How to Confidentally Answer Table Topics Questions

To hear some Toastmasters talk about Table Topics, you’d think it was a form of modern day torture.

For you non-Toastmasters, Table Topics is an exercise in a club meeting that helps members practice impromptu speaking. A Table Topics Master asks a question and then randomly calls on a member to give a short, impromptu speech. The answer should be between 1 and 2 1/2 minutes. This is repeated with new questions to give many members an opportunity to answer. Simple premise, but difficult for many — specially those in the beginning stages of overcoming stage fright.

For a long time, I hated Table Topics, too. None of the “tips” I heard worked for me … until one day, a fellow Toastmaster shared the secret sauce for making Table Topics easy.

The advice is:

  • listen carefully to the question
  • pause and consider which of Three Buckets you should put the question in
  • answer the question using the directions for the appropriate bucket.


The 3 Buckets of Table Topics Answers

The 3 Buckets of Table Topics Answers

The 3 Buckets

Bucket 1 — I know the subject and have an answer I can easily speak to.

Bucket 2 — I am aware of the subject but I am undecided how I feel

Bucket 3 — I have no idea about the subject.

The Responses

Bucket 1 — If you know the answer, make the point, support your answer with facts or a story, then restate the answer.

Bucket 2 — It’s ok to not have an opinion on the question. You can use your speech to think it through out loud and draw the conclusion at the end.

Bucket 3 — This can actually be the most fun. Initially, this type of question left me speechless. I don’t know. Questions about fairy tales I no longer recall, movies I haven’t seen. Then I learned the secret. LIE! And LIE BIG! (So people don’t repeat your lie as truth!)

There you have it. The key to a successful table topics speech is to pause, decide which of the three buckets you want to put the question in, and then follow the process for each bucket.

Never be afraid again. It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

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  1. One of my favorites from Bucket Three was a District 49 Table Topics Final with the Question: Of the seven dwarfs, which is your favorite and why? One of the contestants drew a complete blank on the names. After a couple of seconds in which he pretended to compose himself, he broke into a big smile and blurted out “STUMPY!” And proceeded to stomp around the stage explaining why it was so great to be Stumpy the Dwarf! I had him first, but alas I think he came in second because as it turns out, Stumpy wasn’t one of the dwarfs. I will never forget Stumpy the Dwarf.

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