A goal for each Toastmasters meeting is that every member should have an opportunity to speak. Table Topics is that segment of the meeting which assists in reaching this goal. The special feature of this segment is that participants must “think on their feet” and extemporaneously speak for one-to-two minutes.
Participation in Table Topics helps participants develop poise and confidence. As Table Topics Master, you prepare and issue the topic or question that serves as a basis for each of these mini-speeches.
Preparation In advance of the meeting:
Check with the meeting Toastmaster (TM) to find out if a meeting theme is planned and also approximately how many minutes the Table Topics (TT) segment is allotted in the meeting agenda. Prepare topics/questions consistent with the theme and enough of them to fill the allotted time (use 1 ½ minutes per participant) plus one or two extras.
If no theme is planned by the TM, choose topics as desired. When choosing your specific questions or topics, select ones that will inspire the speakers to expound on their opinions. Don’t make the questions difficult, too long or complicated. Phrase them in such a way that the participant will easily know what you want them to talk about. The idea is not to “stump the chump”, but to enable the participant to think and communicate in the form of a brief speech.
Preparation at the meeting:
There are two tasks:
(1) Just before the meeting, check with the TM to confirm that the allotted time for TT segment still holds. In the unlikely event of a last-minute cancelation by a scheduled speaker, the TM may need the TT segment to stretch for a longer period. In this case, you will likely need to prepare a few additional topics/questions prior to the beginning of the TT segment.
(2) As the meeting begins, make note of attendees who do not have assigned roles. Select these as your first TT participants. If additional participants are needed to fill the allotted time, select those attendees who have had roles that have been completed such as the Greeter and the Joke Master. Lastly, select from the Eyes and Ears team. Avoid calling on the Toastmaster, scheduled Speakers or Evaluators.
Table Topics Segment:
After your introduction by the TM, state the purpose of the session and set the stage for your topics program. Keep these remarks, as well as the statement of each topic/question, brief but enthusiastic. First state the topic/question and then call on a respondent. This order accomplishes two purposes: it holds everyone’s attention, and it adds to the training value of the impromptu element by giving everyone an opportunity to improve listening and creative thinking skills. Don’t call on the person first, and then tell them the topic.
Use proper lectern/”floor” etiquette: do not leave the lectern/”floor” unattended and transition with each participant with a handshake. Remind each participant to use the Word-of-the-Day.
Once into the sequence of participants, be attentive to the TM for a signal indicating the final topic/question for the segment. Upon its completion, welcome the TM back to the lectern.