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The Startup

The Importance of Impromptu Speaking

My Toastmasters Series – Part V

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash
  • No need to panic. This is just a game, don’t worry! All your fellow Toastmasters in the audience have been or are going to be in the same situation. They will empathise with your anxiety.
  • Buy some time. There are many ways of buying some time, like thanking the Table Topics Master or repeating the question. In the meantime, you can think of an idea for an answer.
  • When some idea pops into your head, go for it. You don’t need anything perfect. Say it and then build on what you said.
  • Try to put some structure even if the speech is impromptu. Say your idea at the beginning, elaborate and provide supporting facts in the middle part, conclude by restating the main point of your speech.
  • Tell a story from your personal experience. You don’t need any preparation to remember something happened to you and, as discussed in one of my previous posts, stories are always effective.
  • Don’t be afraid of making things up. A Table Topics speech can be funny. You don’t need to know anything or state any absolute truth. Go with the flow and have fun.
  • Avoid filler words just to buy some time if you don’t know what to say. As for any speech, that will not give a great impression.
  • Always keep an eye on the Timekeeper. During a club meeting, nothing happens if you speak for less than a minute or more than two, but if you’re competing in a Table Topics contest, you will be disqualified.
  • Last but not least, keep practicing and always put yourself forward when the Table Topics Master is looking for speakers!
  • Prepare your topic in advance. Prepare an intro and about 10 questions.
  • Make sure you provide enough context in the intro. Don’t forget to remind the participants about the purpose and benefits of Table Topics.
  • Ask your question first and then call the name of the speaker. That will create a bit of tension for all the speakers.
  • Listen carefully and try to link every answer with the following question.
  • When preparing your questions, try to be inclusive. It’s important to give any speaker, regardless of their knowledge or background, an opportunity to speak for at least a minute.
  • Finally, be creative, think outside the box and encourage the speakers to use their imagination.
  • Listen carefully to all the speakers and take a lot of notes.
  • Make sure you identify at least one commendation and one recommendation for every speaker.
  • When delivering your evaluation you will have between 4 and 6 minutes regardless of the number of speakers. Make sure you make time to give feedback to everybody.
  • Don’t waste time summarising the speech, but focus on commendations and recommendations.
  • Remember, you’re not assessing the Table Topics Master. Just focus on the speakers.
  • Wrap up with a general and encouraging comment on all the speakers.



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Andrea Marchello

Passionate engineering manager with a strong technical background and a genuine interest in Agile leadership and Lean principles. Musician as a hobby.