Toastmasters Table Topics: Everything You Need to Know
The Toastmasters Table Topics portion is one of the unique portions of Toastmasters.
It’s a fast pace segment which allows members or guests to test their thinking on feet skills.
Many would argue that this is the portion of the meeting which creates the Toastmasters culture.
But what is it?
If you were like my younger self, you’d probably think it had something to do with food.
It is the segment of Toastmasters where you witness creativity, how to deal with pressure & presentation skills.
Table Topics is an art, not simply an act.
In this post, I am going to cover what Table Topics is, how to get your mind right & a few practical tips to dominate on stage!
What is Table Topics?
Table topics is the segment of Toastmasters where the members & audience get to participate in impromptu speaking.
The segment is led by the Table Topics Master.
He or she has created topics which they will assign to an individual audience member.
The audience member has 1-2 minutes to deliver their speech.
This section requires the participant to think on their feet.
You will have 0 time to prepare.
It’s pretty much:
1. Get the topic.
Once you begin your speech, the timer will begin the countdown.
- Greenlight indicates that you met the bare minimum of the time limit.
- Yellow light indicates that you are edging closer to the time limit.
- Red light indicates that you are about to go OVER the time limit.
If your speech is too short & doesn’t hit the green light, then you will be disqualified.
If you go past the red light, then you will be disqualified.
(Sometimes you get a buffer on the time. But that depends on the club).
Stay in between & you are good to go!
Mentally Preparing for Table Topics
Here’s the thing.
Table Topics is a pretty stressful moment for guests and/or members.
But I’m here to help you fix your perspective.
View the situation from afar.
You’ll often see everyone in a good mood for this section of the meeting.
Toastmasters has a very friendly atmosphere where people are understanding.
Even if you do mess up or fumble a bunch of words, the audience will be forgiving.
It is not the end of the world.
We all needed to begin somewhere. So don’t be too hard on yourself.
Simply giving yourself permission to fail allows you to have a sense of calm.
It allows you to understand that this whole thing is a process.
Having that level of calm makes you more ready to volunteer to get on stage.
Next, acknowledge that you are learning macro/micro-skills.
Macro skill is that you’re practicing public speaking.
But the micro-skills that you develop are:
- Ability to deliver a speech within the time limit.
- Thinking with eyeballs watching you.
- Body language.
And much more.
These are all micro-skills that spill over to other parts of your life.
You become a much better communicator as a whole.
Whether you are trying to answer questions, speak to a friend or do YouTube videos.
The effects of Table Topics do not end in the Toastmasters meeting.
Rather, it just begins from there.
3 Tips to Dominate Table Topics
You will begin to develop your own Table topics framework the more that you practice.
Over time, you’ll begin to notice patterns of what works & what doesn’t.
I recommend recording every speech so you can analyze your presentation skills & improve.
However, as you are beginning, I want to give you 3 insights that will help you in your journey.
These 3 tips include:
- Leverage Humor.
- Don’t think too much.
- Maintain Perspective.
Let’s go through each one.
1. Leverage Humor
The Table Topics portion of Toastmasters has a very unique atmosphere.
Everyone has their Curiosity Cap on.
There is tension that you can cut with a knife.
A hack that I discovered is that the audience is VERY willing to laugh in this section of the meeting.
The curiosity plays a big factor in their desire to laugh.
- They want to see what you have to say next.
- Also, they want to see if they will be called up next.
A mix of these 2 elements makes them feel a lot of feelings.
Humor allows them to RELEASE those feelings.
Which is why if you have anything moderately funny to say, now is the time to share it.
A few ways to be funny are:
–Smile: Smiling alone will condition their perception into a positive light.
–Changing Tonality: Changing your tonality to a higher pitch will get a few giggles out of them.
–Pause: Take a pause after a joke & ALLOW them to laugh. Typically just making 1 person laugh starts a flurry of laughter from others.
Humor is a great emotion & makes your speech stick out.
2. Don’t think too much
Yep, you read that correctly.
Don’t think too much.
The reason a lot of people fall short with Table topics is that they think too much.
Then they start getting in their heads.
This causes them to over amplify every detail & not end up saying anything.
You want to hear the topic, plan just the high-level points of what you are going to say & begin.
That is all.
Like I said earlier, Toastmasters is a very supportive community.
Don’t worry about saying something stupid.
That’s what causes you to overthink in the first place.
Be okay with flaws & fire off.
You’ll be surprised how your most creative thoughts come when you are uninhibited.
3. Maintain Perspective
It’s easy to get into the comparing game when you are in Toastmasters.
You’ll see a lot of people dominating Table Topics & think…
‘Why them & not me?’
Avoid falling into this trap.
Just because someone is further ahead on their journey does not marginalize yours.
The fact that you are putting yourself out there shows a lot about what is yet to come.
Table Topics is a mega skill.
Certain veterans often get butterflies when they get called on stage.
They get butterflies because they know they can always improve.
If people with 10-20 years in the game sees room for improvement, then you should as well.
Maintain your perspective & make each Table Topics better than the last.
Taking Home The Ribbon
It’s all a game of practice.
You will get better with each speech.
The beautiful part?
You will immediately feel the positive effects.
The first time I took home a Table Topics ribbon, I was ECSTATIC.
Your audience votes on the winner, which makes the ribbon even more special.
However, let the ribbon simply be a bonus of doing a good job.
Do not make that your only intention.
Your intention is to develop your rapid thinking, creativity & power over the Number 1 fear on the planet.
Now you know more about Table Topics & how it works.
Go on & take your talents to a Toastmasters today.