The extemporaneous educator

Time: 20 minutes

With Table Topics, the Table Topic Master gives members who aren’t assigned a speaking role the opportunity to speak during the meeting.
The Table Topic Master challenges each member with a subject, and the speaker responds with a one- to two-minute impromptu talk.

Some people underestimate the Table Topic Master role’s importance. Not only does it provide you with an opportunity to practice planning, preparation, organization, time management, and facilitation skills; your preparation and topic selection help train members to quickly organize and express their thoughts in an impromptu setting.

Preparation is the key to leading a successful Table Topics session.

Several days before the meetingcheck with the Toastmaster to find out if a theme of the meeting is scheduled. If so, it would be great to prepare topics reflecting that theme. But if you don't have such an opportunity, you can choose a theme on your own.

When you choose a theme for the session, pay attention that according to the Toastbusters club rules we do not discuss any themes which can result in polemics or debates among the club members and guests either during the meeting or after it. That is why please, choose a theme which is not related to:

  • politics or any critical political issues at the moment,
  • religion or any critical religious issues at the moment,
  • gender discrimination (sexism),
  • racial problems,
  • LGBT social movements.

Check the agenda of the meeting either here or from the Secretary in order to learn who the prepared Speakers, Personal Evaluators and General Evaluator will be, so you can call on other members at the meeting to respond first. It is not obligatory but might be good. You can call on program participants as well if no one wants to speak.

Select subjects and questions that allow speakers to offer opinions. Don’t make the questions too long or complicated and make sure they don’t require specialized knowledge.

Phrase questions so the speakers clearly understand what you want them to talk about.

Remember, too, that your job is to give others a chance to speak, so keep your own comments short.

Table Topics usually begins after the prepared speech presentations, but there are variations from club to club. Ask the Toastmaster or the Secretary if you aren't sure when your portion of the meeting begins.

When the Toastmaster introduces you, walk to the stage and assume control of the meeting:

  • Briefly state the purpose of Table Topics and mention any theme.
  • If your club has a word of the day, encourage speakers to use that word in their response.
  • Remind everyone that the Table Topics speaker should talk for at least 1 minute, but not more than 2 minutes 30 sec.
  • IMPORTANT! Ask every speaker to introduce herself before he/she starts speaking. Calling a name would be enough. This information is vital for choosing the Best Table Topics Speaker by the end of the session.

Then begin the program:

  • Call on speakers at random, try to encourage them to speak.
  • Avoid going around the room in the order in which people are sitting.
  • Don’t ask two people the same thing unless you specify that each must give opposing viewpoints.
  • State the question briefly – then call on a respondent.
  • You may wish to invite visitors and guests to participate after they have seen one or two members’ responses. But let visitors know they are free to decline if they feel uncomfortable.

Check your total time with a timer. You may need to adjust the number of questions so your segment ends on time. Even if your portion started late, try to end on time to avoid the total meeting running overtime.

If your club presents a best Table Topics speaker award:
Ask members to vote for the best Table Topics speaker and pass their votes to the Secretary.