Table Topics Tips

Keep it Simple – Keep Calm and Carry On

20190426_133908_001How do you prepare for Table Topic is often a concern of new and seasoned Toastmasters.  How can you prepare for answering questions on a wide range of subjects with confidence – How do the pros do it?  Well, I am told,  they keep it simple. They keep calm and carry on and here are a few of their secrets they – Practice the art of passive listening: Listening without reacting: Allowing someone to speak, without interrupting – Silencing the noise in their head. Not doing anything else at the same time – Not an easy skill for some of us to master

Stay up to date on current events: While it is impossible to be knowledgeable about every topic under the sun, they stay on top of local, national, International news and trends. Staying informed is always an excellent preparation idea.  They are passionate and their ideas are original.

Make impromptu speaking part of their everyday conversations:  Like the pros, we too face all kinds of questions and topics every day.  They use them as opportunities to practice. They tell personal stories. You too can make your friends and family your audiences. They will be none the wiser.

Learn from the pros, they keep it simple. Practice these few skills daily and you will develop wit, natural humor and a repository of topics to draw from. Like a well-developed muscle, you will begin to respond like they do to any topic you face.  They listen attentively to decide if it is a question or statement. They repeat the topic silently to themselves. They pay special attention to the keywords in the question or statement. Usually, that is when their gut instincts kick in with their POV – their “Point of View”. You can always tell because that is when you see them smile. They don’t fight the feeling they go with the flow.

In a Toastmasters setting, you should wait until the Table Topics master has left the speaking platform.  Buy yourself some time. Wait until you have the full attention of the audience. Assume your speaking posture then begin your response by paraphrase the topic followed by your “POV or the Hook” you will use to reel in your audience. Forget the salutations, dive right into the topic. Add a twist to the subject matter. Give two examples or “for instance” – summarize and make your call to action, where applicable. It is that simple.

Table Topic can be a fun and rewarding experience. Make impromptu speaking a part of your development as a speaker. It is all about revealing the authentic when you are in the moment. Whether you are in an interview, club meeting or on a stage, if you are prepared to be honest and to be yourself, you too will be able to respond like the pros to any question or statement “off the cuff”.  Have fun with Table Topics and remember these words of Dr. Ralph Smedley the founder of Toastmasters: “we learn best when we are having fun.”

Toastmasters International Table Topics have a time range of 1-2 minute. The Greenlight at 1 minute- Yellow light at 1 minute, 30 seconds – Red light at 2 minutes.

Timing Is Everything

Fast Speaker or Fast Listener

In the Toastmasters world of public speaking, timing is everything. The 5 to 7-minute speech is our Gold Standard. Icebreakers are usually 4 to 6 minutes long. Fast speakers speak fast; however, not everyone happens to be a fast listener. To ensure speakers remain within their allotted time when delivering an icebreaker, it is best to write a 5-minute speech, for delivery in 6.30 minutes. For a 5 to 7 minute speech, write a 6-minute speech for delivery in 7:30 minutes.

The average speaking rate of most humans is between 120 to 140 words per minute. Therefore, it is important for every speaker to calculate his or her own personal speaking rate. In order to find your personal speaking rate, select a passage from a famous speech. Read it as if you are delivering that speech using pauses and vocal variety.  Read for one minute.  Time yourself. Your word count will be the number of words you read from the beginning of the passage to your last word at the one-minute mark. If your average rate is 130 words per minute, your word count for an icebreaker should be approximately 130×5=650 words – average.

Once you have calculated your speaking rate, you should gather your Readability Statistics. When using MS Word Readability Statistics for Writing, you will need to have grammar checking turned on. Microsoft Word’s readability scores are based on American audiences and Word’s grammar checking. These statistics give speakers an idea of the readability of their content. They also provide general rules that can be useful when editing your written material.

The Readability Statistics facility in Microsoft Word includes:

  • Counts: Count the number of words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences in the document.
  • Averages: Averages the number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word.
  • Readability statistics: Calculates the percentage of passive sentences in the document, Flesch Reading Ease score, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

A grade level of 5-9 is recommended for general readers. A grade level of 7-12 is acceptable for industry and technical writings. Remember as you edit, you are writing for the ear and not for the eyes. Edit to make your speeches conversational. Stay on time. That is and will always be the Toastmasters Gold Standard.

