When You Are The Table Topics Master

When You Are The Table Topics Master


Table Topics is an excellent way for members to develop spontaneous speaking skills.  It is also one of the most important ways that our club engages with new and aspiring members and often their first steps in gaining public speaking confidence. An energy-charged Table Topics session can set the tone for an energetic meeting!

Before Thursday

Topic Preparation

  • Review Early Bird Table Topics
  • Topics can be selected from a any number of themes – just bear in mind:
    • good taste and appropriateness for the audience
    • not everyone speaks English as a first language, or shares your love of obscure quotations/historical figures/literature etc etc!
    • good topics are open-ended/give the speaker some latitude for creativity
  • Previous themes have included seasonal questions, favourite holidays, word associations, role play, finish the story… the choices are endless. You can find some interesting suggestions here: Topic Ideas… and an example transcript from a session by NinaG here: 31 July Tabletopics
  • Note the topic timings: Green – 45 seconds, Amber – 60 seconds and Red – 75 seconds
  • Prepare 12-14 topics – (Early Birds alternate between 6 – 12 Topic speakers every fortnight)

On Thursday

Before The Meeting Starts

  • Arrive at 6:45AM!
  • Sit near the front to allow you to take a seat and return quickly after each topic
  • There’s no need to ask people in advance if they want to participate – that’s part of what we’re all here for!
  • You have complete autonomy in who you choose (within the guidelines mentioned) – don’t be swayed by persuasive members and officers!
  • Familiarise yourself with everyone on the agenda, including any last minute changes – DO NOT pick those who already have a role 
  • Monitor the guest and attendance lists and pay attention to the guest introductions to identify possible speakers
  • When deciding who to select, aim to:
    • start with a member, so guests can benefit from seeing how Table Topics are done
    • have a mix of members and guests – Table Topics is one of the best ways of engaging our guests
    • have a mix of male and female speakers
    • end the session with a member so that it goes out with a bang!

During The Meeting

Introducing The Topic Session

  • When the Toastmaster invites you up to deliver the session, stand centre stage and be prepared to lead the session – you get to run the show here
  • Explain clearly and concisely in the purpose/benefits of Table Topics for guests who are unfamiliar with Toastmaster procedures, eg:
    • mini speeches of up to 75 seconds – consider structure: introduction, narrative and conclusion
    • to test people’s spontaneous speaking skills
    • all speakers get valuable feedback on their performances to help them learn and develop as speakers and everyone in the room can note good things to emulate
    • afterwards everyone gets to vote for the best Table Topic speaker – point out the space on the ballot paper to do this
  • Outline a theme if you have one – this may help some to get their brains into gear!

Presenting The Topics

  • Try and keep the topics short and punchy – aim for no more than 10 words each
  • Choose an experienced Toastmaster as the first Table Topics speaker – they will set a standard and format for others who may be less experienced or even complete novices
  • Ensure a fair balance between guests and members – aim for a ratio of 50/50
  • Build suspense and don’t give away who you are calling up until the very last minute. The best way to do this is to:
    • present the topic first (trying not to give away who it might be for (ie avoid “he” or “she” or looking at your speaker too early)), allow for a short pause…
    • then name your speaker!

Eg: “You wake up on a desert island with a fluffy Penguin and a cowboy hat. Tell us how you got there… Hilary Briggs!”  (Don’t select the speaker first and then the topic as everyone else immediately relaxes.)

  • When greeting people onto the stage LEAD THE APPLAUSE, stand off-centre so that they arrive centre-stage to assume their role. Shake hands and gift them the stage
  • While the speaker is delivering their topic, review your next topic ready to deliver it without notes
  • Anticipate each close and be on your feet before a topic speaker has finished and is about to leave the stage
  • Be on your feet to lead the applause; congratulate each speaker in recognition for what they have achieved before they sit down. This signals that you are reclaiming centre-stage
  • The Time Keeper should let you know when time is up for the session by dinging the bell three times during the applause of the last table topic; if you are not sure ask them for a time check
  • Finish by collectively congratulating all the speakers and hand back to the Toastmaster 

After The Meeting

  • Note any suggestions for improvement from the General Evaluator 
  • Ask this week’s Guest Host to evaluate your performance in this role – decide which Competent Leader project you want this to count towards
  • Bask in the glow of a job well done and enjoy breakfast!

Introductions And Topics

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