Toastmasters table topics

Postby dav1307 » Sat Jan 05, 2008 7:45 pm

Do you have any advice for the table topics in toastmasters? It is an on the spot response that should be from 1 to 2 minutes. How are you supposed to answer these whilst making sense?
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Postby dlite » Wed Jan 09, 2008 7:22 pm

I personally would suggest you speak about something you enjoy and feel passionate about - it doesn't matter too much what it is.

Of course you should be knowledgeable enough to be able to field any questions as well...


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Postby dav1307 » Fri Jan 11, 2008 6:43 am

Someone picks a topic for you to talk on, so it is always spontaneous. Any more tips?
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Postby Lakotagirl » Fri Jan 11, 2008 6:46 pm

I remember when I first started college I had to give impromptu speech for extra credit.

Try your hardest not to say um, like, or aaahhh.

I remember if you said any of those you had to sit down and couldn't get extra credit points. I think it depends on your teacher also. If your teacher is funny then it could help to throw a joke in there or if he or she is mean then it might be a lot harder.

My teacher was a funnier guy so when my friend had to talk, she pulled the subject, "If I had a million dollars." She started out her speech, "If I had a million dollars, I would count it, 1, 2, 3...,' until the two minutes were up and she got the extra points.

Good luck on your speech.
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Postby simonr » Sat Jan 12, 2008 10:07 pm

and why professional training doesn't do that kind of thing until you've mastered prepared presentations. That said, there's a lot ot be said for it because it forces you to a quick thinker....

.... if you're ready for it. Otherwise it's like trying to learn to read by being given a copy of Ulyses and told "Read this: anything you read afterwards will be easy by comparison.".

Dumb! :)

My advice would be to sit tight for a while and take a notepad. When you hear other people's topics announced, don't spend much time/effort listening to them but instead use the time of their talk to see what you could say yourself in that time.

Don't do it by writing literal notes. Single words will do - phrases will do; a spidergram of single words is even better.

Don't try taking on this particular test until you've got comfortable doing the dry run approach!

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Postby dav1307 » Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:25 am

Thanks for the replies.

Ok, so next

I signed up to do an icebreaker speech on Monday. I have written out an outline kind of thing for it. It is just supposed to be about yourself. So I kind of did a general history of my life.


It is supposed to be 4-6 minutes.

I have practiced it two times, by myself.

I haven't told anyone that I have been doing toastmasters, except here. I guess I think I am too embarrassed.
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Postby Dr.Strangelove » Sun Jan 13, 2008 6:10 am

Nice work in signing up to this stuff Dave.

I've never heard of these programs and don't know exactly what they contain... But humor is always great for any occasion, whether it be whilst making a toast or telling people a little about yourself.

If you have my email... maybe send me a copy of your speech and I'll try and have look at it and tell you what I think.


I recommend you look-up some stand-up comedy acts on and have a look at the way different people present their acts. You'll notice that they all have their own special "comic persona" that they'll use in different shows. So consider what kind of "persona" you'll construct for you speech. Take little bits and pieces from different comedians that you can see as being suitable to the image/persona/vibe you want to create.


At the end of my last year in High School, my year hosted a special assembly and presentation for the rest of the school. THe computer had some problems and I was asked to entertain the crowd for a while. So I grabbed the mic and went at it for 5 minutes till the computer was fixed. After the assembly, some chick told me I was the funniest guy she had ever seen.

In my final year of high school I learned to love giving speeches.
Here are the elements of my persona/mentality when giving a speech:
1 - I assumed everyone loved me.
2 - Assume you know everyone.
3 - I assumed an air of importance in a cocky/funny sort of way. E.g. During the speech I had two mobile (cellular) phones in my pockets. (Itold people to ask me some questions) Someone asked me for the time so I took out one phone, and then the other to look at the time. Someone asked why I had two phones... I replied "Why do I have two phones? Well, it's because I'm twice as important as everyone else".
4 - Always wear a smile
5 - Moved my arms around a bit to help compliment what I was saying. (Sometimes I'd point at audience members)
6 - I tried to make eye contact with everyone... Sometimes I'd hold eye contact. (Give a wink and smile)
7 - Generate tension. E.g. In high school, everyone who wanted to be school captain or one of the subordinates... had to give a speech. When the teacher told me to start my speech, I placed hands on my hips, wore a smirk and didn't say anything for around 7-10 seconds. During that time I was just looking at everyone in the eyes. This created tension, people couldn't hold the tension any longer and just started to laugh. If you do some research on laughter - you'll learn that a lot of laughter has nothing to do with jokes. It has to do with the rise and break in tension.
(So don't be afraid to create a little silence to create some positive tension)
8 - if you're on stage, walk around a little bit as if you own it.
9 - And as with everything else... I try and have fun


Here are some generic persona's which you can consider.
- The guy who thinks everyone is out to get him.
- The bimbo
- The mimbo (male bimbo)
- James Bond type of character.
- The Playboy.

