Table Topics is the section of a Toastmasters meeting where we all get to practice the art of impromptu speaking.
The Topics Master is responsible for running the Table Topics session, the purpose of which is twofold:
- It enables us to develop the skills of impromptu speaking
- It provides a really valuable speaking opportunity for anybody who is not otherwise included in the meeting programme.
It’s also great experience to take control of a part of the meeting and to use your creative skills!
Before the Meeting
- Prepare sufficient topics to accommodate the number of topics speakers shown on the programme (this is usually a maximum of 7)
- Our planning is based on 1.5 minutes for the topic speaker and no more than 2 minutes per topic including your introduction, speaker arrival and departure/applause etc.
- Any variation in format or timing should be agreed with the VPE and Toastmaster in advance, who will adjust the programme accordingly
- As the membership of the club has grown, the VPE sometimes allocates fixed Table Topics slots for up to 3 members, to ensure that they are ‘picked’ -‐ please check with the VPE that you know who these members are. Also remember that no-‐one should be forced to speak/do a Table Topic -‐ so it’s important to check with these allocated members that they are willing to participate.
At the Meeting
- Arrive at least 15 minutes before the formal start of the meeting in order to speak to members (and perhaps guests) as they arrive. Double check that the allocated members wish to be included and prepare a list of other participants (always give priority to existing members who have no other function on the agenda, guests follow next)
- When the Toastmaster calls you on to stage, remember to shake his/her hand. Address the audience by saying “Mr/Mme Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and most welcome guests…”
- Make a brief “scene setting” address. If the Toastmaster has not already done so, mention the purpose of the topics but then introduce the general theme of your session – for a maximum of 2 minutes
- Call upon the topics speakers, as follows: A couple of experienced speakers first, other members with no other speaking role, then willing guests (please do not pressure anybody to speak). Do not exceed the planned number of speakers unless time permits and the Toastmaster agrees. You should not start another question after the time for the table topics slot has ended.
- For each topics speaker describe the assignment(10‐15 seconds maximum), then repeat the question and introduce the speaker by name; i.e. “My question is what’s your favourite colour? With the question what’s your favourite colour, please welcome Joe Bloggs on stage”. This is more challenging as none of the participants know whether it will be them called up but also it allows them very valuable thinking time whilst they get up to the stage which in turn should generate better quality responses!
- Thank the speaker on completion of the topic and introduce the next topic…
- On completion of the session, thank all participants and pass control of the meeting quickly back to the Toastmaster
Notes & Tips
- Table Topics is particularly for those who have no other opportunity to speak during the meeting (other than in the warm up session when we run it)
- Certainly don’t include the TT Evaluator, but you can substitute latecomers for those on your list who already have speaking roles
- It’s a good idea to arrive early and circulate during the break to speak to people about participating (you might want to anticipate before the meeting who you might choose or encourage to participate)
- Table Topics should provide a good way for newer members and less confident speakers to start gaining confidence so encourage and help them. It should also provide opportunities for more experienced speakers to stretch their abilities so give them more demanding topics. Have a wide variety of topics ready and adjust them according to the speaker but make sure that you don’t impose Table Topics on a reluctant speaker.
- Subject matter is entirely the responsibility of the Topics Master but experience shows that a good overall performance is achieved in the following circumstances:
– The topic is one that allows the speaker to speak from his/her own experience
– The topics session follows a common theme, allowing the less-‐experienced speakers some preparation time
– Some Topics Masters prefer to set only “challenging” topics which may result in excellent performances from a few speakers but dismal performances from the rest -‐ the choice is yours.
- Before the meeting, when deciding on the topics, remember to try answering them yourself to see if they work!
- Try to keep your explanations and instructions precise and clear.
- It is not necessary to include timings as these are included in the programme.
- Always greet each topics speaker with a handshake and enthusiastically lead the applause ‐ do the same on completion of the speech
- Please remember to not go over the allocated time ‐ the best way to control timing in a topics session is firstly to keep your instructions and comments as brief and as clear as possible, and secondly to control the number of speakers.
- This is a creative role that is good for trying different variations on themes and it does give you a good opportunity to take control of part of the meeting.
- Finally, if you have not completed your Competent Leadership Award and still need this role signed‐up you should: (A) give your CL manual to another member before the meeting starts with the required role identified and ask him/her to complete the required section; and (B) ensure you cover all of the objectives of the selected CL project during your performance of the role.