Tuesday, January 14, 2014

7 ways to prepare for Table Topics Contests

"It usually takes me more than 3 weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech" said Mark Twain, the famous author. It is really true. Fluency in English alone is not enough for you to become a great impromptu speaker. When you get a topic during contests and if you don’t know what to speak, your brain will start spinning rigorously like an empty grinder... making a lot of noise without any useful output. You should feed the grinder with something to reduce the noise and to get useful output. How do you go about feeding the empty grinder? This article outlines some simple techniques that you can use to prepare for Table Topics contests.

(Also read: 9 ways to prepare for Table Topics & Impromptu Speaking)

1) Create a personal stories catalog – I’ve seen many people getting into the habit of writing blogs to document their life events. If you don't like to write and share your thoughts publicly through blogs, you can even begin the habit of writing diary. This will also help you to document your important moments & experiences which will eventually help you in creating stories from your own personal life. Diary will become your personal stories catalog.

2) Prepare for standard topics - Most of the table topics are around common subjects such as success, failure, most memorable event, greatest achievement, most happiest moment, leadership, hardwork, friendship, forgiving, happiness, sadness, goals, vacation, professional life, career, family, kids, education, determination. If you can prepare a short paragraph with some personal anecdotes on each of these subjects, you can easily talk about them in your speeches.

3) Read newspapers - Reading newspapers will help you to stay current with the day to day events that are happening in the country/world. Staying on top of current events will help you to relate to the audience and connect with them quickly. For ex., if you get a topic such as "Value of life in India", you can immediately relate back to the recent fire accidents happening in trains/buses because of not following norms.

4) Offline practice using Quotes – Most of the times, contest topics are quotes. So, take a printout of some 50 or 100 quotes from Internet. Cut the paper into smaller chits - each chit with one quote. Fold them, shuffle them and put them in a bowl. Now, take 1 chit from the bowl, open it and start talking about it for 2 minutes. Record what you speak. Then, play back and see how you could've handled the topic better. Be your own evaluator and write your "strengths" & "areas for improvement". Redo speaking on the same topic again, if you want to. Record it again and listen to it. Whenever you find time during the day or weekend, do this exercise. I have done this during my early days of Toastmastering and it has helped me to think instantly and talk on any subject. You can even play Table Topics (http://www.tabletopics.com/) games with your friends.

5) Treat it like a “mini” speech: Table Topics should also have a clear introduction, body and a memorable conclusion. You can use all the techniques that you normally use in the prepared speech for handling Table Topics – eye contact, vocal variety, structured thoughts, transitions, stories etc., Always end your Table Topic with a memorable or strong conclusion.

6) Tell a Story, don’t give a gyan – If you are a novice Table Topics speaker, you’ll start giving a gyan about the topic. For ex., if you get a topic such as “You booze, You cruise, You loose”… you can go on & on to talk about the effects of drinking liquor and driving. On the contrary, you can tell a story (even a fictions one) to convey the message. Personal incidents and stories help you to sustain the flow during Table Topics.

7) Volunteer for Table Topics - You cannot learn swimming by standing on the shore - you'll have to jump into the water to learn swimming. Similarly, you can sharpen your impromptu speaking skill by constantly participating in Table Topics sessions. Whenever the Table Topics master asks for a "Volunteer" to speak, raise your hand immediately without a second thought.
If you practice the suggestions given above, Table Topics contest will no more be a Terror Topics contest for you. Happy contesting.

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