Tackling Table Topics

4667269_sWhen Eleni Hasapis-Chiapetto asked for advice about challenging Table Topics, she received an overwhelming response from the members of The Official Toastmasters International Members Group on LinkedIn.

After offering my own suggestions, I reflected upon the comments from other toastmasters. Impressed and inspired, I decided to share their collective wisdom.

Remember, no one knows what you are going to say, so say what comes to mind. This holds true for speeches as well. Every time we say, “I made a mistake, audience attention moves from what we are saying to wondering what we had planned, hence missing what we really say. Gordon Hill

Just don’t stop… you freeze when your brain devotes too much RAM to what you will say next as opposed to what you are saying now… Just keep talking… the CPU will work out what is coming in 5 or 10 seconds time… Trust your processor… it is only when you doubt yourself and start thinking … “I can’t answer this… I have no idea what to say next ” and that becomes the most important thing to process so you stop talking and start processing that… That then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy…Remember the most important thing is to remember the acronym… R.A.T…. Relax Attack Talk. Rod Neucom

Be easy on your self and your expectations. A past world champion of public speaking came from my home club years before I joined. When he attended the next meeting after his win, he froze during Table Topics. If it can happen to a brand new champ, it can happen to anyone. The point is to do your best, laugh, and get psyched up for the next time. Steve Piet

Over time I’ve learned that it’s best to take a few minutes to think about the question or topic before speaking. There is no rule about taking time. There have been times where I have volunteered to speak and freeze up. At that moment, I “re-do” my answer or try to finish my thought as best as I can and sit down. Everything comes with practice! Jahnavi Utukuri


Take a deep breath, smile and make eye contact with different members of the audience. Some will smile back at you, encouraging you. This will give you confidence and help you free some stress, while you think of something. Gustavo Espinosa Tavitas

Focus on your topic, I think that’s what works best. When I’ve had an issue with freezing, it is not about what I’m going to say but I’m worried that I look stupid. But here’s the deal: In a Toastmasters meeting everyone is pulling for you in TT and when you give a speech. They don’t care how you look, they don’t care if you do poorly, they are pulling for you to do the very best that you can do. Now I don’t worry as much about how I look, I simply try to do the best that I can. Timothy Elliott

Humm. My advice is to stop and THINK, and then continue. “”Freezing” is usually a brain lock for me – the mind is working faster than my mouth and the two lock up. I’m not good at BSing while I think of something else to say. And there’s nothing wrong with taking a nanosecond or two to collect one’s thoughts before continuing. Silence is golden! Don’t be afraid of silence. If all else fails, I might say, “Well, nothing is coming to mind at the moment…” or “Gee, I guess I don’t have much of an opinion on this topic…”, or in our club you’re allowed to do what politicians do and skirt the question: answer another question or talk about another topic you find yourself able to wax on about instead of the TT question given to you! What the hey? Why not? Jody Iona Palm

A number of Toastmasters in my group always begin by saying “Thank you Table Topics Master for asking me” and repeating the question. This both creates a decent introduction and gives them time to think of something to say. And remember, too: You neither have to answer the question directly nor tell the truth, so you always have any direction to take your response. Kae Bender

To be continued…


2 responses to “Tackling Table Topics

  1. I’m going to print these out. I’m giving a workshop at the Midwest Writers’ Conference in April, and it’s been a while since I’ve spoken in front of a large group. These quotes will go a long way to calming butterflies. Thanks!

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