Table topics competition at Toastmasters floors me
I have been a member of Toastmasters since 2012. It was September 2017 and I had entered a national competition. Either give a prepared humorous speech or talk on an unprepared subject. I had reached the second round of the unprepared speech, the table topics competition.
Table Topics competition
Make an impromptu unrehearsed speech on a random topic lasting for between one to two minutes. I was in the second round, winner goes through to the third round. Table topics, its something you either love or hate.
Set the scene
So there were six competitors in a separate the room. Deathly hush, none of us knew each other, and obviously none of us knew the topic. One by one we are called into the room, given the table topic and have to make an impromptu speech.
Yes I was a bit nervous. Thankfully only one person had to go before me.
Toastmasters table topics competition. He makes it look so easy
Suddenly it was my turn
The routine is simple. Walk into the room. Stand at the back and the topic is read out twice by the table topics master, then walk to the front and give the impromptu speech.
The Topic is read out
The table topics master started. ‘I recently watched the Lego Batman Movie’ My brain froze. I don’t do films, never heard of this one.
Then he added, ‘brilliant!’. How can a man in his 50’s think a Lego Batman movie is brilliant? Oh dear, I was plainly at the wrong event.
To make matters even worse he added. ‘I love all the superhero movies’. By now my brain was in complete meltdown. How can I make an impromptu speech about a Lego Batman movie. Put me into a Tardis and get me out of here but it was too late.
Apparently he continued. ‘Given the choice, what would be your super power and why?’ All I heard was ‘… super power and why?’.
He repeated the table topic but it was no help I was in panic mode with a frazzled brain. This time I did not hear the second sentence at all.
Moment of truth
Now I had to walk to the front of the room and talk on this impromptu topic. I couldn’t remember the question. My brain had shut down completely.
Somehow I did keep it together but panic was never far away. I ‘fessed up, I had not seen the film but I had watched the Lego build programmes on television. I even admitted to not remembering the question. People did genuinely laugh and not titter politely. Most important, I kept it going for just over two minutes. Now I could sit down. Phew, torture over.
Contestant number three now came into the room. I heard the question again and realised the table topic was really easy. Just talk on ‘What superpower would I like and why’. Easy peasy lemon squeezy especially for a man with multiple sclerosis. Please out me back into the Tardis and whizz me back 5 minutes.
Needless to say I didn’t win, not even on the podium. My off-the-cuff humour of my speech was definitely not appreciated.
What interests me is my total failure to understand the table topic because of panic. It is well documented that in such a moment of crisis people do not hear what is said. Also MS does not make things any easier.
On reflection it was a good experience but it did scar me.
15th November 2020
I gave a speech at Toastmasters on this problem called ‘My Bottle, Lost and Found’ and received some good feedback. I have recreated the speech incorporating the suggestions and recorded it at home. Ii is very difficult for me to remember lines so my speech is different every time. Personally I blame the MS. After a few failed attempts here we go. This is a bit of an experiment.