Excerpts from Table Tactics – A table topics workshop conducted by TM Lalitha Giridhar Asst Gov Education and Training Div G and TM Ananthraj Dharmsthala Asst Gov Marketing Area G2 in wordsmiths toastmasters club on Oct 31 2009.
What are Table Topics?
In toastmasters there is an impromptu speaking session conducted by a designated table topics master. The table topics masters gives a topic and calls a person in random from the audience to speak about it for a minimum of one minute and a maximum of two minutes.
Why do we have table topics?
Table topics improves ones thought process and the ability to cope up with unanticipated situations in life. Table topics can be a good net practice to tackle questions from your clients in business or to ratiocinate why you were late after a late night party to your wife.
In this workshop we will first look at few essentials for any kind of speeches. Then we will look at how to improve your table topics at three levels.
1.The basic – those who still hide their heads under desks during table topics session.
2.Intermediate – Those who volunteer to speak but still on road to create that wow experience.
3.The advanced – The cake walker who wins ribbon every time.
Now imagine yourself to be a table topics speaker. Here are few do’s and donts .
Basic Speaking Etiquette:
1.Breathe easily. Sport a smile as you walk towards the lectern and relax yourself before you utter that first word. Dont rush with the first word in the mouth.
2.Start off with the first idea which sparks in your mind without evaluating it. We don’t have time for selecting but once you start you will be able to justify your initial words.
3.Dont get nervous and even if you are dont express it.
4.Never ask for a change in topic. Even if it sounds like an alien to you we have techniques to combat. The next topic can be even more abstruse than the current one.
5.When you are in the dias , look at encouraging and friendly eyes before you. This will work a magic by bolstering your confidence.
6.Never ever worry about the time limits unless its a contest. Focus on the content and quality rather than the quantity.
7.Be honest and try to bring in personal incidents if the topic permits it.
Now lets get forward to some intermediate level techniques to attack table topics.
1.Define Describe and Illustrate:
When you are point blank about a given sentence, dissect it for a moment and start defining the words present in it. This suits well for facts and proverbs. Ex:Make hay while sun shines.
2Take a stand:
When you are given with a contentious topic you can either agree or disagree or even take a neutral stand on it. Ex: Mobile phones are boon or bane. You can use the PREP method to combat such topics. State a point – reason it out – Explain further and drive the point with a strong conclusion.
3.Before and after:
This works well for “eventful” topics such as the indian independence, 9/11. You can describe the object in the topic before the event and after the event.
4.Cause and Effect:
When you are asked to describe some process like your bus journey or a holiday you can use this technique. Example when given “ Economic Recession “ you neednt hold a doctorate in economics to find the cause between layoffs and the increased working hours in your office. You can line up several causes and effects to form a coherent speech.
5.Advantages and disadvantages:
Taking this approach gives you more room to think on two sides of the topic . Also at the end you can voice your verdict towards a side.
6.Past Present and future.
Another tactic which enhances scope for your speech. If you are asked to describe about mobile phones you can describe the phones of the past, models of the present and set off your imagination about the future.
Now lets move on to few advanced techniques.
Example: Make hay while sun shines
Garner the Attention – Either using a though provoking opening or just by repeating the topic with appropriate modulation and gestures.
Seek interest – Tell something which every one out there could relate to
Earn the desire – Give them a reason why they need to adhere to the proverb
And make the Act – Finish off with a punch.
2.Story Message and Moral.
The same hay business can be narrated with a story and then describing what the characters did or didn’t do according the proverb in hand. When you use a very common story like hare and tortoise you can be little crisp on your narration part and elaborate more on your analysis of what the tortoise did well and hare missed out.
3.Micro Macro, Macro Micro
Works like a charm for universal issues which applies to both the individual and the ensemble of individuals. Ex. Global warming. You can start at macro level how the ice cubes are melting at Antarctica which increases your sea line and connect it to your troubles on the beach.
Now we have enough ammunition to attack a topic and lets see what can take us to the advanced levels.
You cannot prepare on a topic but you can be prepared on how to deliver it. That’s what distinguishes the ordinary from the extra ordinary.
1.Maintain a journal/blog/tweet and record the happenings then and there in your life. Will serve handy not only for table topics but even for your speeches. As Humor King TM Chendil says “ A short pencil is better than a long memory”.
2.Be familiar with the quotes and fit it well in to your speech. You can even twist the quote like “Where there is a will I want to be in it” .
3.Use gestures to create vivid images about the topic.
4.Be unconventional to be memorable . For example when asked to speak about Light years, TM Lalitha spoke about her lighter years when she weighed less and roamed in the college campus.
The sure way to excel is to practice. Veteran TM Ravi Baskran pointed out that after a toastmasters meeting he goes home and practices on all the topics given in the day. Have a compendium of topics in your hand and practice them during your travel towards office or a leisurely walk.
Improving your table topics skills not only shows you in better light in your toastmasters session but increases your thinking acumen and it will show up in your personality.
PS: The views expressed here are author’s interpretation of the workshop which may be slightly different from those expressed at the workshop.