Butterflies in stomach, bouncing between exhilaration and euphoria, increased energy, racing heart, accelerated breathing, anxiety, panic and excitement – if you are toastmaster with all these feelings, you are not in love, but on stage, facing table topics.
Table topics gives you a wonderful opportunity to improve your quick thinking skills. All of us are naturally good table topics speakers. Our quick thinking skills come into picture in situations when we are caught by a traffic sergeant for violating traffic rules, when we are caught by our professors for not completing the assignments, when we are caught by our boss for coming late etc. However, while delivering a table topics speech on stage, there are few mistakes that we commit knowingly or unknowingly. I have listed below a few of those mistakes that we make often.
These are some of the mistakes that I have done and witnessed people doing them, especially in regular club meetings and club level contests. However as the degree of contest increases from club to area to division to district, we only see seasoned speakers on stage and these mistakes won’t be seen. It is good to avoid them right from regular club meetings and practice well as it might be of great help during contests.
1. Topic Please!!: At times speakers start delivering their speech and somewhere in between they lose track of the topic and they ask the Table Topics master – “Could you please repeat the topic”. This will strictly not be allowed in a contest. It’s better to speak with whatever we have understood out of the topic when we hear it twice. By chance if someone from the audience, prompts the topic in between, it will lead to an invalid contest and hence it will commence from the beginning.
2. Using the topic as a buffer: We sometimes tend to start the speech by repeating the topic once again which gives us a few seconds to think. This can be used as a last option when we don’t get any other thoughts to speak about. It is better to not start the speech by repeating the topic as it would give an impression that we are using the topic itself as a buffer and thereby taking time to think. But it is good to repeat the topic in the middle or end of the speech as it would give an impression that we are remembering the topic well.
3. Delayed start: We often start with “The topic given to me is…”. Or we conclude by saying “I would like to conclude my speech by saying that….”.Or at times we say somethings that delays the actual start of the speech. I have seen speakers who give maximum respect to the audience especially when the topic is difficult. They start the speech like this – “Good morning contest master, fellow toastmasters, guests and everyone who is waiting to hear some scintillating speeches. A very good morning to each and every one of you present here. It gives me immense pleasure to stand in front of such wonderful audience and deliver a speech”. I have done this as well. All these are not advisable in a contest. Remember the learnings from your CC#3 – “Get to the point”. Start with a question, story, anecdote, or a striking fact. But if everything is in vain and your mind doesn’t throw any thoughts for you to start speaking, you can buy some initial thinking time by using these techniques given by my mentor Distinguished Toastmaster Saro Velrajan. But again make sure that the delay is not more than 5-10 seconds.
4. I am sorry: At times we start saying that, “I actually don’t know what to speak on this topic, but let me talk whatever I know”. Or, we start with a sentence like, “I am actually a little nervous. Am not very clear with the topic, but let me try”. Kindly do not admit on stage that you do not know or you did not understand. Just speak whatever you know. There are times when speakers say, “I am sorry. I am not very clear about this topic” and they end up giving excellent speeches. The problem with admitting your weakness on stage is, the audience would shut their ears as you have told them that you are not confident about yourself.
5. Quick conclusion: This is a mistake that I do often. The moment I see the green card, I feel glad and contended that I am qualified for voting and I conclude my speech. Most often I receive feedback saying that my speech was too short. So kindly try talking at least till the yellow card and then start concluding.
6. Explaining the topic: If the topic is “Life is beautiful”. How much ever you try to explain the topic, you will again end up in repeating the same point in different ways and varied sentence structures. Eventually you will be beating around the same bush. Never do that. More than trying to give a gyaan about the topic, give a supporting story, anecdote or an example to say why is life beautiful for you. Always remember, we love our grandparents for the stories the tell us and not the advice they give.
7. Introducing the technique : There are many techniques of giving a table topics speech like telling a story, telling a joke etc. Almost all these techniques are very effective. But at times speakers come on stage and introduce what they are going to do, by telling “I am going to tell a story”, “I am going to share a joke” etc. It is always good to start smoothly transitioning into and out of the story/joke rather than telling the audience that we are going to do it.