Nervousness & Public Speaking

If you are not afraid of the outcome, you will not be nervous.

 

IMG_1215A little nervous energy can show that you are passionate and even care about what you are presenting. Too much nervousness will detract from your performance, however, I do believe that if you are not afraid of the outcome, even when competing, you will enjoy the experience and nervousness will not be a factor.

Here are 10 tips we all can use to control nervousness:

  1. Know The Room: Become familiar with the speaking are before you are called to speak. The view from the speaking area is quite different from the audience view or the view from the back of the room.
  2. Know You Audience: Meet and if possible greet some of your audience as they arrive. This can help you connect with them as you look out into the audience.
  3. Know Your Material: In the words of Dr. Ralph C Smedley “A prepared speaker should not be nervous”. Nervousness will increase if you don’t know your material.
  4. Relax: Get on your feet, stretch a bit before taking to the stage.
  5. Visualize yourself giving your speech: Harbor positive thoughts. Visualize yourself being successful and you will be successful.
  6. Think Positive: Audiences don’t want you to fail. Smile and they will smile back at you.
  7. Don’t apologize: Don’t call attention to any of your slipups. Those slipups may very well have gone unnoticed.
  8. Focus on the message: When you focus on the message, your attention moves from your anxieties outwardly towards your message and your audience.
  9. Turn nervousness into positive energy: Add vitality and enthusiasm to harness your nervous energy.
  10. Gain Experience. Experience Builds confidence: Grasp every opportunity you get to SPEAK. Grasp every opportunity you get to EVALUATE others.  That is the key to becoming a better speaker. 

Your Communication Style

Communication Styles are Often Situational.

IMG_2915Communication is a two-way process for reaching mutual understanding through verbal, non-verbal, and written messages.   Determining your own communication style can help you improve how you share information with others.  Learning how to communicate effectively with styles that are different from your own, will enable you to establish effective relationships and create better understanding. 

Some communications styles are Sociable – Decisive – Cautious – Patient. When Collaborating with other we may be Cooperative, Spontaneous, Competitive or Precise. When sharing feelings with others we are sometimes Reserved, Private, Sympathetic, or Self-assured.  How others perceive us is also important.  Some may perceive you to be Gentle – Result-oriented – Fun-Loving or Disciplined.  The goal of understanding your communication style preferences is to communicate with others in a way that is comfortable and effective when we find ourselves in different settings.

It is important to recognize how effective communication can affect your interactions with others. It can lead to higher efficiency and good moral in the workplace, increased innovation and creative potential in groups, and satisfactory personal and familial relationships. Communication styles are often situational. Be sure to monitor your application of communication styles.

Decide if your current style is effective based on feedback and outcomes. If necessary, adjust your behavior and adopt new styles to fit a situation, team, or person. Recognize and adjust your style of communication to reach a mutual understanding.

Direct: This style is decisive, competitive, independent, and confident.  Direct communicators prefer you to get to the point quickly and in a succinct manner.

Initiating: This style is sociable, enthusiastic, energetic, spontaneous, and fun-loving. Initiating communicators value interacting with others and sharing stories.

Supportive: This style is calm, steady, approachable, sincere, and gentle. Supportive communicators appreciate a calm, steady approach.

Analytical: This style is precise, exact, analytical, and logical. Analytical communicators like facts, data, and figures.

It is my hope that you can now better understand your communication style.

What Is A Tall Tale

A short story, true or fictitious!

Blue hills

WHAT IS A TOASTMASTERS TALL TALE

A contest in which contestants present a three to five-minute speech on a topic that is highly-exaggerated and improbable in theme or plot. Once you are a member in good standing, you can compete. There are no other pre-requirements. however, contestants who speak for less than two minutes 30 seconds or more than five minutes 30 seconds will be disqualified

Webster describes a tall tale as a “Narrative of events that have happened or are imagined to have happened.” It is usually a short story, true or fictitious. It could be a piece of information, gossip, rumor, falsehood or a lie. Today we call that “fake news”.

