You try to avoid eye contact as the person behind the lectern glances around for her next victim. It is 7:35am in the morning, you’re at your weekly Toastmasters meeting, and it’s time for the dreaded table topics.
Hoping that you don’t get called on, you squirm in your chair and start counting the speckles on the floor.
Then you hear your name.
You plaster on fake a smile and reluctantly stand up, straightening your posture.
She’s going to ask you a random question, and you’re going to have to answer that question in two minutes. The table topics master begins her question. All you can hear is your heart beating in your ears as the adrenaline rushes through your body, so you miss the first part of the question.
You kindly ask for her to repeat the question one more time. Sweat forms on your hand, butterflies flutter in your stomach, and a frog gets stuck in your throat. At this point, you’re wondering why you dragged yourself out of bed to get to this meeting.
But you muster up the strength, flash your smile and give it your best shot!
If you’ve never experienced the agony of being called on for a table topics, then you haven’t gone out enough. Table topics are one of my favorite, yet one of the most challenging practices. It’s simple enough: you’re asked a random question, you respond with a short but thorough answer that provides entertainment, humor, relevancy, all while containing an easy-to-follow arc.
As entrepreneurs, we’re on the spot 24/7, for 365 days, from 360 directions.
Whether it’s at a booth giving your quick pitch to passersby, facing an employee asking for a raise, answering questions of a new network acquaintance, or communicating your vision to a potential co-founder, we’re always on our toes waiting for the next spotlight.
Bottom line is, as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to think on your feet.
The faster you can come up with concise nuggets, the better off you will be. Off-the-cuff speaking, I believe, is one of the most valuable tools an entrepreneur can have in their tool-belt.
When was the last time you challenged yourself to answer random questions within a time constraint while in front of a large group of people?
If you haven’t done this recently, I suggest that you find a local Toastmasters group, and give yourself weekly tries at the all mighty Table Topics. Try to be concise, creative, funny, and informative all in a short amount of time.
Now, if Toastmasters is too intimidating for you, or you feel like you don’t have the time, you can be your own table topics master among your family, friends, or cofounders.
Life’s a pitch, so you better start practicing. Family, friends, or a Toastmasters group all offer great opportunities to practice.
Don’t be scared, make eye contact, get called on, own the moment. If you mess up, take it in stride, and keep trying until your confidence creates consistency.
#tabletopics #toastmasters #publicspeaking
How important do you think extemporaneous speaking really is? Would love to hear your comments!