Guide to Table Topics

Preparation – before the night

  • You can choose your own theme for the session, or simply have a series of miscellaneous topics. If you’re stuck for ideas, you can Google ‘Table Topic ideas’ for inspiration. This is a great resource (non-affiliate link):
  • Pick 7-9 Topics – some easy, some more challenging.  The range of experience at our club is quite wide, so a newer member should be given something more manageable, whereas the more advanced members love to be stretched!
  • Agree a time limit with the TME, and work out how many Topics you can do in this time.
  • If all else fails, call VP Ed for help – but don’t wait until the last minute!

 Preparation – on the night

  • Arrive 10-15 mins early. This is crucial for establishing which members don’t have other speaking roles (and are therefore free for a TT) and also for seeking out and getting to know newer members by name, and encouraging them to take part.
  • Reconfirm time limit with TME.
  • Check when Topics is on the evening’s Agenda.  It will be either straight after the TME finishes introducing the Grammarian, or after the Education Speaker (if there is one). 
  • When you arrive you can ask members if they’d like to participate, but generally the TTM will consult the Signing-in Book to see who doesn’t have role, and these members will be assigned a Table Topic. (We have so many members that we generally don’t ask guests to participate, unless it’s an unusually quiet meeting). 
  • Please make sure that you offer table topics to ALL the people without roles first. Avoid calling up the Sgt at Arms or Club President for a TT if this means they could be speaking at the expense of other members without a role who could be deprived of valuable stage time.
  • You may choose to decide in advance which Topic you will give to certain members, but remember to stretch the more experienced members and to keep an air of spontaneity.
  • Chose a seat near the front as you will be up & down introducing each Topic.

Table Topics session 

  • Introduce the concept of Table Topics, explaining that it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn how to practise impromptu speaking.  Don’t dwell on the fact that it may have been a fearful experience once for you – this isn’t exactly very helpful for newer, less-experienced members. So be enthusiastic about this section of the meeting – it’s FUN!
  • Explain the timing clearly, even if the timer has already mentioned it.  Minimum 1 minute = green light; 1.5 minutes = amber light; 2 minutes = red light;  2.5 minutes = out of time.
  • Introduce the theme of the Topics session if you have one.
  • Read out the Topic before calling on the speaker – this keeps everyone on their toes.
  • Don’t waffle or spend time explaining the Topic as this will be confusing. The audience wants to hear the speakers – not you!
  • A good tip is to read the Topic, then say, “Will you please welcome Toastmaster…”
  • Shake the speaker’s hand & sit down.
  • When the speaker has finished, stand up & shake their hand, then introduce the next Topic and speaker, and so on.
  • Keep in communication with the TME to ensure you don’t exceed your overall time limit.
  • At the end of the session ask the Timer if everyone was in time – anyone out of time is excluded from the vote.
  • Recap the Topics and speakers as an aid-memoir for the audience, then ask the audience to vote for best Topics Speaker.
  • Ask the Sergeant at Arms to collect the slips if they haven’t begun this already.
  • Hand back to the TME.


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