Dear fellow Toastmasters and guests,
Let me confess something at the outset. Every Time the Table Topics Master comes on to the lectern, I freeze. If you guys have noticed, I never volunteer to be the speaker. I never do that! But invariably, I get picked every single time. That's the beauty of being in Toastmasters I guess. I still remember my first Table Topics speech; I was just a guest back then. I came on to the stage, I kind of knew what to speak. I didn't last 30 seconds! You know what I did after that? I just stared at the audience for the next 20 seconds or so, thinking that something might light up in my mind. But my mind just completely went blank and nothing would come out.
I did some reading after that incident, and I realised that I am not alone in this. I read about this 3-time DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) from Canada, now a great Tech speaker of TV and radio channels. He said, his first Table Topics response lasted only 12 seconds.
Today, here I am, with some of the time-tested tips and tricks to help us with Table Topics. My practical solution for Table Topics is called PREP, yes, P-R-E-P. This holds specifically true for beginners like me, who are struggling to keep our heads cool during the Table Topics speeches.
P stands for 'Prepare'. I know! What a ridiculous thing to say, right? Prepare for the impromptu speech? But let me tell you - Smart speakers are always prepared to speak. The first thing is to be mentally prepared. That will help you calm down when the Table Topics Master (TTM) calls out your name. So when the TTM goes to the lectern, be mentally prepared that you could be called any moment. If you're startled when your name gets called, it takes a while for your mind to come back to a normal state to be able to listen and understand the topic. So the idea is to be prepared and stay calm.
R in PREP stands for Relate. Relate the topic to something that you can speak about. If you can't speak about the topic, may be, you can talk about how difficult it is to talk about the topic. It's always better to talk on the topic, but if you can't, then go off on a tangent and tell a story related to it, describe how it affects you or tell a joke that relates to it. So Relate.
The E stands for Examples. Add some real-life examples or stories to elucidate your point. That shouldn't be difficult, right?
And the last P in PREP stands for Practice. Impromptu speaking is the easiest to practice, because you can talk about anything under the sun. So when you're sitting idle or taking a 2-minute break from work, practice talking by picking any topic that you like.
So that was PREP:
Prepare Relate Examples Practice
Last but not the least, an impromptu speech is just like a normal speech. It needs an opening, a body and a conclusion. Let me give you a small example.
- Make your statement - this would be your opening
- Give your reasons for the statement
- Give examples to support your statement
- Re-state your point with conviction - this would be your closing.
With that, I wish you all the best for today's Table Topics and all those that are yet to come. Let's rock it, people!