Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Handling Table Topics - 6 ways of getting the initial thinking time

"What should I talk about?" - This is the first question that will come to your mind when you are called to the stage and given a Table Topic. Your brain cells will fight with each other to bombard you with thousands of thoughts in a few milliseconds time. However, you would need some time to pick the right thought and expand on it.

How would you get some thinking time for organizing your thoughts during Table Topics? This article outlines some techniques for getting a few extra seconds of thinking time, right after you are given a Table Topic.

(Also read: How to write attention grabbing introductions?)

1) Acknowledge & Address the Gathering

As soon as you get the topic from the Table Topics master, don't just jump into the Table Topic. Begin your speech by thanking the Table Topics master and by addressing the audience.

For example, by starting your speech with the following statements you will get approximately 5 seconds of thinking time.

Thank you [Mr|Madam] Table Topics master for that wonderful topic. Fellow toastmasters and my dear guests ... or

Mr. Table Topics Master, Fellow toastmasters and my dear guests ...

2) Read out the topic again

By reading out or repeating the topic again, you'll get at least a few seconds of thinking time.

For example, when you get a topic such as "What is your most memorable Christmas celebration" and if you repeat the topic, you'll get 5 seconds of thinking time easily.

3) Ask Questions

Asking questions will not only help you to get some thinking time, but also will help you to grab the attention of the audience.

You can start your speech by asking questions to the audience.

For example, if your topic is "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle", you can start by asking some questions such as "How many of you take a walk to the local store, instead of driving a car? How many of you carry a bag with you when you go for shopping, instead of asking for a plastic bag?".

If your topic is "What is your most memorable vacation", you can start by asking some questions such as "How many of you took a vacation recently?". If somebody respond back by raising their hand, you can ask them, "What is the place to which he/she went to?".

Then, you can continue the speech by saying "Great! My most memorable vacation is the one that I took to Ooty with my family".

4) A witty prepared remark

You should have some witty/humorous remarks in your kitty. Starting your Table Topics speech with a little humor will get you some extra thinking time. Some suggested witty remarks are given below:

  • Our Table Topics Master doesn't realize that it is always easy to ask questions, but it is very difficult to answer them.
  • From next week on wards, I'll promptly sign-up for a meeting role, so that, I can esape from Table Topics
  • I think they should change the name of Table Topics session to Terror Topics
  • Last time, I got a topic "Craziness is the welcome mat at the doors of Creativity". This topic is much better than the topic that I got, last time.
  • Fellow toastmasters and guests, you don't have to be GREAT to START, but you've to START to be GREAT. You may be wondering what is the relevance of this quote to the topic. My mentor advised me to start any speech with a quote to grab the attention of the audience  (Read: Spice up your speeches with quotes)

You don't have to use this technique always. When you gain experience in handling Table Topics, you may not have to use this technique.

Opening your speech with a humorous remark that is relevant to the topic, is always good.

5) Use the "Theme of the Day" or "Word of the Day" in your opening statement.

Referring to the "Word of the Day" or "Theme of the Day" will get you some applause from the audience. Each applause will last for approximately, 5 seconds. You can use that time to think and organize your thoughts in handling the Table Topic.

For example, if the Word of the Day is "dexterous" (meaning skillful), you can start your speech with the following statement.

"Mr. Table Topics Master of the Day, fellow dexterous toastmasters and guests"

6) Ask for a few seconds of thinking time :)

If you are not able to use any of the above techniques and if you are a new toastmaster trying to get your arms around Table Topics, I would recommend you to openly ask for some thinking time. I've seen Toastmasters asking for 30 seconds of thinking time, explicitly. The timer will buzz to indicate the speaker that 30 seconds is reached.

Using a combination of the techniques given above will easily get you 30 seconds of thinking time. It would help you to organize your thoughts and deliver a short speech during your table topic. Initially, it may be a little challenging to follow some of these techniques. But, if you continue to practice them regularly, you'll be able to handle Table Topics with ease.


  1. Hi Saro,

    The information you provided is really helpful. I have bookmarked this page. Thanks for your effort


  2. Hi Saro,

    The information you provided is really useful. I have bookmarked this page for my reference.

    Thanks for your effort.