How to evaluate table topics

The role of Table Topics Evaluator (TTE) is a relatively new one for Maidenhead. Some people may be wondering how to do it. My first club, like many others, has this as a role at every meeting so I’ve had lots of practice. Here are my tips on being the TTE.

Scope of the role:

Give useful feedback to each of the table topics speakers.

But how ?

1_ConferenceEssentially the TTE role is very similar to the General Evaluator (GE). You’re giving feedback to a number of people in a short amount of time. Time is your enemy here, a good TTE, like a good GE will effectively use the time they have.

A struggling one will waffle on and waste it. You will have about 5 minutes to evaluate 6 or 7 speakers. This is why this role is so good to do – it teaches you to get to the point and be disciplined in your content.

What’s the key? Structure

Every speaker gets a Commend / Recommend / Commend (CRC). And nothing more.

For each speaker state one thing you

  1. liked (C);
  2. one thing you thought could be improved (R);
  3. then one other thing you liked (C).

Then move on to the next speaker.

e.g. Bob’s question was about his favourite holiday.

I like the way Bob came striding to the front, he really looked confident and that big smile put us all at ease. I’d recommend that Bob keep his hands out his pocket, it looks a bit too casual and fidgety, so try to gesture or keep the hands in a comfortable neutral position. What I really loved was the story Bob told about the waiter in Ibiza. It was really funny and the vivid language out us there with him. Next up was Charlene…”

Keep it short and to the point.

How long? 45 seconds per speaker. 15 seconds commend, 15 seconds recommend, 15 seconds commend. It’s longer than it sounds, but it will make you get to the point.

Some things you could look out for in your evaluation:

  • Did they answer the question? (That’s important)
  • Did they waffle a lot at the start?
  • Did they have any distracting nervous habits?
  • Did they spend all of their thinking time looking at the floor or the ceiling?
  • Did they tell a good story?
  • Did they use an effective structure?

Whatever you talk about, remember to be encouraging. Lots of people are very nervous about table topics so try to finish on a positive.

Things not to do:

  • Don’t evaluate the topics master. The GE will take care of that and it wastes time.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time talking about the first speaker. Do theirs quickly and move on. Many TTE spend loads of time talking about the first two speakers then realise they only have a minute left to do the other 5.

Now, sign up! Remember – stay focused, get to the point, don’t waffle, use CRC and enjoy yourself!

Chris Boden


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