Thursday, September 22, 2005

TableTopics Strategies - using your head to speak on your feet

How can you be prepared to speak without preparation or warning?

Sounds like a classic "no win" situation doesn't it? Or at least an oxymoron.

But if you are a Toastmaster, then you know that there are a number of tactics that you can use as well as skills for impromptu speaking that can be developed.

The following material was presented to WestConn Toastmasters, Club 599, on Sept. 21, 2005 and is a "work-in-progress" (which means that you should not take my word for it, you should try it out and, of course, your comments and suggestions are highly encouraged).

As a Toastmaster district officer, I am not able to participate in the Fall Contests as a Contestant (I am participating as an organizer, contest master and in many other ways). The problem is that I REALLY enjoy the contest process. I find that I am able to stretch my speaking skills beyond their normal capabilities through competition and it is downright exhilarating to win ! (and a pretty exciting "learning experience" if you don't win).

So, instead of competing, I developed this workshop for TableTopic Strategies. The handout will be available on the web (click here for PDF version) and there are a number of references at the bottom of this page that are worth reading.

There are 4 things you need to be successful at TableTopics:
Strategy and Practice, Practice, Practice.

Regular Toastmasters meetings and contests take care of the practice, but there is very little training on the topic of strategy. If you have been with a Toastmaster club for any length of time you have probably learned the "basic" strategies ....
- The Freeze. Say next to nothing until the green light goes on and your time threshold is met.
- The Answer. Simply answer the question. (Usually this creates about two sentences and leaves about 45 seconds left to fill... see also "The Freeze")
- The Redirect. Simply answer another question more to your liking. (This makes it much easier, but for contests and in the true sense of TableTopics it is not usually very satisfying for the audience or the speaker.)

Sometimes you will see a speaker who has advanced beyond the basics. Usually these speakers are 1) well polished, upbeat and relaxed (good delivery on all their speeches - prepared or impromptu), 2) have a wide variety of experiences, knowledge or opinions at their fingertips (easily accessible for any question and 3) can weave a related story and/or make a relevant point based on the table topics question. These advanced speakers have 3 of the strongest tools in their "TableTopics Toolbox".

The key to impromptu speaking is preparation, not just practice. At this point, read through the handout and reference materials and focus on ideas that you want to add to your TableTopics Toolbox!

Dave Wheeler's TableTopics Strategies

Reference Materials / Links:

Impromptu Strategies
courtesy of (no longer on their site for some reason)

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