Toastmasters Tip: How to Look Good as a Toastmasters Table Topics Master

by Allan Kaufman and Allan Misch

So you find yourself on the schedule as the Table Topics Master. What should you do? Follow our. . .

Eight Success Tips for the Toastmasters Table Topics Master

1. Make up a bunch of table topics, more than you expect you’ll need. We suggest 15 to 20 topics. Place each topic on an index card or separate strip of paper.

2. Choose EASY topics. Your mission is not to drain the last brain cell out of your fellow Toastmasters. It’s to give them the opportunity for growth—to stand confidently before an audience and give an unprepared, yet organized presentation. For example:

  • “Describe your idea of a great vacation.”
  • “My ideal mate is _________.”
  • “Driving in rush hour traffic is hard on the ______.”
  • “Overcoming fear is ________”
  • “I love my _______.”

Avoid lengthy, hard-to-understand-and-decipher descriptions such as:

  • “Pretend you’re a dog and you’re about to be captured by aliens from another planet during the Civil War. What are you feeling?”
  • “You’re in a hotel room alone with former President Clinton. What do you plan to do?”
  • “You see a lousy TV show. Tell your friends why they should watch the same show.”

Keep It Simple!

3. Announce the time for Table Topics. Say, “The green card will be held up at 1 minute, the yellow card at 1 minute, 30 seconds, and the red card at 2 minutes. Then the participant will have 30 seconds to finish. The goal is to speak until you see at least the green card. That’s the minimum time and no more than 30 seconds past seeing the red card, the maximum time.”

4. Determine how much program time you will have for Table Topics. This will enable you to figure out how many people you can call up. Allow about 3 minutes per person. So if you determine you have 11 minutes, then you may be able to squeeze in 4 participants or stop after 3.

5. Call up Toastmasters first before calling on any guests. It’s important for guests to see how it’s done before you call up a guest. If possible, avoid calling Toastmasters who already have speaking roles on the program.

6. Call up the Table Topics participant first and then state the topic. Allow the person to randomly pick the topic (pick a card or strip of paper) and then you, the Table Topics Master, read the table topic out loud.

7.Call up guests without encouraging them to decline. Before the meeting, talk to your guests and find out their level of comfort speaking in front of a group. If a guest has a public speaking phobia, do not call him or her up to do Table Topics. Call on another guest.

When you call on a guest, say, “Our club likes to give our guests a chance to participate and grow, so let’s welcome to the lectern John.” Then you, as Table Topics Master, lead the applause, encouraging the guest to come up.

Don’t say, “John, want to come up? You can say ‘no.’” If you do that, John will say “no” and so will Mary, Anita, Fred, and all the remaining guests in the room.Your guests will go home worrying about being called up next time they come to visit the club and some will not come back. You will have stolen their chance to grow in public speaking, because you thought you were being nice. It’s best for them to do a Table Topic and get it over with before they have time to think about it.

8. Give guests VERY EASY topics. Set aside a few easy topics such as…

  • “What kind of work do you do and why did you choose your profession?”
  • “What do you like to do in your spare time and why?”
  • “Describe your ideal vacation.”

The topics should not require a lot of thought. When guests can handle a table topic, they leave with a sense of satisfaction. They say to themselves, “That wasn’t so bad. I can handle that.”

We offer this guarantee. If you follow the Eight Success Tips for the Toastmasters Table Topics Master, you will have challenging and entertaining Table Topics sessions. And without a doubt, you will look good as a Toastmasters Table Topics Master.


©Allan Kaufman and Allan Misch, 2002-2013. All rights reserved. The authors give permission to reproduce this article; disseminate it; publish it in print, electronic form and on a website as long as it is not edited and carries the byline and contact information.

Allan and Allan are members of the Randallstown Network Toastmasters Club. They specialize in rapidly reducing public speaking fear and offer 4 valuable, complimentary videos on “10 Critical Strategies to Make Your Presentation Slides More Memorable” and public speaking tips in their complimentary No Sweat Speaking™ newsletter. Get it at

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