Toastmasters - Collected Wisdom

These are summaries of the collected wisdom of contributors to alt.toastmasters.org a Toastamsters newsgroup which operated between 1995 and 2008 and ToastmastersPrime, a Google group which commenced in 2008. This is not an official Toastmasters site, but is an edited collection of posts from the newsgroup and the Google group. These groups provide an unofficial means of communicating for an enthusiastic group of Toastmasters from throughout the world.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Table Topics ideas

Toastmasters often seek creative ideas for table topics sessions. This thread ran on the alt.org.toastmasters newsgroup in October 2005

Brian:
Use pictures as the prompts for the table topics. The speaker can either tell what the particular item is or bluff about it. http://puzzlephotos.blogspot.com/ was his source, but picture postcards work well too.

Print out a bunch of Nostradamus's quatrains. If you are clever enough, you can make one mean anything you want it to. Give one to whoever is chosen to speak, and have them be clever and thus tell us what the prophecy means.

Nigel:

Print out a country's flag, one that is probably not going to be known to the speakers. I'd use African or minor islands in the Pacific. Ask them to say which country the flag is from and then tell a little bit about the country.

Joy:
Use names of geographical features - mountains, lakes, rivers. Get some really obscure ones and have people tell which they are and discuss the location.

James:
We did a Round Robin type story last week. The story was of a round the world Journey in 1900. Each participant had to describe part of the journey and subsequent participants picked up where the last one left off. The final participant had to end up back home. In order for this to work it is important to state in advance how many participants there are.
Lack of geographical knowledge just makes this funnier.

From an August 2002 thread Re: Challenging Table Topics

Susan recalled:
the TT Master asked me to speak on any topic, for 2 minutes, without using the word "THE".

Renate:
I used a book called Is Your Bed Still There When You Close the Door
It's aimed at stimulating family conversation by asking provocative questions.

We had been having a heated social conversation about whether the world was getting better or worse. He brought the "debate" to table topics, split the room in two sections and all members without a major role (~20 people) had to speak on one side or the other, Guests and and people with major roles voted for the winning side. We have a large club and great diversity so we got amazingly different perspectives, lot of laughs and excellent.

Blake:
was asked to describe how to tie a tie without the use of hand gestures. Very challenging.
Next, the TTM brought in a bunch of props, and each person was to pick a prop and do something creative around/using that prop. Just common household items.

Michael:
"Yesterday's News" - the respondent is asked their sign, and then the topics master reads their horoscope from the previous day's (or the day before that) newspaper; they they were then to tell us if the horoscope proved out to be true or not.

Regina:
Ask all of the questions about various types of tables, including multiplication tables, tax tables, and kitchen/dining room tables.

Heather:
we were presenters at a photography contest. All we were given was a picture title and we had to describe the picture and our motivation for taking it.

Ken:

If your (blank) could speak, what would it say about (blank) ?
The first BLANK would be an object or a body part, and the second BLANK would be the context.

  • If your nose could talk, what would it say about your car?
  • If your hair could talk, what would it say about your last visit to the salon?
  • If your pen could talk, what would it say about your day at the office?

Richard:

Check http://www.sherrin.com/toastmasters.htm .

There are 2 helpful things for Table Topics.

These pdf downloads are

  • the "Variety In Table Topics Handout" and
  • "Fun Table Topics With A Courtroom Trial Flavor."

Give these a look and why not try them at your next club meeting??

In February 2006 the thread was Re: table topics: use spam subject lines
PC
Why let spam go to waste! Put all spam in its own folder, if not put there by your spam folder. Then view the folder contents by message subject and print the folder contents

Nigel:
I always try to either follow the theme of the day (if one is set) such as Valentine's Day or Pearl Harbor Day (I was TTM for both of those days of celebration) or I'll use Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.com for those who speak English!) and find events that happened today or something and tie all the questions in around that event.

From PC's Spam folder:

  • "Pro strength weight loss"
  • "Important News" (female enhancement)
  • Another mailing list offering to help me meet women
  • One "Please help" (from a poor widow wanting me to help get her money out of Nigeria)
  • One "WINNER" - I won the French lottery

From John's spam folder

  • Any man can be a stud in the bedroom
  • It's easy to add spice to your life
  • My waist is down four inches
  • Conquer your IBS and live again
  • Little stocks can mean dollars for you
  • Micro caps equal macro gains
  • Lose stomach bloating, lose kilos
  • Wheat, cancer and the dairy fairy
From February 2000, the thread was: Re: Looking for table topics ideas...HELP!

When I was Table Topics Master for a meeting with a politics theme, I picked some improbable celebrities (which is getting harder to do ), and the people I called on were supposed to give a campaign speech as that person, telling what office they were running for and why they should be elected. Alternatively, they could nominate the person. One person nominated Mike Tyson for Mayor of Bogotá, Columbia.

Clay:
You might type out a batch of political jobs such as dog catcher, seat warmer, etc that individuals will explain what they intend to accomplish if elected.

Dennis:
Campaign speeches or perhaps you introduce the person as the head of the campaign and they are giving a two-minute opening statement to assembled press conference(ie the club members)before introducing candidate. Works best if you have any idea of persons politics, you can go opposite - ask feminist to give opener for candidate who is not!

Boston:
You call two people up at at time. One person is the interviewer and the second person is someone famous. Maybe George Washington, JFK, FDR, and so on. Have the first person interview the other.

Steve:
Get some Chinese fortune cookies, have each participant pick one out of a bag, open it, and then elaborate on the fortune.

