This page contains a selection of ideas for Table Topics collected (to quote Dave Schneider - one of my many sources) "off the internet from Toastmasters from everywhere". The credit for the ideas must go to the Toastmasters and clubs from which they originated. My task was merely to gather them together and make them accessible.
I have, wherever possible, identified the person who posted them before me (mostly to alt.org.toastmasters). I have also made minor changes to fix the odd error. If anybody feels their copyright is being violated, please let me know and I will remove the offending post. Please feel free to send me additional ideas to add to the list and point out any spelling or other errors. other comments and recommendations are also welcome.
A recent Table Topic at our club was one of the best we've ever seen - our member handed out small plastic containers with cotton wool soaked in a scent - dettol, perfume, etc. and asked the participants what memories this scent evoked. One member said the dettol reminded him of boot camp!
A really worthwhile Table Topics and well worth a try.
In a workshop on table topics I had attended a few years back, suggestions come to mind:
I am a member of the recently chartered Techorater Toastmaster Club (located in Columbia, South Carolina) and our past two meetings have been wonderful. Let me explain in further detail our past meetings.
For the Table Topics, the Table Topics Master used the beach materials in the room as well as sea shells with subject labels ranging from surfing to nude beach colonies.
Well, these are two great ideas we have used. Hope this helps someone.
One time, I used some threads from a few newsgroups - the clean ones :-) I read a posted messsage, a response post, then asked the hapless speaker to assume the role of the first person and answer the reponse.
I don't remember the exact topics - one was about censoring the Internet. The ".activism" groups offer a wealth of interesting discussions. Maybe the recent discussion here on DTM requirements would prove to be stimulating.
One idea someone else suggested during a discussion from a recent officer training I attended was to have the speaker pick a fortune cookie and use the "fortune" as the topic to talk about. Afterwards the speaker can eat the cookie!
We have a kind of gift exchange. A member picks a wrapped gift from under the 'tree' (last time it was a couch), or steals one from another member. Then the member has to explain why he (she) thinks this is the most wonderful gift in the world.
John Fleming, CTM
On small slips of paper write out some unusual or very descriptive colors (day-glo orange, pea green, flamingo pink etc), make a list of questions along the lines of:
Ask a Table Topics respondent to pick a slip and ask them the next question on the list. You never know what you'll get.
Hint: It helps to call on someone who is known to have a wild imagination for the first response. After that people will get the idea that anything goes on this theme!
Chris Copeland, ATM
Our Area Governor last year introduced our club to "Just 3 Minutes" to fill in time before the contest winner was announced. I'm not sure of the origins of this game. Perhaps other Toastmasters know and can also share interesting and entertaining fillers for when the judges are "out".
Rules for Just 3 Minutes
Two teams of three players are pitted against each other. The topic which they are to talk about is chosen by the Just 3 Minutes Master.
The team which is the first to speak is chosen by lot. The teams shall nominate the first, second and third speaker. Teams continue to use this order until the time has been used up.
The winner of the contest is the team which is still speaking when the allotted three minutes has run out.
The team which is NOT speaking can challenge the speaker for various faults. When a challenge has been made by a team member, the clock will be stopped until the challenge is adjudicated by the J3M-Master. If the challenge is successful, the next speaker for the challenging team takes over the subject; otherwise, the challenged team continues.
Faults include -
If a player challenges unsuccessfully 6 times, that player cannot speak or challenge again, and the other members must continue without them.
We had a lot of fun with Just 3 minutes. At times I stopped dead when I realised I had repeated myself and was waiting for a challenge!
In Rooster Rousers, the Toastmaster picks a theme the week before, and the Table Topic Master simply tosses out questions that relate to the theme.
So, to invent an example, if the Toastmaster chose the Edmonton Transit System as a theme, all table topic questions would relate to the public transportation system in Edmonton, i.e., a typical question might be 'What would you do to improve the Sunday bus service?'
The number of times a request for table topics ideas is an indication to me that a large number of clubs do not approach table topics the same way that we at Rooster Rousers do.
