Table Topics for Valentine’s Day


During the Table Topics segment of today’s meeting, I decided to steer away from the conventional questions: What is your most memorable Valentine’s Day? What are your plans for the weekend? Instead, I asked my fellow toastmasters to comment on the following interesting facts and statistics.


In South Korea and Japan, women give candy to men on Valentine’s Day. What type of candy would you like to give or receive?

Nine million people purchase Valentine’s Day presents for their pets. What type of gift would you give a pet (yours or a special friend’s)?

According to a recent survey, 32% of consumers plan to do their Valentine’s Day shopping online. Would you shop online for that special gift?

Colleagues don’t get much love: In 2013, consumers spent an average of $3.41 on co-workers. Should colleagues exchange gifts and cards on Valentine’s Day?

Some of the top romantic comedies of all time are “Annie Hall,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Pretty Woman,” “When Harry Met Sally,” and “Sleepless in Seattle.” What is your favorite romantic comedy?

In 2013, 34.3 percent of Valentine’s Day gifts were flowers. What type of flowers would you like to give or receive?

In 2015, two popular Valentine’s Day gifts were enrollment in Chocolate of the Month Club and Wine of the Month Club. Would you prefer receiving one pound of specialty chocolates or two bottles of premium wine each month for an entire year?

Some of the top love songs of all time are “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston, “Silly Love Songs” by Wings, “Endless Love” by Diana Ross, and “How Deep is Your Love?” by the BeeGees. What is your favorite love song?

In 2015, dinner cruises, helicopter rides and tandem skydiving were popular gifts. What type of “experience” gift would you like to give or receive?


Clean Jokes for Toastmasters


Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.

A child asked his father, “How were people born?”

His father answered, “Adam and Eve made babies, then their babies became adults and made babies, and so on.”

The child then went to his mother, asked her the same question and she told him, “We were monkeys then we evolved to become like we are now.”

The child ran back to his father and said, “You lied to me!”

His father replied, “No, your mom was talking about her side of the family.”

A doctor and a lawyer are talking at a party. Their conversation is constantly interrupted by people describing their ailments and asking the doctor for free medical advice. After an hour of this, the exasperated doctor asks the lawyer, “What do you do to stop people from asking you for legal advice when you’re out of the office?”

“I give it to them,” replies the lawyer, “and then I send them a bill.”

The doctor is shocked, but agrees to give it a try. The next day, still feeling slightly guilty, the doctor prepares the bills. When he goes to place them in his mailbox, he finds a bill from the lawyer.

A dentist told a mother, “I’m sorry madam, but I’ll have to charge you $100 for pulling your boy’s tooth.”

The mother exclaimed, “$100! You said it was only $20!”

“Yes,” replied the dentist, “but he yelled so loudly that he scared four other patients out of the office!”

Tackling Table Topics

toastmastersDuring the Table Topics session of each meeting, I take note of all well-crafted responses. While most toastmasters use personal anecdotes relevant to the topic, others like to start with a quotation that touches on the theme.

I enjoy reading and collecting inspirational quotations, but I don’t think I could come up with the most appropriate one in the space of forty to sixty seconds. And truthfully, I don’t want to waste precious seconds trying to recall a specific quotation.

When I expressed this concern to several seasoned toastmasters, they advised me to memorize a few short, all-purpose quotations that could be used to begin almost any impromptu topic. And not to worry about the author’s name. Simply start with “This reminds me of my favorite quotation…”

My List

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Maya Angelou

Be the change that you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi

Don’t wait. The time will never be just right. Napoleon Hill

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt

Tough times never last, but tough people do. Dr. Robert Schuller

Change your thoughts and you change your world. Norman Vincent Peale

Keep your face to the sunshine and you can never see the shadow. Helen Keller

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Wayne Gretzky

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Neale Donald Walsch

Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you. Margaret Thatcher

Do you have a favorite quotation? Please share…

Clean Jokes for Toastmasters


Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.


A doctor was taking her four-year-old to preschool. The doctor’s stethoscope was on the car seat and her little girl picked it up and began playing with it.

“Be still, my heart,” thought the physician, “my daughter wants to follow in my footsteps!”

Then the child spoke into the instrument: “Welcome to McDonald’s. May I take your order?”


Danny had recently passed his driving test and decided to ask his father if there was any chance of him getting a car for his birthday.

“Okay,” said his father. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. If you can get your grades up to A’s and B’s, study your Bible, and get your hair cut, I’ll consider the matter very seriously.”

A couple of weeks later, Danny went back to his father who said, “I’m really impressed by your commitment to your studies. Your grades are excellent and the work you’ve put into your Bible studies is very encouraging. However, I have to say I’m very disappointed that you haven’t had your hair cut yet.”

Danny quickly responded, “While studying the Bible, I noticed that Moses, John the Baptist, Samson, and even Jesus had long hair.”

