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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J. Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

How does Toastmasters help you speak on your feet? Table Topics!

Man stands in front of a Toastmasters meeting presenting Table Topics

How good are you at speaking on your feet? Do you easily get tongue-tied or can you express your ideas clearly and succinctly?

Would you like to practice impromptu speaking?

One of the best parts of a Toastmasters meeting is just for that purpose. It is called Table Topics®.

What are Table Topics®?

As described on the Toastmasters International website, “Table Topics® is a long-standing Toastmasters tradition intended to help members develop their ability to organize their thoughts quickly and respond to an impromptu question or topic.”

The Table Topics® portion of the meeting follows the prepared speeches. It gives members, and even guests if willing, an opportunity to practice their impromptu speaking skills. It is led by the Topicsmaster, who plans questions or speaking prompts based on a topic or theme.

Respondents are selected at random and called on either before or after the Topicsmaster gives the speaking prompt. They are to collect their thoughts and begin speaking within 15 seconds and speak for at least 1 minute but not more than 2 minutes.

What do you learn from Table Topics®?

Everyone at a meeting benefits from Table Topics®.

Topicsmasters build skills in asking high-quality questions to elicit responses that are interesting and match the topic selected.

Respondents build skills in expressing their thoughts clearly and succinctly. Improving one’s spontaneous speaking abilities translates into building skills for more effective and engaging interviews, conversations, Q&A sessions, and more.

Meeting attendees observe quality prompts and responses, noting what works well or not so well. Additionally, members get to know one another better as ideas and experiences are shared.


How can you prepare for Table Topics®?

Take note of the theme for the meeting if your club has one. In our club, the Table Topics® portion of the meeting is almost always related to the theme. Think ahead of possible questions or prompts that could be asked and responses and stories you could share.

Have fun during this portion of the meeting maintaining a conversational and natural tone. Relax and smile while receiving the speaking prompt. Pause to collect your thoughts and begin with a restatement of the question. If needed, reword the question to better fit your response, but in such a way that it does not appear you misunderstood the prompt.

Table Topics® are considered mini speeches. Therefore, respondents should create an opening, a body, and a closing. In your opening, present a key idea or clear answer to the prompt. In your body provide an example, evidence, or describe an experience to support this idea. Then in closing provide a statement that repeats your key idea or summarizes the prompt provided.

Where else can impromptu speaking be practiced?

Rather than shy away from situations that call for thinking quickly and speaking on your feet, use them as opportunities to hone this skill…

Attending a networking event? Be willing to readily engage with others in conversation when meeting someone new. Practice the art of asking good questions and stimulating others to speak. Listen before speaking.

Do others seek your expertise or opinions? Welcome the opportunity to participate in interviews or Q&A sessions. Have a thoughtful answer when asked for your viewpoint or to share your knowledge or experience.

Embrace the challenge of Table Topics. The practice will help you speak on your feet with confidence.

Interested in getting better at speaking on your feet? Get more information about Toastmasters or learn about our club, the Tippecanoe Talkers. Take the next step… visit a club

“When you talk, you give yourself away. You reveal your true character in a picture which is more true and realistic than anything an artist can do for you.” ~ Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, Founder of Toastmasters International

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