Table Topics Hacks

One of the best ways to learn to do something is to practice doing it. We can try some “short cuts” or “cheats” or “hacks” to help us get through the early practice more smoothly and with less stress.

Here are three hacks to make your Table Topics practice easier and more efficient.

  • Positive Self Talk.

This isn’t the inane “tell yourself you’re great” self-talk advice you get when you succumb to “click bait.” This self-talk is about process: “Opening, Talk about it, Close. I’ll just open with whatever pops into my mind, then run with it. I’ll have some fun with this question.”

Our positive self-talk focuses on process, not vague affirmations.

Every one of us is here because our distant ancestors responded effectively to two situations that involved being surrounded by staring eyes. If they were munching on mastodon and sharing their stories they were bonding with others. If they were alone on the plains, the staring eyes belonged to predators.

Hack two just reminds me which situation I’m facing. I try to imagine I’m at an informal dinner party with my Significant Other and responding to a question from one of the guests. I know I shouldn’t tie up too much time so I’ll just make a few remarks and pass the conversational baton to someone else.

Two differences, and they aren’t threatening: I stand up to speak and instead of “But what do you think, Jean?” I end my turn with “Madam Table Topics Master.”

Significant research has shown that 80% of Journalism and Political Science students don’t notice when a national political candidate fails to answer the questions asked during their campaign speeches.

More locally, I learned by practicing “alternative answers” during TM meetings that only one of 45+ members of two clubs consistently noted that I hadn’t answered the TT question I was asked.

So, if I say anything at all, in a reasonably organized manner, I’ll do well during Table Topics and only David is likely to even notice what I say. I just have to say it.

Try these three hacks to smooth and “power up” your Table Topics.

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Diana Dee’s Protocol Minute for May 3 Meeting

Protocol Minute  presented 2017-05-03 (by Diana Dee)

Diana gave an excellent Protocol Minute today at our club meeting.  It deals with our personal responsibility as a member to read our Toastmaster club emails and respond.  I attached what she wrote and presented.

Our club mission is:

We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.

In other words, we are about promoting communication skills.

Here are few items from the Toastmasters promise – what you promised when becoming a club member:

  • To prepare for and fulfill meeting assignments
  • To help the club maintain the positive, friendly environment necessary for all members to learn and grow
  • To treat my fellow club members and our guests with respect and courtesy

In order to provide a positive learning experience, in order to treat the upcoming meeting Toastmaster and attendees with respect and courtesy, we need to deal with that dreaded communication mechanism – EMAIL !!

I know that many of you hate to deal with email.  But it is the communication mechanism chosen by the club to confirm upcoming meeting role assignments.

PLEASE peruse your email at least once per day, if not more often, and reply to queries from the upcoming Toastmaster.  If you are scheduled to be a speaker, even if you have not prepared your speech or don’t know its title yet, at least respond and let the Toastmaster know that you will fulfill your assignment, and when to expect more details from you.

Having a well-organized club meeting not only is a courtesy to members, but it attracts guests as well!

Improve your communication skills and contribute to a great club meeting by making it a priority to read and respond to club emails promptly.

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Why Do We . . .

Hand CL Manuals around before the meeting?

Perhaps you’ve noticed that some members of our club hand their Competent Leadership manual to others at the beginning of a meeting. Or, you may have attended a meeting at another club where “pass your CL manuals to the member on your left” was one of the Toastmaster’s “housekeeping” remarks.

The CL manual is much like the Competent Communication manual; it calls for completing ten projects. Completion results in an award from TI (Competent Leader).

The projects are designed to build skills in leadership. Each project requires completion of a variable number of tasks, most of them involving roles during a TM meeting, such as Timer or Grammarian.

Each project is focused on an aspect of leadership such as listening, time management or critical thinking. The introduction to each of the tasks relates the role to the purpose for that project. (These introductions are great quick reviews for meeting roles, too,  which is especially handy if you pick up the role at the last minute.)

A lot of roles require several significant skills. The Grammarian role, for example, requires Listening, Critical Thinking, Giving Feedback and Time Management, so the role appears in those projects. The idea is to focus on one aspect, and be evaluated on that aspect, each time you serve in the role of Grammarian.

So, when you are assigned a meeting role:

  1. Read the description and the hints for the role in one of the projects in your CL manual.
  2. Open the manual to that page and ask anyone to evaluate you, passing them the manual.
  3. Read the evaluation after the meeting.

Note that it’s best not to ask the same person every time, and usually wise to avoid asking someone who is speaking or evaluating (or serving as Toastmaster).

If you aren’t working on the CL projects, you’re missing a great opportunity for growth, recognition and challenge.

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