How to Ace and Face Table Topics

Researchers have revealed that the structure of your brain changes every time you learn something new. On 25th April 2020, the participants of the “How to Face and Ace table Topics” workshop experienced this with an engaging and insightful session provided by District 41 Administration Manager DTM Ayan Pal.

Division Director, Suman Shakya, DTM, during his opening remarks, stated that one of the biggest challenges for a toastmaster or any speaker is speaking impromptu in any topic while delivering a meaningful message. To provide the trick of the trade, Division A organized the workshop with DTM Pal who has been District Champion in Table Topics Contest. He excellently dealt with three modules during the one and half hour workshop. 

DTM Pal started with “Introduction to Impromptu Speaking” module by interestingly relating the perils of impromptu speaking with mountains. He also explained that impromptu speaking can develop leadership skills, with an evident example of a commander in the army during the war. If you can’t make quick decisions, it can cost you lives. Likewise, leaders are exposed to situations where they must take impromptu decisions and one way to improve this skill is by learning impromptu speaking. 

Secondly, he put light on the “Barriers to Impromptu Speaking”. The barriers or obstacles in our climb include being too conscious in front of the public, fear of appearing nervous, past failures, discomfort with body movements, and poor breathing. When nervous, you tend to have a pounding heart, random body movements, sweating palms, and shortness of breath. To overcome this, the technique is to control and be conscious of breathing. Taking deep breaths before speaking and also taking a pause for good breath in between, can help you calm down. When you focus on the inside, you will not be distracted by the outside. Public speaking requires a large reservoir of air. Your exhalation needs to be controlled so that you sustain vocalized sounds to the ends of phrases. Additionally, try converting your nervous energy to excitement for the speech.

Finally, in the third module “Ways to Face and Ace Impromptu Speaking”, he shared 5 golden tips. 

1. First one was ‘Listen’. He cleverly demonstrated with support from one of the participants, how the topic can be misheard if you don’t listen intently. Listen carefully to understand the topic and process the thoughts. 

2. The second tip was ‘Pause’. While most of us feel that not speaking immediately will be taken as a weakness, DTM Pal stressed on the importance of taking a pause to refresh your thoughts and formulate an answer. In fact, your timing will start only after the first verbal or non-verbal communication. A pause can add drama, allow the audience to absorb your message, and respond, especially in case of humor. 

3. ‘Confirm’ was the third golden tip. When the topic is being announced for the first time, listen;  the next time it is being repeated, confirm it. If the topic is long or complex, you can repeat certain parts of the topic to voice your opinion instead of repeating the whole topic. With this, you are confirming to the judges that you have understood the topic. Repeating the entire topic will not be impressive. 

4. The next tip was ‘Tell’. When you talk, stick to the crux or message as you have only 2 mins. Do not analyze every word of the topic.

5. The final tip was about ‘End’. Conclude with a smile, maintain eye contact with the audience, and emphasize the main point. 

Next DTM Pal identified beginner, intermediate and advanced level table topics speakers among the audiences. For the beginners, he suggested to participate in as many table topics as possible and to practice with family members to get it going. For the intermediate level, he advised on preparing the content beforehand. He showcased the way you can connect your prepared content with any given topic, by speaking about cow. Even though topics like “Why did Humpty-Dumpty sit on a wall?” and “A chair made of wood is better than the chair made of steel”, have nothing to do with cow, he skillfully maneuvered a cow into his story while speaking on those topics and delivered his message as well. He added that to be an advanced level speaker, you need to be prepared and confident, think out of the box, and know when to speak what to speak. You also need to assess the difficulty level of the topic. If the topic is simple, use creativity and give your own interpretation while speaking for or against the topic but do not do what the majority do. If the difficulty level is medium to high, then speak about something unique. For instance, if you need to talk about successful sportsperson, rather than mentioning Michael Jordan, Sachin Tendulkar or Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s better to come up with a different example not so widely known. An unheard or a personal story is more interesting than the obvious or known ones. Personal examples give uniqueness to your content and help you stand out.

For better comprehension of the said techniques, DTM Pal eloquently spoke on various difficult topics provided by the audience. Upon completing the presentation part, the floor was opened for Q&A round, moderated by DTM Shakya for around 20 mins. DTM Pal further stressed that the key success factor is to relentlessly prepare, practice, and participate in table topics sessions.

Ravi Mainali, Area A2 Director concluded the workshop by thanking DTM Ayan Pal, and the organizing team. All the 171 toastmasters and potential toastmasters, from Nepal and India, added a valuable jewel to their learning repository from the learned tips. This will help them not only climb the Table topics mountain but also conquer it. Thanks to Division A for continuously offering such educational sessions. Come what may, learning at toastmasters continues!

Heema Mukarung, VPM, Everest Toastmasters, Area A2 CGD 

Published in Inkspire Issue 4. Click here for the full newsletter.

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