The Table Topics Master provides a set of topics for members to practise their impromptu speaking skills.
Choosing the Topics
There are two styles in use here.
In the first you choose a random set of topics.
You might use a set of headlines from the day’s newspaper. You might collect a set of small objects from around your house, put them in a bag, and invite the speaker to put their hand, pull one out and speak about it. You might jot down a list of possible topics and then choose one or two more than you think you will need.
In the second you have a theme, with all the topics grouped in it.
For example, it might be travel. Then your topics might deal with different destinations, or different ways of getting there, or different places to stay, or different travelling companions.
Or your theme might deal with films, or early childhood memories, or personal disasters, or buying clothes. You would work out a particular approach to take to the theme you have chosen.
Prepare one or two more than you think you will need.
Keep your introductions and explanations to questions very brief
Table Topics is an opportunity for members to practise responding to impromptu questions. Choose themes and questions that are straightforward, simple to understand and offer opportunities to tell stories or express opinions. If the subject needs an explanation it is not suitable. Give the Agenda time to the speakers. Don’t take it for yourself.
Choosing the Speakers
1. For the sake of visitors or very new members, choose as your first two speakers fairly experienced members, so that they give a model as to how to answer the questions.
2. Choose people who are not on the Agenda with another role. This helps ensure that everybody gets a role at every meeting. To do this, you will need to check the attendance against the Agenda, before you take over. Since our standard Agenda has about 17 roles, it may happen that there aren’t any such members present. It’s not a good style to start by asking who hasn’t got a role on the Agenda.
3. Offer visitors the opportunity to speak, after there have been speeches from two regular members. It’s important to make the offer, but not ask them first up. Say something like, “Lynette, would you like to have a go at the next one?” If Lynette shakes her head, or says no, accept that without comment and move to the next person.
Where do you stand?
Go to the centre front when you start. Then when you have given the topic to the speaker move discreetly to either side. When the speaker has finished, start the applause and move back to the centre.
Give a list of the topics in order to the Table Topics Evaluator
This is a great help to the Evaluator.
Maximise the speakers’ chances of success
Keep your topics clear and straightforward. Speak them slowly and distinctly. Repeat them.
Emphasise positive messages about practising impromptu speaking. Avoid terms which emphasise fear – like “the next one I will pick on is …” Instead say something like “Now, Roger, will you speak on that please.”
Presenting the topics
First give the topic. State it clearly and look around at the speakers. Now name the person. That way the topic challenges everybody to think how they will answer if chosen.