Use these five strategies when it’s your turn to answer Table Topics or you’re going for the gold in a Table Topics Contest:
Do not answer immediately
You are allowed time to compose yourself and think of your answer. The timer will start when you speak your first word, so stand quietly at the podium for a little bit while you create your response in your mind. Then begin speaking. In a work situation, it may help you to repeat back the question to the person, which allows you to verify that you are answering what they have asked, while thinking of a response.
Do not answer the question as given
This is something political candidates are very good at. They are asked a question, and they answer with something relating to that topic that does not directly answer that question. If you cannot think of a good way to respond, instead respond to something that relates to the general topic.
Example of not answering the question as given:
Question “What famous person in history would you like to meet, and why?”
Answer: “She wasn’t famous in the traditional sense, buy I would have loved to have met my Great Grandmother Sadie.”
Have an answer already planned
This is especially helpful for the Table Topics Contest. Have a few answers or stories thought up in advance that you can use to tie into the question given. Perhaps one story is about your family, one about your career, one about a historical figure, and one is about a quote you love. Being able to call up a quote seemingly out of the blue can be very impressive in a Table Topics Contest.
Example of having an answer already planned:
Question “First impressions. What first impression do you think people have of you?”
Answer: “I know the first impression people have of me when I tell them I’m a Webmaster – I’m a computer nerd.”
Apply a framework
Common frameworks that are used when you write a full length speech can be great to use for impromptu speaking as well. Apply these patterns to the question given to create the body of your speech.
• Past, present, future
• What, when, where
• Action, Reaction
Deliver a mini-speech
Table Topics is a one to two minute speech. The same rules apply as in any good public speaking presentation – opening, body, and conclusion. Try to incorporate vocal variety, gestures, and pauses if possible. If you have an answer already planned like mentioned above, you will have an opportunity to plan a few gestures or pauses also.