Have you ever found yourself in that difficult situation where someone asked you a challenging and unexpected question and you didn’t know where to start? Imagine a situation like an important business meeting at work or a job interview. Or even an intense conversation with your partner or a friend. In situations like these, most of us would either freeze or start saying long ehms not knowing what to say and trying to buy some time.
Imagine instead if you were able to keep it together, think on your feet and respond to the question decisively and assertively, being able to convey your message effectively and concisely. This specific skill is called impromptu speaking. It’s basically about giving a speech without any preparation whatsoever. After all, providing an answer to a question is just like giving a speech.
Luckily, if you’re a Toastmasters member, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice this skill. That is thanks to the Table Topics session that happens in one of the two halves of a typical Toastmasters meeting¹.
A Table Topics session is run by a Table Topics Master. There are a number of participants, usually up to 10, and, in typical Toastmasters style, a Table Topics Evaluator is there to listen to all the speakers and give feedback to all of them at the end of the session.
The Table Topics Master will prepare a series of questions on a specific topic prior to the session; then, during the session call each participant on stage to answer one of the questions. Obviously, no one knows the questions in advance, so the challenge is to answer without any preparation and speak for a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of 2. The Timekeeper is there watching you, so you don’t want to go over time nor speak for less than a minute.
As you can imagine, this can be fun and nerve wracking at the same time. However, if you think about the situations I described at the beginning of my post, you can imagine how useful it is to be able to practice this skill on a regular basis. Becoming a great Table Topics speaker has incredible benefits in real life. You will suddenly feel more confident at work, when put on the spot by your boss or a colleague with a difficult question. You can really up your game and start inspiring the people around you. You will also feel more comfortable just having a conversation with a friend or a chat with a stranger you’ve just met.
But how can you become a great Table Topics speaker?
Here are some tips²:
What about being a great Table Topics Master?
Here are some tips for that:
On the last point, in our club we experimented with things like a role-playing game on a crime scene or people having to sell objects that don’t exist. It was a lot of fun and everyone was really engaged.
Finally, if you’re a Table Topics Evaluator, you obviously have a very difficult job.
A few tips below:
In conclusion, in this post, the 5th of my Toastmasters series, I’ve told you about the importance of impromptu speaking in real life and how the Table Topics session in a Toastmasters meeting can help you build that skill.
Blog was written by author as 8 part Toastmaster series and also available in his personal Medium post