My Toastmasters club recently had a session focused only on Table Topic
It’s often called an ‘elevator pitch’. The simple idea is that you get into an elevator and meet your ideal client. At Apple employees dread to go into an elevator with Steve Jobs. He’d say : “I’m Steve. What are you working on?” . If he didn’t like nor understand the answer , he’d fire the person.
At Toastmasters, the table topics/ Impromptu speeches are random questions thrown at the participant. Then you get 2min max for a mini speech. Example of questions:
– If you want peace, prepare for war. Do you agree or not ?
– How do you deal with conflicts ?
– Does music bring peace ?
You have a short time to pitch your idea to a captive audience.
Sounds easy in theory, but in practice, your pitch is subject to various factors.
Buy yourself time
Instead of jumping straight, try rephrase the question and get additional time. It is better than a silence.
Have as many prepared stories
Darren Tay’s book “Express to Impress” has a chapter dedicated to Table Topics. His advice is have prepared as many stories as possible. Then pick the one closest to the impromptu question.
Use a structure
To have more impact , think of a format to deliver the message. By adopting a structure, your message carries more data in less time.
– sandwich ( intro, meaty development, conclusion )
– STAR (situation, task, action, result )
– PREP (Point, Reason, Example, Point)
– Pros vs Cons
I personally prefer the full circle where the conclusion is a callback to the introduction. Re-emphasize the initial question. Or try to end with an open ended question .