The Toastmasters program has a tradition—at each meeting, every member has a speaking role. The Table Topics session is the portion of the meeting that ensures this tradition. The purpose of this activity is to have members ”think on their feet” and speak for a minute or so. The Table Topicsmaster prepares and issues the topics; originality is desirable as much as possible. Each speaker may be given an individual subject, or a choice of subjects may be presented from which the members can draw at random.
The role of Table Topicsmaster provides good practice in such leadership skills as planning, preparation, organization, time management, and facilitation. Work to balance the amount of time available for Table Topics with the number of respondents and the amount of time each uses to answer the questions. Carrying out this meeting role advances you in the Leadership Track.
Prior to the meetingEdit
- Check with the Toastmaster to find out if a theme meeting is scheduled. If so, prepare topics to carry out that theme. If no theme is scheduled, choose a wide selection of topics. Review Toastmaster Magazine and other publications for ideas, and refer to the article Table Topics. Do not repeat the previous week's Table Topics ideas or items.
- Find out who the prepared Speaker, Evaluators, General Evaluator, and Toastmaster are, so you can call on the other members first. Only if time permits at the end of the Table Topics session should you call on program participants (speakers last).
- When choosing your specific questions: Select ones that will inspire the speakers to expound on them and give their opinions. Don’t make the questions too long or complicated. Phrase them in such a way that the speaker clearly will know what you want them to talk about.
- Keep your comments short. Your job is to give others a chance to speak, not to give a series of mini-talks yourself.
- Remember, Table Topics has a twofold purpose: First, to give everyone at the meeting an opportunity to speak—especially those who are would otherwise lack a speaking role—and, second, to get people to learn to “think and speak on their feet.”
During the meetingEdit
- When introduced, briefly state the purpose of the Table Topics session.
- Set the stage for your topics program. Keep your remarks brief but enthusiastic. If the club has a “Word of the Day,” encourage speakers to use that word in their response.
- Keep the program rolling; be certain everyone understands the maximum time they have for their response and how the timing lights/device works (if the Timer hasn’t already done so).
- State the question briefly—then call on a respondent. This serves two purposes: First, it holds everyone's attention—each one is thinking of a response, should he or she be called on to speak. Second, it adds to the value of the impromptu element by giving everyone an opportunity to improve his or her “better listening and thinking” skills.
- Call on speakers at random. Avoid going around the room in the order in which people are sitting. Give each participant a different question; don't ask two people the same thing unless you ask each specifically to give the “pro” or “con” side.
- Watch your total time! Check the printed agenda for the total time allotted to Table Topics, and adjust the number of questions to end your segment on time. Even if your portion started late, try to end on time to avoid the total meeting running overtime.
- If your club presents a Best Table Topics Speaker award, ask the Timer at the end of the Table Topics session to report those eligible for the award. Then ask members to vote for Best Table Topics Speaker and pass their votes to the Sergeant at Arms or vote counter. If the club has a Table Topics Evaluator, ask for his or her report and then return control of the meeting to the Toastmaster.
- Table Topics
- A Toastmaster Wears Many Hats (Item 1167D, 6 pp, $1.00)
- Think Fast Table Topics Handbook (Item 1315, 4 pp, $1.00)
- Stand Up and Speak! Table Topics Game (Item 1316, 55 Verbal Topics, 50 Sentence Completions, 30 Non-Verbal Topics, 16 blank (!), $7.50)
- Tabletalk Conversation Cards (Item 1318, 49 cards, $7.50)
- Chat Pack Fun Questions to Spark Conversations (Item 1319, 156 cards, $8.00)
- Patterns in Programming (Item 1314)