer the question or illustrate your argument. This makes it easier to answer the question, a personal reply sounds more convincing that other answers you might give.
Keep Practicing - Finally, keep practicing. The more you do it, the less nervous you’ll become, the easier you’ll find it, and the more you’ll enjoy it.