When you assume the personas, and use things such as voice tone, body language and topics relating to your persona... It will make it easier for people to identify you/with you. It also makes it easier for you to pick topics. E.g. What would a bimbo talk about? Fashion, broken nails, how aweful other women look, etc... How would she talk about those things? Maybe she would say "Oh my god, would you look at that" a lot, in a high pitch tone, etc...

Hope that helps,
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Postby satanstoystore » Sun Jan 13, 2008 7:37 am

It has been a long time since I went to a toastmasters. I know in speech class what saved me was using logic and basic writing plus the military method.

Basic writing uses an intro, body and summary. Logic would be a major premise, mnor premise and a conclusion. The military method is tell em what you're gonna tell em, tell em, then tell em again. They are all sort of the same.

What you put inbetween is something that speaks to their mind, their feelings and perhaps their spirit. Depends on the context. That might be Martin Luther kings method.

So what you do is sort of make a filter so that anything posed to you to talk about your brain sorts it in that format. Watch the news and then whatever is mentioned run your response through that structure.

Example," tonight at 10 what do we do about illegal aliens?" what do we do about them? Are they the cause? Or are they an effect of supply and demand? Do we punish them or the system that draws them here? I'm here to persuade you to believe...

When you get good at that pay attention to your grammar. Use active verbs. Use the subject verb object structure. Add adverbs that empower the verbs descriptively. Add adjectives that amplify meaning for nouns etc. Example,
Johnson was killed by smith
Changes to
Smith viciously attacked his prone victim, mr Johnson...
This creates more of a descriptive story. Sounds a bit dramatic but its what people remember. Everyone gets there with practice.
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Postby dav1307 » Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:57 am

So I did it.

I got some feedback on paper afterwards also, which is really helpful.

The feedback pretty much said, I did good with humor, my hand gestures were good but a little confusing, I had some good pauses some were too long though, I was a little nervous/uncomfortable but that was expected, and my voice could have been a little louder. I also could have prepared a little more, I may have lost my flow of thoughts a few times.

But it was over 7 minutes, so hey, I'll take that!

Thanks for all the help.
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Postby terrygault » Fri Feb 08, 2008 9:11 pm

With Toastmasters, the fact that you get little time to prepare always makes it a challenge. With little time, the 3 most important parts of your presentation to formulate quickly in your mind are:

1) The opening sentence.
2) The central thesis or main point
3) The conclusion

At the all seems like chaos: your thoughts, your mind, what you want to get across, what you want to tell your audience.

To create an effective presentation, you must create order out of this chaos. Here are my suggestions with how to deal with presentations like these.


Like the archer’s release of the arrow, the Opening of a presentation should begin in silence as the archer takes a breath and centers himself. As the archer pulls the bow string back, potential energy gathers, and then "twang!" the arrow accelerates in an explosion of energy, sound and speed. One moment – quiet; the next – a blur of action that demands attention.

When you stand to open your presentation, center yourself like the archer. Allow a moment of silence as you visually connect with your audience. Focus on individual faces in the audience. Let the silence build tension and audience anticipation. Then shatter the calm with something that demands that people turn their attention away from their private thoughts and tune into what you are saying. Use an opening technique – "a hook" – and deliver it with dramatic voice, gesture and technique.


The Body of your presentation is the longest segment of the presentation. Do not let it be dull or be seen as "rambling." Like an arrow, give the Body of your presentation a finely honed point. Explain clearly to the audience how everything you say is related to your point. Use repetition to make sure the audience gets your point. Use segues like "Why is this important?" to clue the audience in to what you are about to reveal


The completion of your presentation is your target – a bull’s-eye – a great conclusion. To avoid allowing your Conclusion to fall short of its mark, let the audience know when you are in the process of concluding by saying: "In conclusion..." or "What does it all mean?" for example.

In addition to content, make sure your vocal inflection clearly signals the end of the presentation and not merely a pause. End with authority and certainty.

After the Opening, the Conclusion has the second highest impact of your presentation. It leaves the audience with the final impression of you and your message. Human beings seek completion and resolution. Without a clear conclusion audiences feel left hanging. Provide your audience a powerful sense of completion by crafting a strong conclusion.
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Postby terrygault » Fri Feb 08, 2008 9:16 pm

The next thing that people ask - especially with Toastmasters since you aren't given much time to prepare - is what to do when things start to go wrong.

I have a 5 step process that I personally use, which you can (and should) practice in the middle of a presentation (or any high-stress moment) when panic threatens to cloud your faculties.

