“What is a hormone that has given you challenges recently?”
Imagine being asked that question and then, within seconds, a room full of people begin clapping as they expect you to walk to the front of the room and deliver a response for one-to-two minutes.
Welcome to Table Topics at Toastmasters.
Don’t worry, the questions aren’t usually that hard. A more common question would be something along the lines of: If you could be any superhero, who would you be? Or, what is the best type of chocolate bar and why?
The hormone question was one that was given to me by a fellow Toastmasters a few years ago. We had an ongoing tradition of giving each other incredibly challenging questions, so I should’ve saw it coming. Thankfully, I was thinking quickly on that particular Thursday morning, and began my response with: “The human growth hormone has not only been giving me challenges recently, it has impacted me throughout my entire life. As you can see, I’m five-foot-eight, and I wish I was taller…”
The purpose of Table Topics is to practice impromptu speaking. Every meeting, a Table Topics Master will pick random club members and ask them a question, which is typically related to the theme of the meeting. The audience will then begin clapping and the individual who was asked the question will walk to the front of the room and deliver a response.
In the video attached to this month’s column, I demonstrate a live example of answering a Table Topics question. The question I was asked at that particular meeting was whether I’d rather be in a pit with spiders, snakes or beetles (and the Table Topics Master referenced the show Fear Factor).
As you can see in my response, I don’t actually answer the question; instead, I speak about how it would’ve been advantageous to appear on Fear Factor and get to know Joe Rogan, considering the success he has enjoyed over the past two decades.
While it’s always good to make an effort to answer the question directly, that’s not the most important thing when it comes to Table Topics. The number one goal is to stand in front of the audience and speak for one-to-two minutes, which is incredibly difficult when you don’t have advance notice of what you’re going to be talking about.
Over the years, I have seen many brand new Toastmasters members struggle to speak for a full minute; however, after a couple months of attending Toastmasters meetings, their confidence grows quickly. Eventually, their biggest challenge is not speaking for too long.
Table Topics is one of the most exciting (and scary) elements of a Toastmasters meeting. If you want to give it a try, I’d encourage you to visit one of our amazing local Toastmasters clubs.
If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters, our Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.
If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.