My first competitive tall tale speech contest was in 1999. I entered my first contest after completing four CTM – Competent Toastmaster Manual Speeches – with my speech entitle Hell’s Paradise. That speech took me all the way to District. One of the lessons I learned very early was since your speech must impress your audience as well as the judges, a good place to start is the judging criteria. I also studied the score sheets as I prepared my speech.  I would highly recommend that you pay close attention to the following:

SPEECH DEVELOPMENT: The way the speaker puts ideas together so the audience can understand them. A good Tall Tale speech immediately engages the audience’s attention and builds to a conclusion. 30 Points

SPEECH TECHNIQUES:  Refers to the use of various tall tales skills, such as exaggeration, irony, pun, humor and surprise twists.  These techniques are the essence of making a tall tale successful. If you skillfully incorporate those techniques into your tall tale, you will be successful.   25 Points

APPROPRIATENESS OF LANGUAGE:  Refers to the choice of words that relate to the speech purpose and to the particular audience hearing the speech. Language should promote a clear understanding of thoughts.  Language should fit the occasion and be in good taste. 10 points

PHYSICAL:   Presentation of a speech carries part of the responsibility for effective communication. Body language should support points through gestures, expressions and body positions. 15 points

VOICE:  The sound that carries the message – Your voice should be flexible, moving from one pitch level to another for emphasis, and should have a variety of rate and volume. A good speaking voice can be heard and the words easily understood. 15 Points

LANGUAGE: Refers to the choice of words that relate to the story. Language should promote a clear understanding of thoughts and should fit the occasion precisely. Proper use of grammar and correct pronunciation will show that the speaker is the master of the words used. 5 points

IN DAYS OF OLD WHEN MEN WERE BOLD:  Tall tale narratives depicted the wild adventures of extravagantly exaggerated folk heroes. Those tall tales were essentially an oral form of entertainment that took audiences on an imaginative invention rather than the literal meaning of the tales.  Associated with the lore of the American frontier, tall tales often explain the origins of lakes, mountains, and canyons. They were spun around such legendary heroes as Paul Bunyan, the giant lumberjack of the Pacific Northwest; Mike Fink, the rowdy Mississippi River keel boatman; and Davy Crockett, the backwoods Tennessee sharpshooter. Other tall tales recount the superhuman exploits of western cowboy heroes such as William F. Cody and Annie Oakley.

MODERN DAY TALL TALES: Even if you never went fishing, we all have a fish story to tell. The one that got away or even the minion swimming in kid’s aquarium that was HUGE! Tall tales can be an event that took place on any given day in your life.  One of mine entitled “No U-Turn” tells the story of making an illegal U-turn one day on my way to work.   A cop stopped me and asked! I replied-BECAUSE THE SIGN SAID SO – officer  — (cop) Oh – Really – (me) Yes – I wanted to go straight and the sign said “ No .. U … Turn”.  When the cop decided to call for backup with a straight jacket, I had to confess that I was just a Toastmaster practicing my pauses and got a bit carried away – – which she was getting ready to do to me literally. Would you believe, she did not give me a ticket?  What a nice cop.  (Exaggerate!  Exaggerate!  Exaggerate! …That is the key)

Hell’s Paradise was another about companies that were dominating the software market in the eighties and nineties.  Now I do not want to name names but I am sure you too will get my drift even if you were not around back then. One of those companies was rotten to the core,  while the other’s view of the world was, in my opinion, a bit micro and soft.  On that premise, I built “Hells Paradise”.  Was I ever so wrong?  We all got googled by a company of ten, raised to the one-hundredth power. Go figure…  A play on words is also a good tall tale technique.

Look at your life and I am sure you will find many stories you can spin into a tall tale.  If you can get your audience to express that look that says – REALLY, NO. PERHAPS THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE; you are hitting your mark. Take your audience to the edge of the precipices and dare them to believe we are both going to jump but you must go first.  That is when you must give the moral of your story or leave them to figure out the “rest of the story” which is the life lesson we should take away from every Tall Tale.

%d bloggers like this: