Friday, 1 March 2013

My Toastmasters Table-Topics Journey Begins

I've written elsewhere on this blog how Table Topics for me are the hardest part of the Toastmasters curriculum.

What are Table Topics?

The Toastmasters website describes Table Topics as fairly benign things - and I quote: "Table Topics are the portion of a club meeting devoted to exercises in impromptu speaking presided over by the Table Topics Master, 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 organised thoughts in a limited time."

How I feel about them!

That's all well and good, however I've found it's one thing to prepare a speech in advance with the opportunity to think about it at length, write and rewrite it, rehearse it any number of times - and quite another to be thrown in at the deep end and be asked to speak extemporaneously, (speaking without preparation) on a subject just given to you just a second ago for 1-2 minutes.

I don't think it would be exaggerating to say that I've always been nervous around this part of the meeting in case I was picked, (you're given no notice) and I know I'm not alone!

Documenting my Table Topics Journey

But I've decided to break the back of these things and I thought one way to do it would be to commit myself publicly to recording each one that I do and its evaluation so that I'm not tempted to shirk away from them in future. So in that spirit of sharing I thought it would be nice to document my Table Topics journey with anyone who's interested and this is the first video in the series which I posted on YouTube today.

 My first Toastmaster Table Topic Speech given on 28th February 2013

The idea hopefully is that I'll improve over time and I hope other people will chime in with ideas and suggestions in the comments below or on the video itself. I'm going to share them all, good bad and indifferent and I hope that they'll at least be entertaining. :-)

As for this one, it's not too difficult to see where I could have made some improvements - my evaluator very generously didn't point them out but I'm sure you will :-) Not to head you off but I do know that I did a lot of 'umming' and some of my thoughts were not expressed as completely as I'd have liked.

Background to Toastmasters and Table Topics Sessions

For those of you familiar with Toastmasters meetings please skip to the evaluation video further down the page. For those not familiar with Toastmasters meetings I should point out a few details that you might be wondering about while you watched the video.

a) At every meeting we have a 'word of the day' and the idea is for speakers to include it logically and coherently into their speeches, prepared or otherwise. Our word for this meeting (which is attached to the lecturn just out of shot) was 'Lamprophony', which means loudness and clarity of voice. I did manage to squeeze it in as you saw :-)

b) There is a Table Topics Master who is in the video with me at the beginning and it is his/her job to choose the Table Topics for the evening and then give them to the members or guests to do at the appropriate part of the meeting.

c) Each Table Topic should last 1-2 minutes, no more, no less. Timing is a big deal in Toastmasters meetings and each meeting has a Time Keeper who can and will disqualify your speech from the best speeches of the evening competition if you go under or over time, (which is a bit inflexible in my opinion but them's the rules)!

d) Table Topics speeches do not have a title but for the sake of casual viewers it made more sense to include one so I added my own in order that people will have an idea of what I'm supposed to be talking about in advance. The title I chose for the one you've just watched is 'Crazy Gun Laws'.

Evaluation of my Table Topic Speech

There is a Table Topics Evaluator who critiques each Table Topic speech - at this meeting it was Angela Lansbury and here is a video of her evaluation of my speech.

Angela Lansbury evaluates my Table Topics Speech

Angela didn't offer any criticism or suggestions, but do you have any?

So that is the end of my first post of the series - I hope you enjoyed it and please feel free to share it. If you are not already a member of Toastmasters but are interested in joining, you should know that most groups welcome guests who can attend free of charge with or without a host for as many times as they like. And guests can participate in the Table Topics part of meetings if they wish to. My club is HOD Speakers in the Harrow/Stanmore area of Greater London in the UK where we hold meetings once a fortnight and you can click the link for more information. Our next meeting is on 14th March.
Venue Address: Manor House Banqueting Hall, Old Church Lane, Stanmore, HA7 2QX
Meeting Start: 7:45pm
Meeting Finish: 10:30pm

What is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organisation that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills.  If you'd like to join a Toastmasters group or are thinking of doing so feel free to write to me at any of my personal links to the right, alternatively you can contact Toastmasters directly and I've also provided their link in this paragraph.