• Karen Brook

From Table Topics To Table Topics Leader

‘Would you like to do a Table Topic, Karen?’ ‘No!’ I replied. I mean, why would I?

The thought of standing up in front of an unknown audience, whilst quaking in my shoes, filled me with dread! How was I suppose to give a 1-2 minute concise answer to a question from the Table Topic Leader, off the cuff, when all I could hear was my heart banging in my chest just at the mention of ‘Would you like to do a Table Topic?’!

‘Would you like to do a Table Topic, Karen?’ ‘No. Thank you’ I replied courteously at the next meeting. They are a persistent bunch at Toastmasters! I listened to the questions given out to each of the participants. Heck! I wouldn’t have known how to answer that question! But that toastmaster did. Some toastmasters answered eloquently. Then a slow dawning.... I could have answered that question....and that one. I should’ve, could’ve done a Table Topic after all.

‘Would you like to do a Table Topic, Karen?’ at the following meeting. ‘Yes’ I replied, somewhat shocked and surprised that I had agreed to take part. Yes, I was hesitant as I gave my impromptu speech. Yes, there were plenty of umms and ahs, and Yes, I did manage to speak for more than the minimum time of I minute! And the applause and smiling faces of the audience as I made my way back to my seat, made it all worth it!

And so it began, I took part in Table Topics (TT) more frequently. I started to enjoy giving impromptu speeches. The umms and ahs got less. I found new skills that came naturally to me; using gestures and facial expressions. These skills seem to entertain the audience!

However, on occasions, I didn’t feel I had the confidence to do impromptu speaking, whether it was because I had put all my effort into a prepared speech or maybe I was tired. I started to notice I was saying ‘No’ a lot to doing Table Topics. I felt like I was disappointing the Table Topic Leaders (as a TT leader, it can feel like you’re begging for participants if several people don’t want to get involved). If I was going to avoid doing a Table Topic, then I going to have to be the Table Topic Leader!

And that is when I found being TT leader is a role that I enjoy doing the most.

I also discovered the secret, whilst researching the role, of gaining the trust and confidence of those new to impromptu speaking. A secret I wished I’d known when I was first asked to do a Table Topic.

I realised that the Leader of my first Table Topic had chosen questions tailor made for me and the other participants. That was the secret! During networking with new members and guests at each meeting, he discovered what their occupations and their interests were. He wanted his volunteers to succeed on the stage, in order for them to be encouraged to want to do more impromptu speaking. Practice allows you to become confident and more skilful.

After researching the role, there came the realisation that I could choose how to run the session! What power! I could be as creative as I liked! What theme shall I choose? (after a few sessions, I began to tie my Table Topic sessions with the themes of the meetings). What questions will I choose? What about role playing or using props? Through taking on the role, I found a natural ability to evaluate each table Topics speaker on their performance, between the TTs, so that we learn tips and skills from one another.

As a new guest/member, I want you to feel comfortable at having a go at a 1-2 minute impromptu speech. To encourage you, I may hint or tell you your question in the break eg what is your favourite holiday? I start with experience speakers first before I introduce new guests/members, so you can see how TTs works. If you stall, I will encourage you to continue by prompting you with further questions eg what did you do on your holiday? With experienced Toastmasters, I can make the questions more challenging to suit their abilities. As fellow toastmasters, we are supporting and urging you on and we are so proud of you for having a go.

Believe me Table Topics is fun and entertaining and so is being the TT Leader.

‘Would you like to do a Table Topic?’ say ‘Yes’! Then progress to Table Topic Leader - you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it!

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