“I’m aware of that,” replied his father, “but did you also notice they walked wherever they went?”

Source: St. Joseph’s Church bulletin


My husband and I were standing in line at the ATM in Lucca, a small town in Italy. History, music, religion, and art surrounded us, including ramparts, a statue of the composer Giacomo Puccini, and a beautiful cathedral.

Ahead of us, two tourists were chatting, “You can always tell we’re near civilization,” said one to the other, “when there’s a bank machine close by.”

Source: Violet Hughes, Reader’s Digest

Clean Jokes for Toastmasters


Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.


Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Officer asks a newly graduated engineer the following question: “And what starting salary are you looking for?”

The engineer replies, “In the region of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.”

The HR Officer asks, “Well, what would you say to a package of five weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a red Corvette?”

The engineer sits up straight and says, “Wow! Are you kidding?”

The HR Officer replies, “Yeah, but you started it.”


A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird’s mouth was rude, obnoxious, and laced with profanity.

John tried and tried to change the bird’s attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music, and doing anything else he could think of to clean up the bird’s vocabulary.

Finally John had had enough. In exasperation one day, he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. He shook his fist at the parrot, but the parrot just got angrier and even ruder.

In desperation, John threw up his hands, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing he’d hurt the parrot, John quickly opened the freezer door. The parrot calmly stepped out onto John’s outstretched arm and said: “I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I am sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behaviour.”

John was stunned at the change in the bird’s attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behaviour, the bird continued: “May I ask what the chicken did?”


Tackling Table Topics

toastmastersTable Topics threaten our composure more than any other toastmaster activity. We are given a prompt and expected to deliver a well-crafted answer that can easily stretch between forty and sixty seconds. As one guest commented: “You are thrown into the deep waters and expected to swim or sink.”

For the most part, I am pleased with my ability to speak extemporaneously. But I can vividly recall one less-than-stellar Table Topics experience. Several years ago, while visiting a toastmaster club in another community, I actually froze in the middle of a session.

The theme of the evening was VROOM! VROOM! VROOM! The Table Topicmaster had prepared a series of pictures depicting different modes of transportation. Each participant was asked to select a picture and comment on how he/should would use the suggested mode of travel. Buses, planes, trains, all types of cars—these were the pictures that had been selected prior to my turn. I felt very relaxed and confident as I selected a picture from a large envelope.

innertubeboysAnd then I panicked.

I had selected a picture of two young children sitting in an inner tube. At the time, the only word that came to mind was “raft” and I knew that wasn’t the correct term. Why I chose to focus on that aspect of the picture still remains a mystery. I did manage to speak for a short while, but it was far from my finest toastmaster hour. Afterward, I paid close attention to the remaining speakers.

One toastmaster ignored the downhill skier in his picture and talked at length about the scenery and a recent trip to Banff, Alberta. I was impressed by his skillful use of bridging, a key strategy that belongs in every toastmaster’s toolkit. Bridging gets you from where you don’t know to what you do know through the figurative use of a bridge. In this case, the scenery allowed the toastmaster to talk at length about one of his favorite travel destinations.


Another toastmaster shook her head at the extreme sport in her picture and said: “I would never consider traveling in this way. Instead, I will talk about traveling by train in Europe.” Hit with a topic that she didn’t like, this toastmaster chose reframing as her primary tool.


Driving home, I rehashed my Table Topics. If I had chosen to use bridging, I could have ignored the inner tube and chatted at length about the lovely lake in the picture. “This reminds me of the many lakes in my hometown.” Or I could have reframed the entire experience and said, “Whenever I’m on a lake, I like to travel in style. Motor boats only!”

Clean Jokes for Toastmasters


Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.


A woman came up behind her husband while he was enjoying his morning coffee, and slapped him on the back of his head. “I found a piece of paper in your pant’s pocket with a woman’s name written on it,” she said. “You had better have an explanation.”

“Calm down, honey” said the man. “Remember last week when I was at the dog track? That was the name of the dog I bet on.”

The next morning, his wife smacked him again.

“What was that for?” asked the angry husband.

“Your dog called last night” she said.



A man turned to his seatmate on a flight and asked, “Does the airline charge you extra for sitting next to good-looking men?”

“Yes,” she said. “But I wasn’t willing to pay.”

Source: Reader’s Digest


A man went to the police station and asked to speak to the burglar who broke into his house the night before.

“You’ll get your chance in court,” said the desk sergeant.

“No, no, no!” said the man. “I want to know how he got into the house without waking my wife. I’ve been trying to do that for years!”


Table Topics for Movember


At today’s Toastmaster meeting, I was Table Topics Master. While Movember is a popular topic, I wanted to ensure that everyone was familiar with the history behind this successful global health movement. I created a Fact Sheet for Movember and distributed a copy to each member.

