Table Topics Master


Table Topics are an excellent way for members to develop spontaneous speaking skills and one of the most important ways that our club engages with new and aspiring members. These early impromptu speeches are often their first steps in gaining public speaking confidence. As Table Topics Master you get to create these opportunities for growth and build an energy-charged session that will set the tone for an energetic meeting!




  • Topics can be selected from any number of themes but keep in mind:
    • good taste and appropriateness for the audience.
    • not everyone speaks English as a first language or shares your love of obscure quotations/historical figures/literature etc!
    • good topics are open-ended; giving the speaker latitude for creativity … however they shouldn’t be so broad that have little focus.
  • Previous themes have included seasonal questions, favourite holidays, word associations, role play, finish the story… the choices are endless. The Toastmaster’s meeting theme might be a source of inspiration itself. You can find some interesting suggestions here: Topic Ideas
  • Keep in mind that each topic question should be succinct to maximise the number of topics in the session.
  • Prepare up to 12-14 topics.



On the day


Before the meeting

  • Arrive by 6:45AM!
  • There’s no need to ask people in advance if they want to participate – that’s part of what we’re all here for!
  • Familiarise yourself with everyone on the agenda, including any last-minute changes. Do not pick those who already have a role. We want as many different people as possible to have speaking opportunities during a meeting.
  • When deciding who to select, aim to:
    • start with a member, so guests can benefit from seeing an example of how Table Topics are done
    • have a mix of members and guests
    • have a mix of male and female speakers
    • end the session with a member so that it goes out with a bang!
  • You have complete autonomy in who you choose (within the guidelines mentioned) – don’t be swayed by persuasive members and officers!
  • The seat next to the Toastmaster is typically reserved for you to allow you to return quickly after each topic and for the Toastmaster to communicate with you easily.



During the meeting


Introducing the session

  • When you are introduced by the Toastmaster, explain what Table Topics are, what their benefits are, or how we can use the skills we practise in them and how the session will run. Imagine what a new guest unfamiliar with Toastmasters procedures would need to know.
  • Explain the timings: Green – 45 seconds, Amber – 60 seconds and Red – 75 seconds.
  • You might want to include:
    • all speakers get feedback on their performances to help them learn and develop as speakers and everyone in the room can note good things to emulate
    • afterwards everyone gets to vote for the best Table Topic speaker – point out the space on the ballot paper to do this
    • anything else?
  • Outline a theme if you have one – this may help some to get their brains into gear!
  • Try to be concise with the introduction to leave as much time as possible for the topics.



Presenting the topics

  • Build suspense and don’t give away who you are calling up until the very last second. The best way to do this is to:
    • present the topic first (trying not to give away who it might be for (i.e. avoid “he” or “she” or looking at your speaker too early)), allow for a short pause…
    • then name your speaker! e.g.: “You wake up on a desert island with a fluffy Penguin and a cowboy hat. Tell us how you got there… Hilary Briggs!”  (Don’t select the speaker first and then the topic as everyone else immediately relaxes.)
  • When greeting people onto the stage lead the applause, stand off-centre so that they arrive centre-stage to assume their role. Shake hands and gift them the stage
  • While the speaker is delivering their topic, review your next topic ready to deliver it without notes.
  • Anticipate each close and be on your feet before a topic speaker has finished and is about to leave the stage
  • Be on your feet to lead the applause; congratulate each speaker in recognition for what they have achieved before they sit down. This signals that you are reclaiming centre-stage.
  • Watch out for signals from the Toastmaster or Timekeeper to guide you to end the session on time. If you are not sure ask them for a time check.
  • Finish by collectively congratulating all the speakers and hand back to the Toastmaster.


Table Topics Master: “The Art of Great Table Topics” by Michelle