Toastmasters is an international club that promotes public speaking and presentation skills. Members have frequent opportunities to give both planned and impromptu speeches. During the table topics segment of a toastmasters meeting, members are asked to give a one- to two-minute speech with no prior preparation. They are assigned a specific topic during the course of the meeting. The Topics Master has the responsibility for coming up with interesting table topic ideas and assigning members to speak about those topics.
Table topic subjects should be short, general, clearly expressed questions that will allow members to express opinions and ideas. They should not require any specialized experience or knowledge. Come up with a different question or variation on a topic for each speaker. Check to see if the Toastmasters meeting will have a theme for the night, and if so, plan the questions with the theme in mind.
Objects of all types can be the inspiration for table topics. Have members try to describe a purpose for a rare or unusual object or alternate uses for common objects that they have drawn out of a box. Give each member an object and ask him to explain why that object is vital or detrimental to civilization. Have speakers describe who they might give an object to as a gift, and why. Bring in scented objects such as cotton balls dipped in vanilla peppermint, and almond extracts, and ask the member to describe what memories the fragrance evokes.
Thought-provoking questions give members a chance to get to know one another and to express their values, beliefs and aspirations. Read a question from an advice column and ask how the speaker would respond to the problem. Ask what counsel a speaker would give a younger version of herself or to describe the best year of her life. Ask a speaker to describe what period in history he would choose to live in other than the present, or to choose one historic figure he would most like to meet.
Use art, photographs, snippets of music, or literary quotations as the inspiration for table topic subjects. Ask the speaker to describe what might have motivated the artist to create the work, or to describe what is happening in a picture or photograph, and what caused the event to happen. Speakers could explain the process that was used to create the media or what materials were necessary for its creation.
Table topics can allow speakers to express their creative side when you ask them to act out certain scenarios, role-play or make up stories. Start a topic with an interesting beginning to a story and let each person add a segment to the story, incorporating what the previous speakers have added. Have two or more members role-play a given situation or act as a well-known figure would act in an imaginary situation, such as Paris Hilton learning she will lose all her money and be forced to live as a pauper.