Afterward, I presented the following ten scenarios (Table Topics for Movember Scenarios)

Role: Business Consultant

An ultra-conservative supervisor has made it clear that he does not approve of facial hair in the workplace. Persuade him to make an exception for Movember.

Role: Good Employee

You have volunteered to organize a Movember fund raiser. What type of event would you organize?

Role: Education Consultant

A kindergarten teacher has noticed that some of her students are afraid of moustaches. How would you explain Movember to four- and five-year-old children?

Role: Good friend

A group of ladies are complaining about their husbands’ mustaches. Two of them are actually thinking of taking vacations (without their husbands) until the Movember madness is over. Explain the importance of Movember and the need for patience.

Role: Business Consultant

In one workplace, all the employees are female. They want to participate in the fun of Movember. Do you have any suggestions for them?

Role: Social Rep

You are organizing a contest for the best moustache in your workplace. Which celebrity mustaches would you use to promote this event?

Role: Business Consultant

The men in a certain department have embraced Movember and taken it a bit too far. They have started to grow beards, wear sloppy clothes, and focus primarily on the social aspects of the event. Remind them of the rules and the objectives of Movember.

Role: Good neighbor

A group of friendly aliens have landed in your neighborhood. Bald and hairless, they are horrified by all the moustaches and are thinking of returning to their planet. Explain the importance of Movember and persuade them to stay.

Role: Social Convener

The residents of a retirement home are starting to show signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Animate them by explaining Movember and encourage them to participate. What events could you organize?

Role: Social Rep

Your supervisor is concerned about low staff morale. Remind your colleagues about Movember. What events could you organize in your workplace?

Copyright for image: amarosy / 123RF Stock Photo

Table Topics for Halloween


At yesterday’s Agvantage Toastmaster meeting, I was the Table Topicsmaster. This is my favorite portion of the club meeting, and I welcome the opportunity to practice thinking and speaking quickly. As Topicsmaster, I announced the topic and called on members, one at a time, to give impromptu one- to two-minute talks. With Halloween just around the corner, I created a series of questions using the holiday as a theme.


I am the fairy godmother of Halloween. I bestow upon each of you $500 to be spent on one of the following Halloween related scenarios…


1. Design the Halloween costume of your dreams.

2. I am sending you back to the Halloween of your sixteenth year. What type of costume would you wear?

3. Decorate your workplace for Halloween.

4. Organize a Halloween party for the children in your neighborhood.

5. There is a lot of waste at Halloween. How would you make Halloween greener?

6. Throw a Halloween brunch for your friends.

7. You have decided to cruise the streets on Halloween night. How would you decorate yourself and your car (motorcycle)?

8. Provide healthy treats for the children on Halloween night.

9. Create the perfect Halloween bash for you and your friends.

10. Create a Halloween wonderland on your lawn (if you live in a house) or lobby (if you live in an apartment).

11. Decorate your child’s classroom or daycare center for Halloween.

12. I am sending you back to your first Halloween. What type of costume would you wear?

13. I am allowing you and your partner to skip Halloween and have a spectacular date night instead. What would you do?

14. Make your street safer for Halloween.

15. Dress up as your favorite superhero or celebrity.

Asking Rhetorical Questions

question1“Are any of you being hosed?”

Brian Patton’s question took us all by surprise. It was not the preamble we were expecting from the seasoned Toastmaster, but as Brian continued with his speech, it quickly became apparent just how effective that initial question really was.

That is the power of a rhetorical question.

Often asked for effect, a rhetorical question can emphasizes a point, present a challenge or serve as a call to action. Brian’s question immediately engaged all of us and forced us to actively listen instead of passively sitting back and absorbing very little.

Some well-known rhetorical questions include…

“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?” (H.L. Mencken)

“Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everyone did?” (1960s television advertisement)

“If practice makes perfect, and no one’s perfect, then why practice?” (Billy Corgan)

On the lighter side (From House M.D.)

Dr. Cameron:  Why did you hire me?

Dr. House: Does it matter?

Dr. Cameron: Kind of hard to work for a guy who doesn’t respect you.

Dr. House: Why?

Dr. Cameron: Is that rhetorical?

Dr. House: No, it just seems that way because you can’t think of an answer.

While crafting rhetorical questions can be challenging, toastmasters and writers should not shy away from this effective literary device. Consider the following tips:

1. Use these questions sparingly. If you have too many rhetorical questions in a speech, you can overwhelm and confuse the listener. One well-worded question in the introduction will give the audience members enough time to digest the information that follows.

2. Provide the answer to the question. While the question isn’t meant to be answered by the audience, it should be answered by the toastmaster who follows up with relevant material.

3. Hook the audience with a rhetorical question instead of an emotionally charged statement.  For example, if you are trying to rally support for an anti-bullying campaign, you could ask: “How many more children must be bullied before we take action?”