Last Revised: December 27, 2002
At least one day prior to the meeting, you select a theme. It can be the same as the meeting theme or a different one. You write approximately ten questions, unless the Toastmaster requests otherwise. Questions should encourage members to think on their feet and include at least one or two simple ones.
By all means, be creative. For example, instead of traditional questions, you may wish to give a picture to a respondent and ask him/her a question about it. You may give an object (preferably an unusual one) to a respondent, and ask them to explain what it is and “sell” it to the audience. You may begin a story by briefly describing a couple of characters and a crisis or conflict they are facing. Then ask each respondent to continue the story, picking up where you or the previous respondent left off. Use your imagination, but keep questions short so that you can involve a significant number of respondents.
The day of the meeting, you arrive early with your written questions and touch base with the Secretary to obtain the chart which shows recent respondents to Table Topics. Note who they were. You obtain the printed agenda from the Toastmaster and note who is on it. You make a written list of members on whom you plan to call well prior to Table Topics. They should be members who have not been called on recently according to the aforementioned chart and are not on the aforementioned agenda. Your goal is to give an opportunity to members to participate, who have not participated in Table Topics recently and would otherwise have no job to perform. The purpose of the written list is to avoid wasting time because you are unsure who to call on or you call on members who already have a job, and must, therefore, decline to participate.
Begin Table Topics, if guests are present, by briefly explaining their purpose. Whether or not guests are present, remind everyone that to qualify for Best Table Topics one must use the word of the week correctly and speak within the time limit. Working from your list of questions, pose one. Then working from your written list of potential respondents, ask a member to answer. You want to ask the question first and then call on the respondent to encourage all members to listen carefully and to build suspense. When you call on someone check his/her name off. Continue in this manner.
After you have called upon a few members, if guests are present, invite them to participate. However, never place pressure on them. If a guest speaks, write his/her name on your list. Be sure to have an easy question ready for him/her. If no guest volunteers, resume calling upon members. Keep your eye on the Toastmaster; he/she will signal when you must end.
To conclude, ask for a Timer’s report, and place another check next to the names of participants who spoke within the time limit. Ask for the Grammarian’s report, and place another check next to the names of participants who used the word of the week correctly. You refer to your list and announce by name those members who qualify for Best Table Topics, ask them to stand, and ask members to vote. Avoid asking qualifying members to stand without announcing their names; new members may not know members by sight. You return control to the Toastmaster.