July 22, 2012

The How And Why Of Table Topics

guess what?by Promod Sharma, CC

As a guest, you can return to Goodyear Toastmasters or another club for free as long as you want. You’ll see what goes on but cannot give a speech or perform any of the roles.

There’s an exception: Table Topics. This is your opportunity to participate. You can opt out but are encouraged to try.

The Process

In Table Topics, you speak for 30 to 75 seconds about a topic drawn randomly drawn from an envelope. The topic often relates to the meeting theme chosen by the Chair. This week, Drinks were the theme and the focus of Table Topics.

How do you tell how long you’ve been speaking? We use “traffic lights”. The Green light comes on at 30 seconds, amber/yellow at 60 and red at 75. If you stop talking before green or after red, you’re disqualified.

If that’s not enough, you’re also to use the Word Of The Day (which was “nebulous” this week). If you don’t, you’re fined 50 cents, which goes towards the club. Guests are exempt from the fine but encouraged to use the Word Of The Day.

The Table Topics Master can change the rules. Last week, the timing was 48 to 72 seconds and each participant got their own Word Of The Day.

What’s The Point?

You can probably talk about your interests with ease when you’re with your family or friends. Standing in front of a room is different. Talking for a specified length of time is challenging. Using a specific Word Of The Day adds more complexity.

Isn’t that enough? What’s the point of speaking about a topic you know nothing about?

You get an opportunity to develop your skills. If you can talk about a random topic, you can certainly talk about a subject you know. You’ll probably find that you’re better at Table Topics than you expect. Your performance will vary each time. Sometimes the words will flow. Other times you may get stumped. Regardless, you’re getting better and more confident.

The Ribbon

Attendees vote for the person they thought was best at Table Topics. The winner gets a ribbon. The competition is jovial. There’s no way to predict who will win in advance. Some members have won more than once.

If you lose, you don’t lose much. If you win, you feel great. That’s a nice boost.


Promod Sharma won the ribbon the first time he tried Table Topics and again this week. His website is promodsharma.com.


  1. Great summary of Table Topics, like the 50 cent fine, that adds another dimension. Isn’t it great to win the ribbon! I won on my second visit, the question just fell in my lap, sometimes that’s just the way it goes:o)


  2. Thanks for your comments, Noel. Winning is nice ... and difficult.