John Fleming, CTM
Cut pictures from the newspaper or magazines. Have the table topics respondent come up and pick one and tell the club what is happening in the picture. (Of course, no captions are attached to the pictures.)
Table topics respondents are given an unusual object and asked to tell everyone what it is and how it is used. As an alternate, they might be asked to sell the object to the club.
Have an object in a bag that the respondent has to feel and describe to the club. The club then guesses what was described. Alternatively, the respondent may look at the object before descibing it.
One of my favorites is to have slips of paper with a saying or quote. The respondent has to explain what the saying or quote means to him.
Give each person a "Dear Abby" question and have them give their advice. These could made up by the Table Topics Master or real ones clipped from the advice columns.
Have a book swap. Have members bring a book that they "sell" to the rest of the club by telling them why they like the book. After all members have had their chance. Each member bargains for the book that her or she liked best from the explanation. Everyone gets a chance to speak and to get a new book.
Hold an auction. Have each member bring a "white elephant" from home to sell or come prepared to offer a service. Each member auctions off his or her item/service. This raises money for the club, as well as serving as a fun table topics session.
Toastmasters has table topics materials in the catalog, including 2 sets of questions/materials for table topics. You might want to check it out.
If there are people in your club born in different areas (and/or different countries), try this: "What do people think they know about your birthplace that isn't true?"
If not, you're missing out on a great resource for new members - Ed.
"Suppose you could go back in time and talk to yourself at the age of ten. What advice would you give yourself?"
Read a paragraph from different letters to the editor of your local paper and have the members respond with their opinions.
We have a theme for each of our meetings, so one technique is simply to start thinking about the theme as soon as you arrive at the meeting.
Remember that a TT response does not have to be accurate, or even truthful in any way! It doesn't even have to be an answer to the question asked, although this should only be used as a last resort if you really are at a loss.
Another technique that's fun is to expound at length about you have no idea how to answer the question. You might try explaining why you were really hoping you wouldn't be called upon or what your fears were about answering the question.
Believe it or not, another thing that can work is simply don't worry about it. Don't over think or prepare; just relax, and if you're called on, stand up and start talking. This may sound ridiculous, but sometimes worrying about it is counterproductive.
Joe San Filippo
We had been having trouble doing proper introductions of speakers: they were getting so boring.
So I asked the Table Topoics Master to make up enough topics for the entire club and write each one on a card. I did an educational session on introductions and had each person write information about herself on a card. Then the Table Topics Master handed out her table topics, and each person passed her card with her bio information to the person on her right. Then, in turn, each person introduced the person to her left and her table topic, using the cards.
Everyone got a turn to give a table topic and to introduce another person.
I ran a twenty-questions table topics session on Monday. Went down really well.
I chose five "answers" - A Pen, A cellular telephone, Encyclopaedia Britannica, a computer, Information Technology.
I put each answer into a separate envelope marked 1 to 5.
I asked the first speaker to open his envelope.
Then we played 20 questions.
When the meeting guessed the answer in the envelope, the speaker had to give an impromptu on the topic.
The topic was thematic, in that Information Technology is the concept that ties the four previous items together.
How to play 20 questions:
The pen: mineral, two words, contains the definite article.
Encylopaedia Britannica: two words, abstract or vegetable and mineral. (the paper is vegetable, the ink, mineral).
Information Technology: Abstract, two words.
A couple of ideas we've tried in our club which went over quite well.
Another Table Topic approach I like is a variation of Win, Lose, or Draw.
This is a fun way to add a twist on to Table Topics.
Tabletopics is my favorite contest, but it can also be a nerve wrecker because you never know what kind of question you're going to get. Here's one way to practice tabletopics and it works just as well for regular meetings as it does for contests:
Pick a topic out of the newspaper or something you hear on the radio (it may even be an idle thought that passes through your head) and create an instant tabletopic response. Make it a point to practice this on a daily basis.
You'll be amazed at how good you can get at it. And you'll have a backlog of material to draw on the next time you get called on! You may also find that you start to catalogue material in your mind to "save" for tabletopics.
One final piece of advice: make a point of reading the newspaper closely. There's nothing worse than being hit with a newsy tabletopic and you don't know what they're talking about!
