Toastmasters International

The portion of a club meeting devoted to exercises in impromptu speaking. Presided over by the Table Topicsmaster, who calls on each Table Topics Speaker to give a short, impromptu speech, Table Topics provides you with an opportunity to practice careful listening, quickly preparing a relevant response, and expressing fluent, clear, and organized thoughts in a limited time.


As Table Topics Speaker, you

  • Become more fluent.
  • Learn how you can, with a minimum of preparation, present your thoughts in a clear, organized fashion,
  • Learn to listen carefully and tailor your remarks to the question presented to you.
  • Practice drawing on your own knowledge and experience on the topic.

How to run a Table Topics session[]

Table Topics offers a speaking opportunity to every meeting participant who doesn't otherwise have a speaking role. In some clubs, it is customary to excuse the Toastmaster, Speakers, General Evaluator, and Speech Evaluators, but the decision is entirely up to the Table Topicsmaster. Guests may be invited to speak, but it's always a good idea to chat with them before the meeting, to see if they would be willing to participate. The number of speakers varies according to the time available on the meeting agenda.

Each speaker speaks for one to two minutes, with a 15-second grace period: the Timer switches on the green light at 1 minute, the yellow light at 1 minute 30 seconds, and the red light at 2 minutes. However, the Table Topicsmaster can set different time limits.

The Table Topicsmaster should record the question asked (or the topic of the response) for each Table Topics Speaker. At the conclusion of the session, the Table Topicsmaster gives a terse rundown of Table Topics Speakers and their respective topics, then invites the participants to vote for the meeting’s Best Table Topics Speaker.

Alternatively, the Table Topicsmaster can offer an evaluation of the session.

In an ideal program, clubs would run Table Topics while the evaluators are discussing the prepared assignments.


In a Table Topics session, the Table Topics Speaker will have limited time to prepare their speech: a few seconds, a few minutes, or many minutes.

Every club and every meeting has a certain flavor, variety or theme, and Table Topics is the best place to bring it out. The meeting planners can, time and again, have a table topics session that's different from the usual. It helps to break monotony and provides an avenue for having fun and building a sense of camaraderie among the members. It can also help advanced speakers to take up challenging tasks and finetune their skills.

Standard Table Topics[]

This follows the same guidelines as in the Table Topics Contest that's held once every year. Chits or any such means of keeping topics hidden may be used, and the topic is revealed only when the speaker comes on stage.

Time limit is from 1 to 2 minutes. The timer signals green at 1, yellow at 1 min 30 secs, and Red at 2 minutes, after which the Red signal remains until the speaker finishes speaking. There is a grace period of 30 seconds, on the upper end only. Meaning, in a contest, if the time taken is anything below a minute or above 2mins 30 secs, then the speaker would be disqualified. The speaker is allowed time up to 30 seconds after having heard the topic, to compose his/her speech and then begin. His/her time begins only upon givnig the first gesture of starting the speech - whether spoken or acted.

Instant Speech[]

The Table Topicsmaster gives the Table Topics Speaker the topic, and when the applause dies down, the speaker starts speaking and doesn't stop until the end. The speaker has to prepare their speech in the few seconds it takes to stand at their chair or to walk to the front of the meeting.

Alternative Table Topics sessions[]

Every once in a while, we can have something different in table topics - and have fun while at it! It's all to your imagination, how you want to do this round!
See Table_Topics_Ideas

The Table Topics Tips and Templates site also includes many topic templates that you can use to compose entertaining sessions.

Guidelines for the Table Topics Speaker[]

  • Keep your remarks to the point of the topic.
  • Try to make a sensible, worthwhile presentation that adds to the listener’s knowledge or perspective.
  • If there is a Common Speech Topic, you may elaborate on (or dispute) ideas presented by previous speakers.
  • In some clubs, you are allowed to redefine the speech topic you wish to respond to. If so, introduce your topic properly.

Six Outlines for the Table Topic Speech[]

Here are six suggestions for handling your Table Topic speech. You may, of course, develop your own approach.

  1. State your opinion, then back it up with two or three reasons.
  2. State a problem, then show its causes
  3. Articulate a viewpoint, then elaborate on it (the viewpoint need not be your own).
  4. Set forth a goal or a problem, then give your solution.
  5. Present a process, then describe it in more detail.
  6. Analyze a situation into its components, then comment on them.

In each case, your speech starts with a succinct statement that sets the context. The rest of your remarks then address that statement and fit into that context. The result is a cogent expression of ideas.

Tips for Table Topic speaking[]

Three Tips[]

One idea is to memorize ahead of time some appropriate quotations that can apply to almost any situation. Using them effectively will not only start your table topics speech off on a reasonably strong note, but it will also give you some time to think and develop your topic more fully.

Don't feel that you need to start speaking as soon as you are introduced. (If you do, it automatically starts the clock, and you are committed). It's fine to wait a few seconds (some recommend as many as 10) to collect your thoughts before responding.

Remember that strong delivery and gestures can make the difference, particularly in higher level contests. I'd suggest that you continually volunteer to participate in Table Topics at each meeting when preparing for a contest, and even ask your friends to toss you some Table Topics questions outside of meetings to practice responding.

Winging It[]

Remember, too, that a Table Topics 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.

Practicing for a Table Topics Session[]

Table Topics 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 for Table Topics 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 Table Topics 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 catalog material in your mind to "save" for Table Topics.

One final piece of advice: make a point of reading the newspaper closely. There's nothing worse than being hit with a newsy Table Topic—and you don't know what they're talking about!