When things go awry or appear to be going badly, remember to practice these 5 steps:
1. Awareness
2. Become still and silent
3. Breathe
4. Focus on the task at hand
5. Speak / Act

In more detail, what do I mean and how do these steps help?

1) Awareness
First, you need to become aware that something has gone awry or simply differently than as planned. You may become acutely aware that panic threatens to take over and impede your ability to function.

2) Become still and silent
Generally, we will telegraph our inner state to our audiences through some verbal or non-verbal comment. A sigh, a frown, an apology – an overwhelming impulse to ask permission, “Can I start over?” DON’T INDULGE THE IMPULSE! Simply, become still and silent.

This will help your body and brain begin to settle and function. In addition, you won’t give off any clues to your audience that inform them of your inner state. In fact, if you can be still, their attention level will increase as the tension builds. They will be waiting to hear what comes next.

3) Breathe
It seems so simple but often in moments of anxiety we tend to forget to take a deep breath. Breathing will lower your heart-rate and blood pressure. It will bathe your brain in fresh oxygen, allowing you to think more lucidly. You will make better decisions when you remember to breathe deeply.

Focus on the task at hand
It’s easy to indulge our panicky thoughts.

“Oh, sh**! I cannot remember what is next. My heart is really pounding now. I hate this feeling – and now it’s even worse. Why did I agree to do this presentation?!?!”

“My God! This is the wrong PowerPoint slide. What am I supposed to say now?!?!”

“My cell phone is ringing – I am SO screwed. When I walk over there to turn it off, it will be obvious that it’s mine. What a moron I am!”

We want our mind to be focused – to become still and settled so that we can make better choices. The metaphor that I recently discovered is this: It's a bit like enjoying the stillness of a beautiful pond. Suddenly, a large stone drops into the pond, ruining the stillness of the water's surface. That large stone is the thought in our mind that says, “This is bad!” So, in response to this, in our panic and frustration, we throw a handful of pebbles into the pond by indulging our thoughts about the ‘mistake’, shouting, "Hey, you stupid pond! Settle down!"

The Chinese character for ‘crisis’ also means ‘opportunity’. Instead, ask the question, “Is this really a crisis? Is there some way I can I turn this into an opportunity?” I have seen some memorable moments flow from what could be easily branded as ‘mistakes’.

Remember, when things go “wrong”, ask yourself, “How can I turn this into an opportunity?”

5) Speak / Act
Once you have completed the process above, you will be ready to speak or take some action without having indulged in your fear (thereby giving it power over you) or signaling to your audience that you have struggled through a tough moment.

This process will work in any high stakes communication: a conference call with important clients, a one-on-one meeting with senior management, or a presentation at a large conference.

Repeated practice will give you a greater sense of control. You are much more likely to remain calm and to make better choices when you employ it on a regular basis.
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Postby dav1307 » Fri Feb 15, 2008 1:13 am

Thanks for the reply TG,

I have just moved back to school and found another TM club. So including this club and the last one, I have been going to TM regularly. I haven't done any speeches since the first one I told you about above. But I have done the table topic speech every time. So I have done around 7 or 8 table topic speeches. So that makes me feel good. My table topics speeches still don't really make sense, but I get over that quickly afterwards, because I put another speech under my belt, and that is what counts.

I have also been feeling more comfortable and confident in participating in my college classes. I think that may be a result of TM, maybe directly. So TM is awesome if you want to practice your speaking skills without thinking about embarrasing yourself among others who you think are already really good speakers. The whole idea of the club takes enough pressure off to want to participate.
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Postby x10dit » Thu May 15, 2008 3:32 pm

Hey Dave,

I really like doing table topics. It never ceases to amaze me how one can go from thinking "don't pick on me" to "pick me, pick me!!" in hardly any time at all :)

One of my favourite techniques if I'm totally stuck for a sensble answer is to completely ignore the question and talk about something I want to instead!! I think it depends on your club ethos as to how well this is accepted though! In my TM club it's ok but you probably won't win the Best Table Topics Award for the meeting.

There's also the stalling technique... 1st take your time getting out of your seat and walk slowly to the lectern (enjoy the applause)... then make a big deal of taking over from the Table Topics Master... then slowly repeat the question to the audience... that's it you can't stall any longer, get on with it!!

When are you planning to do your next speech exercise?

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Postby dav1307 » Fri May 23, 2008 4:51 am

I will probably do a speech in a few weeks. I have done a few in a class this past semester, which was sweet because I got over the doing the first speech at college thing.
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Postby x10dit » Sun May 25, 2008 7:05 pm

Excellent. How do you feel about doing your next speech?

How do you feel about table topics now? Have you won a table topics award yet?

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