Chris Copeland ATM
Our club meets at a nursing home that does not charge us anything for the room rental. To show our appreciation to the nursing home, we occasionally collect money from our members for a donation. For example, last Christmas season, the club held two "auctions".
Members brought in an item from home - baked goods, small toys, handcrafted gifts, or whatever - and as part of table topics each member who brought things gave a pitch for their item. Then other members bid on the items and the money collected was donated to the nursing home.
This was a great way to collect money and show our appreciation - and it was gave a fun twist to a couple of meetings.
We had a situation today where the Topicmaster didn't show. I suggested we try a group story.We started at one end of the room and progressed to the other end.
It was a lot of fun. If you ever get stuck, give it a try.
Rick Davis ATM
The Topics Master at our last meeting introduced some Zen-like topics, i.e.
Our club had great fun with these.
My club has recently done a few unique table topics, and here they are.
Write words on small pieces of paper. Have each speaker pick four pieces of paper and make up a story using all 4 words. (You can also require using the "word of the day".) Variations of the word are ok (If the word is "microscope", then "microscopic" may be used in the strory).
Spend a minute or so reviewing basic introductions. Then bring up each speaker and have them pull an object out of a bag, and have them introduce what they have extracted. (Vegetables work well...."It's MR. CARROT!!!! Please introduce Mr. Carrot as our next speaker." Not only do people get practice with introductions, but they get to take home a part of a salad.)
One person speaks and another stands next to the speaker and performs all gestures.
Discuss a weird place to live and defend the place as a nice place to live.
Use questions only while telling a story.
Start each sentence with a word that begins with a specific letter (first "a", then "b", etc.), then next person says sentence with next letter.
Everyone writes down a secret about themselves that no one knows about. Each speaker takes one of the notes, reads it, and states who they think wrote the note and why.
Put everyday stuff into a bag and let each speaker select an item to discuss. However, the year is 2525 and the speaker is an archeologist. They will explain their opinion as to what the item was back in the 20th. century and how it was used.
The speaker picks a really bad movie they have seen. They then must persuade the audience to see it.
Each speaker tells about a time (real or imagined, but preferably real) when they ran into a celebrity.
Check out the TV listings to see what the current topics are on OPRAH or PHIL. Each speaker discusses the topic.
Editor's Note (For anybody in the world who might not know): The names are that of TVtalk show hosts :-)
Interesting pictures are selected from magazines. Each speaker picks one at random and discusses what is going on in the picture. eg. A man is sitting at a desk reading, while another person is looking out the window.
Each speaker picks a cookie, reads the message, and discusses how it applies to them.
Take interesting articles from the weekly tabloids (Weekly World News is especially good). Each speaker is required to discuss and/or defend and/or explain the amazing things reported (Man finds green glob in closet...and it eats his dog)!
Each speaker is required to tell an amazing story about themselves. The members then vote for each speaker as having told the truth or not. The speaker who fooled the most people either way, wins topics.
Bring a camcorder to the meeting and pick members at random. Have each stand up, and, under the glare of the camera lights, grill the member about the "terrible" thing he or she did. Interview each member for 1 minute, then play back the tape.
Have each member write down on a piece of paper, the job that they would consider the best job in the world for them. Then pass the papers to the person on the left. Call on members to stand and explain why the job on the paper in front of them is the best job in the world.
Or the worst - Ed.
List a number of educational classes on a board. Each speaker picks one of the classes and explains why that class is the most important class to take to round out an education. Once used, the class is "removed" from the board.
Make a list of "accomplishments" (best underwater basketweaver, best nuclear power plant designer, best TV remote control switcher, etc.) and print them on pieces of paper. A speaker selects the award and must "award" it to another member. That member must get up and "accept" the award.
Collect some products off the grocery shelf or hardware store. Each TT speaker selects one of the items out of a bag and has to do a TV commercial on that product.
We're all toastmasters. Select an appropriate setting for each speaker, then let them make an appropriate toast for the occasion. eg.
