Topics Master

The Topics Master or Toastmaster of the Table Topics Session – depending on club protocol – runs the Table Topics session of the meeting.

Before The Meeting

  • Prepare an explanation of what the Table Topics session is to be given at the beginning of the session
  • Ask the VPE if there is a theme for the meeting. If there is a meeting theme begin to think up some questions to fit that theme. If there is no meeting theme, decide upon a topic about which to ask questions.
  • Prepare a list of questions – clarify with the VPE how many questions are needed.
  • It is important to consider the range of questions to offer – easier questions to visitors, or newer members, and more challenging questions to more experienced members.
  • Questions should be short enough to be easily understood. They should be prepared in a way that will enable everyone at the meeting to both feel challenged and also to have an opportunity to succeed.

During the Meeting

  • Move to the front of the room when called on by the Chairman.
  • Introduce the Table Topics session, using your explanation of what Table Topics is.
  • Outline the timing of the session. Indicating what timing will be used for the green, amber and red lights.
  • Invite guests to participate. It can be helpful to run through a few Table Topics before asking them whether they would like to participate.
  • Introduce the theme of the Table Topics session.
  • Read the first question and call upon someone to answer it.
  • Lead the applause and shake the speaker’s hand.
  • Shake the speaker’s hand at the conclusion of their answer, or take the stage again according to club protocol.
  • When all speakers have had the opportunity to speak, call on the evaluators to deliver their evaluations.
  • At the conclusion of the Table Topics session hand back to the chairman.
  • It is vital the Table Topics master considers the experience of the members and makes the topics challenging enough, whilst including topics easy enough for visitors willing to participate.

    The Table Topics master can also take the opportunity to change the session, or types of questions to keep the session fun for everyone.

    Some people underestimate the Topicsmaster role’s importance. Not only does it provide you with an opportunity to practice planning, preparation, organization, time management and facilitation skills; your preparation and topic selection help train members to quickly organize and express their thoughts in an impromptu setting.

    Preparation is the key to leading a successful Table Topics session:

    • Several days before the meeting, check with the Toastmaster to find out if a theme meeting is scheduled. If so, prepare topics reflecting that theme.
    • Confirm who the prepared speakers, evaluators and general evaluator will be so you can call on other members at the meeting to respond first. You can call on program participants (speakers last) at the end of the topics session if time allows.
    • Select subjects and questions that allow speakers to offer opinions. Don’t make the questions too long or complicated and make sure they don’t require specialized knowledge.
    • Phrase questions so the speakers clearly understand what you want them to talk about.

    Remember, too, that your job is to give others a chance to speak, so keep your own comments short.

    Table Topics usually begins after the prepared speech presentations, but there are variations from club to club. Ask the Toastmaster or vice president education if you’re unsure of when your portion of the meeting begins.

    When the Toastmaster introduces you, walk to the lectern and assume control of the meeting:

    • Briefly state the purpose of Table Topics and mention any theme.
    • If your club has a word of the day, encourage speakers to use that word in their response.
    • Be certain everyone understands the maximum time they have for their response and how the timing device works (if the timer hasn’t already done so).

    Then begin the program:

    • Give each speaker a different topic or question and call on speakers at random.
    • Avoid going around the room in the order in which people are sitting.
    • Don’t ask two people the same thing unless you specify that each must give opposing viewpoints.
    • State the question briefly – then call on a respondent.
    • You may wish to invite visitors and guests to participate after they have seen one or two members’ responses. But let visitors know they are free to decline if they feel uncomfortable.

    Watch your total time. You may need to adjust the number of questions so your segment ends on time. Even if your portion started late, try to end on time to avoid the total meeting running overtime.

    If your club presents a best Table Topics speaker award:

    • Ask the timer at the end of the Table Topics session to report those eligible for the award. Though the times vary among clubs, generally a participant is disqualified for stopping 15 seconds prior to the allowed time or speaking 15 seconds beyond the allowed limit.
    • Ask members to vote for best Table Topics speaker and pass their votes to the sergeant at arms or vote counter.

    If your club has a Table Topics evaluator, ask for his or her report and then return control of the meeting to the Toastmaster.

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