Table Topics Tips

Lois Margolin leads a Table Topics workshop at the Division B TLI

At Division A and B, I was honored to be asked to provide a session on Table Topics. Actually, I begged to do this. Regardless of how it happened, we discovered that Toastmasters are hungry for information on Table Topics.  With John Schneyer as the Table Topics master, we created an experience where each volunteer had 45 seconds to address a topic. The audience would then tell them what they did that they loved. Then we discussed a tip they could use to enhance their story. 

Great speeches are those where the audience connects with the speaker. In our 40-minute sessions, we heard 30-35 Table Topics, and each tip was different.  Some tips included how to enter the room, appreciate a punch line and determine where to put your hands. Throughout both sessions, I felt three tips stood out that can benefit every Toastmaster. 

Vocal Variety

Vocal Variety does not come naturally to a speaker. We can use the tone and pace to take the audience on an incredible journey. We just need to be sure the tone and pace match what we are conveying.

To show excitement, speakers usually use a higher pitch and speak faster. To show growing excitement, start at a lower slower pitch, then count two breaths, raise your voice, and go faster. Your excitement will be felt in your tone and pace. 

A lower pitch and slower pace tells the audience what you are saying is important. If you want to show importance, start at a higher, slightly faster pitch and literally stop, go deeper and much slower. Your audience will hang on your every word.

Move with Purpose

We love when a speaker moves around the stage, however, too much movement without purpose can make your audience dizzy. Consider moving with the power of three or as a timeline. 

Power of Three

  • Stage Left – I was depressed
  • Middle – I could not focus
  • Stage Right – I needed a change

Timeline Example

  • Stage Left – I was born …
  • Middle – In my college years…
  • Stage Right – Here I am today…

The power of three is so incredibly important because it is small enough to create a pattern where we can REMEMBER your words. If you use 4, 5 or 6 points the odds are we will have difficulty remembering anything. That’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (see how easy it is to remember in threes).

Names Connect

When you connect with your audience the audience feels emotions. When we feel emotion we remember you AND your speech. To connect the speaker needs to open up to us, become vulnerable. Use names to bring the audience into your life. Instead of my Grandma or my son, use my Grandma Ada, my son John. Throughout the speech use their names. “John would always ask permission before he left the house. This one afternoon, John decided…” The more the audience hears a name, the closer they feel towards you.

I hope these tips help you on your journey to be the District Table Topics winner. Vocal variety, moving with purpose and connecting to you audience is a wonderful way to show that you are truly a Table Topics master!

See how the winners of last year’s District 47 Table Topics contest put these principles to work.