Each person would be given one line and would have to weave a story from it. Here are a dozen different story lines to use:
The Impromptu Murders
The meeting closest to Valentines Day: The Topics Master brought red carnations. Pairs of people were asked to participate instead of individuals. The first man was asked to play the role of Ceasar and give the carnation to 'Cleopatra' along with a suitable declaration of love. 'Cleopatra' then had to reciprocate and present a carnation to him. Other pairs were 3rd graders who constantly tormented each other, but secretly liked each other. A couple just celebrating their 50th valentines day together, a father to his very young daughter, etc.
Another meeting, the Topics Master asked everyone to sit on the floor in the center of the room, or on chairs brought to the center. All the lights were turned off and a flashlight was used to simulate a campfire. The Topics Master gave the titles and particpants told campfire stories.
Presumably to get practice at closings, participants were asked to give the closing of a speech, briefly described by the Topics Master.
We had an interesting time with a table topic based on those little round disks called "POGS". I picked out several of them with distinctive pictures, and said that each participant would be from a planet or country with a distinctive coinage. They were to tell us the story about why that particular image was inscribed on the coin. ( ie. famous character in history, notable landmark, etc.)
We usually tie our table topics to the evening's theme. Last week our clubs theme was "Dealing with it." I pasted situations on the back of playing cards which ended with the phrase "Deal with it." For example: You enter a room and reach in to turn on the light switch. Suddenly your arm is grabbed by a six fingered furry hand which you realize isn't human. Deal with it.
This week our theme was the "X Files" We had to discuss a scenario which was "bizzare"
For example: God has an infomercial on channel one.
Once I gave each person a sheet of paper on which children had drawn weird pictures. Toastmasters were One Minute Art Critics and had to discuss the significance of the work.
One of our good Table Topics was bringing in a bag of pennies and you had to talk about something that happened in the year that was stamped on the penny, or something you were doing during that year. Lots of fun
If you could have a round-trip ride in a time machine and travel any
distance into the past or future, where would you want to go?
2. If you were alone and had only a few minutes to hide from crooks who were about to break into your house, where would you hide? What is the best hiding place in your house?
3. If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
4. Would you like to have an identical twin? What about it would be best? Worst?
5. If you woke up tomorrow and by magic were already grown-up and had kids of your own, how would you treat them differently from the way your parents treat you?
6. If you could change any one thing about your parents, what would it be?
7. Would you rather be very poor and have parents who loved you and each other, or be wealthy and have parents who ignored you and were always fighting with each other?
8. Would you be willing to never again get any gifts and surprises if instead you could just ask for anything you wanted and have your parents buy it for you?
9. If you were to be granted any one magical power you wanted, what would you pick?
10. s can do more but have more responsibilities; children can play more but are often told what to do. Do you think kids or s have a better deal?
11. If you could see into the future but not change it, would you want to do so?
12. If you couldn't watch TV for a year, what do you think you would do with all of your extra time? Do you think you would by better off if you watched TV more or less than you do now? Why?
13. If you could have either the ability to talk to animals or the power to see into the future, which would you want?
14. How do you feel when you see someone who is disfigured or crippled? Could you be best friends with someone who was extremely ugly?
15. What things scare you even though you know there is no reason to be afraid?
16. If you had to pick a new first name for yourself, what would you choose?
17. What Indian names would you choose for each person in your family? Why?
18. Do you think it is fun to be a parent? If so, what do you think is the best thing about it? If not, why do you think people have children?
19. If you became so sick that you would die if you didn't stay hooked up to a large life-support machine for the rest of your life, would you want someone to pull the plug?
20. If you bought something in a store and the clerk gave you a dollar extra in change, would you say anything about his mistake?
21. If you had a lot of money and could use it in any way you wanted, what would you do with it?
22. Would you rather receive a gift you really wanted, or give your mother a gift she would absolutely treasure?
23. What good book have you read lately?
24. What is your favorite season of the year? Why?
25. What is you idea of a dream vacation?
26. What is the most enjoyable way for you to spend $25?
27. If you could buy any rare collection in the world, which would you choose?
28. If you could be anywhere for New Year's Eve 1999, where would you most want to be?