Photo by Friederike Galland

How to Be a Great Table Topics Master


How can you profit from being the Table Topics Master?

You can get at least three things out of being the Table Topics Master.

  1. Give two prepared mini speeches
  2. Learn to grab the attention from an audience that is not ready for you
  3. Practise getting off and on stage


Why do we have a Table Topics Master?

Speaking off the cuff, impromptu is a highly useful skill. It needs to be practised. It is the Table Topics Masters’s job to call as many members as possible to the stage to practise it, preferably those that otherwise would not be speaking at the meeting.


How To

As a Table Topics Master you have the opportunity to plan a program that will be interesting and engaging perhaps even inspiring for members and guests. Be sure to prepare early enough and be creative!

You are the last person to be called on stage before the break and the first person an stage after the break. It is your duty to start the second part of the evening on time.

Before the intermimssion you will be asked to explain what Table Topics are. During the break you need go around and ask the guests if they want to participate.

As the Table Topics Master you will be giving two mini speeches (before and after the break) with almost the same content. Make sure that they are not overly similar. In this role it is also very important to be precise. And you can still be ambitious and try to wow us with your descriptions.


What types of Questions can You Ask?

Here are some ideas on what you could do:

  • bring fortune cookies and read the fortune aloud. Have speaker number one chose the cookie for speaker number two, and so on
  • ask for an opinion (“Would you like to see more…?”)
  • give a quotation and ask for an interpretation
  • present an interesting statistic and ask “Why?”
  • show an object
  • start a story and ask for it to be continued (“My heart missed a beat when I saw…”)
  • ask for the explanation of an unknown term (“What is a hidalgo?”)  – and solve the riddle once the speaker is done
  • ask to have a process described from inside. (The titanic describes how it felt to be ripped apart by an iceberg.)
  • blindfold the speaker, and hand them an object to talk about. (this is one of the few instances when the speaker is called before the topic is presented.) Make sure that you find a way to signal time, inform the timer up front about it, and (as always)
  • try to find another exciting way to do Table Topics.


Do You Want to Go to the Limit?

If you want to do the absolute limit, pick a topic, explain on small part of it and then ask a question that connects well. Repeat and stay with the topic. (For example: 1. Positive psychology has been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities, and organisations to thrive. One of the traits that make an individual thrive are deep and meaningful connections to other people. Whom do you feel truely conected to? 2. You probably already know that gratitude is another key element for humans to thrive. What you might not yet know is the best way to practise it – apart from showing it to other people. Science says it is best to write down three new things your are grateful for once a week. What were you grateful for this week?)

Please make sure that you do not need to much time for your texts. The more Table Topics you ask, the better.


A Table Topcis speech should last one to two minutes. It is prompted by whatever the Table Topics Master does. It is up to the speaker to decide how he or she answers the call. Speakers may speak about anything.

The questions you present can be about anything and everything. You could even simply show an object, call someone to the stage and hand it to them. If you ask a question or give another verbal que, please make sure to repeat it once the speaker is on stage.

Always present the topic of the Table Topic BEFORE you call a speaker to the stage. This way of presenting will ensure a much more attentive audience. Even those who are not called upon, had started to think about an answer.

Make sure to check the attendance before the meeting. Prepare a list of all members attending who do not have a role. You need to call especially those members on stage because otherwise they will not be speaking at the meeting at all. The camera operator and the reserve speaker should always be called. Never call those that do the big roles: Tostmaster of the evening, General Evaluator, Speakers, Evaluators. The first person you call should be an experienced member if possible.

Ask one or two guests to the stage too. But only those who agreed to do it, when you asked them about it during the break.


In a Nutshell

1. Always pose the question / give the topic before you call upon a speaker. This will make the whole segment a lot more exciting for everybody.

2. The reserve speaker and the camera operator should always be called.

3. Always ask one or two guests to speak.

4. Do not call on people who are already doing bigger roles (TME, TTM, and GE).