By Gilly Cutts, Past President 2010-2011
- DON’T PANIC… TRUST!
Everyone but everyone has dried up or run out of ideas at some time. Know that the audience is willing you to do well so don’t worry about their reaction! Dare to look into their eyes and you really will feel their support.
As you walk to the front, trust the very first thought that comes to you. Don’t try and think of something better. Once you begin, more thoughts will come… just trust
- TAKE YOUR TIME…
If you are a fairly new member, remember to breathe, walk slowly and begin “Mr Table-Topics Master, fellow Toastmasters and most welcome guests” You can also repeat the question to give you more time to relax and think. In time you won’t need to. Watching someone think is fascinating too… dare to pause and allow your mind to soften…
- RULE OF THREE
Now this one may feel scary but it usually works and is very impressive! The powerful opening for this one is “I have three things to tell you about this subject
Firstly… secondly… and finally” It’s another process of trusting that the three thoughts will spring into your mind. The fact is that even if you run out of a third idea, after number two, no-one will notice… but they will be impressed with your confident style!
- EACH ONE IS FOR YOU
Give yourself permission to feel EXCITED and ready to give each table-topic as it’s announced. Think about what you would say if it WAS you. The more you practice in your mind, the more you will see potential table-topics popping up in your everyday life.
- BE PREPARED
In the event of a topic when nothing, but nothing pops into your mind, it really is possible to have something ready and prepared to speak about. Perhaps it’s a previous topic you would have liked or something connected to the Toastmasters theme that night, or a play on the word of the day. Even something that has happened to you that very day. Still aim for a clear opening, middle and punchy close and perhaps even the Topics Evaluator won’t notice your clever ploy! The most important thing about table-topics is to use every second of that precious opportunity to speak and to grow!
- SIX OF THE BEST
What, where, when, why, how and who…?
Take your topic and use those questions to create your story… So, “Tell us about your best vacation” can be like a mini speech telling everyone where you went, when that was, how you got there and who you went with. It really can be that easy!
- YOUR BLANK PAGE
Remember Toastmasters is not your workplace or your family! At meetings, You will be surrounded by fellow Toastmasters who will celebrate you taking risks. Who will clap and cheer when you dare to have a go at trying things you may never have done before. Try acting the fool… or using comedy! Try experimenting with voices or accents to add character…walk into the audience to see how it feels… ask questions… interact! Even be eccentric! This is one you can try when you really feel like stepping out of your comfort zone and the audience will love it! Remember, whatever you do, don’t pull a face as you return to your seat… you are always on stage, even when you sit down!
- YOUR EXPERIENCE IS BEST
Dare to be personal… whether it’s a table-topic or a speech. Your audience will always lean forward in their seats as you speak about yourself in a personal way YOU are fascinating! Speak about how you feel so that people will have no doubt about who you are and what you think!
- BOX OF TRICKS
There are many boxes of table-topics cards out there to buy so if you don’t have some already, do go online and find some. They are really great for practicing, not just the topics but time itself which is also an important skill in any public speaking situation. Even children who visit you, will love trying to speak until the egg timer runs out!
- HAVE FUN!
Finally, above all, HAVE FUN! Give yourself permission to relax and let go of FEAR! Remembering that F E A R stands for False Experience Appearing Real! Life really isn’t a rehearsal so just go for it NOW! People who aren’t taking risks are dying inside of fear… So, don’t die wondering!