Dennis:
Try a session of personalized challenges:

  • Work in body shop > Why have comprehensive and collision insurance;
  • Financial planner > Why is an allowance important in youth learning;
  • Antique interest > A 'road show' appraisal;
  • Marketing agent > Brand name product vs store brand
  • Apartment super > Mortgage vs Lease; etc, etc.

Cut out cartoon strips, those with a message and have the member explain the message or idea.

Try interpretive reading from children's books/stories.

Sell a product, give a reason, provide an excuse, offer a remedy, explain the rules, explain the use of ... , a list of favorites, the worst ... , the best ... , or any combination of debate topics with opposite statements.

Take a notebook with you for the day. Note anything that could offer a challenge or require a response. In the run of the day you might fill the book and have topics for the rest of the year or more.

Bruce:
"Tabloid Table Topics." Get yourself a copy of the Weekly World Magazine or similar genre rag, and have your members comment on the articles.

Kathy:
Get a box of 8 crayons. Have members blindly draw one from box and describe -- how that color describes their life, what the color represents, or etc. etc.

In April 1998, the thread was Re: Table Topics

Larry:

  • There's a saying that the difference between involvement and commitment is like that of a chicken or a pig to breakfast. The chicken is involved, and the pig is committed. When it comes to life, which are you, a chicken or a pig?
  • Sometimes when you look at a big task, it's important to approach it just like you would eating an elephant: one bite at a time. Which end would you start at?
  • Sometimes making change is like teaching a pig how to sing, it only frustrates you and annoys the pig. When was the last time you taught a pig how to sing?
  • This one is requires a bit of research. If you have the game Balderdash or access to a dictionary, look up 4 or 5 (depending on how many Table Topics you have time for that night, better have extras) unusual words. Give each speaker one word, and ask them to tell about their word. It really works well, and it's amazing how creative people can get.
  • This is a table topic I like to call making bad news good. Think of 4 or 5 unusual situations that would normally be considered bad news. Challenge your speakers to make them good news instead.
  • You're the mayor of New York. Godzilla just trashed the downtown area. Explain why that's good for New Yorkers.
  • The aliens just vaporized the White House. You're the Vice President. Make the first speech afterwards.
  • You just put your car through the garage door. Tell your spouse or significant other.

Joy:

Improv theatre idea
Call two people up in front, but give the written explanation of the situation to only one of them. The person given the explanation must let the other (and the audience) know what is going on, without saying exactly what is written on the slip. The other person must respond, asking whatever questions are necessary to help elicit the information. This is the type of thing some people love and others hate, but it is a good way to stretch the minds of the participants.

  • You are a grocery clerk explaining why a customer can't use a coupon.
  • You are a child trying to get a friend to give you a taste of his/her candy.
  • You are a teacher reprimanding a child for inappropriate behavior.
  • You are giving someone complicated directions.
  • You are calling a computer help line with a problem.
  • You are trying to convince a receptionist to let you see his/her boss.
  • You are a driving instructor dealing with a new student.
  • You are trying to talk your way out of a traffic ticket.
  • You are asking someone out on a date.
  • You are making a 911 call.
  • You are a manager conducting an employee performance review.
  • You are presenting an award to someone who isn't expecting it.

Names of geographic features. I simply gave the name, without telling whether it was a volcano, lake, or whatever. The participants had their choice of being a travel agent selling someone on visiting the place, a traveler telling about his or her experiences during a visit, or a tour guide.

  • Asama (volcano, Japan)
  • Wrangell (volcano, Alaska)
  • Akosombo (lake - manmade, Ghana)
  • Jenpeg (lake - manmade, Canada)
  • Ladoga (lake - natural, U.S.S.R.)
  • Rudolph (lake - natural, Kenya)
  • Reindeer (lake - natural, Canada)
  • Ob (river, U.S.S.R.) Lena (river, U.S.S.R.)
  • Darling (river, Australia)
  • Vettisfoss (waterfall, Norway)
  • Marina (waterfall, Guyana)

The trial of Goldilocks.

We heard testimony from each of the bears and from Goldi herself, statements from both prosecuting and defense attorneys, the judge's instructions to the jury, and the jury foreman's explanation of the verdict. It went so well in that club, I tried it in the other two - and everybody loved it.

John F

We did a variant on this one. We put Peter Rabbit. This idea can be extended to cover a whole meeting, with the prepared speeches being worked into the theme as well, perhaps as extended closing arguments for both the prosecution and the defense, or alternatively, some form of expert testimony.

Paul:

Ask for new meanings for acronyms USDA, IRS, NBC, NASA etc..

Everyone has a bumper sticker on their car. I made a list on the way into the meeting. Tell us about your sticker. They can include "Sky diving - A Natural High" and "Protected by Smith & Wesson" and many others.


A courtroom scene

Member "A" has been accused of stealing a pig from Member "B's" front yard.

Member "C" acts as a character witness for "A."

Member "D" had pork chops at A's home what can you add to the evidence.

In January 2007, JohnF posted to the thread Effective introductions:

The rationale for many clubs to use 1:00, 1:30, and 2:00 for Table Topics is that it is the contest timing.
That said, the topic master is quite free to use whatever timings he or she wants.
From time to time, I do what I call "sound bite" table topics, where the idea is to get your main idea into a short sound bite similar to a radio or TV ad. For these, the timings are green at 0:20, yellow at 0:25 and we clap you down at 0:30.

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