Table topics is an interesting practice in Toastmasters public speaking club meetings. A Table Topics Master provides a number of topics, she calls for a volunteer to pick one, and this person gives a short impromptu speech on it.
To be honest, this is the portion that used to scare me most, and it’s still a big challenge to me today. Yea, English is not my first language, that can be an excuse, but I’ve been in the US for more than six years and I’m sick of this excuse.
The reason why it’s challenging is that when put into spotlight with a topic I’m not familiar with, sometimes I don’t know what to say. My mind can go blank and I seem not to be able to find anything to talk about related to that topic.
I remember this one time when I saw the topic “The Scent of Coffee”, my mind screamed “I’m not a coffee drinker! I don’t like coffee! How can I talk about coffee?!” I probably mumbled a few random sentences and came back to my seat, very frustrated.
Later, I told a friend and she asked me why I didn’t like coffee. I said I grew up in China where coffee was not popular at all, plus there’s one time I got blur vision after drank black coffee. She said here you go, that’s your story, talking about “The Scent of Coffee” doesn’t mean you have to be a coffee lover, if you don’t like the scent, talk about why, even moving away to talk about Chinese tea is ok, you just need to quickly find something related to the original topic, develop the topic from the keyword “coffee” or from a different angle, that’s all. That’s “thinking on your feet”.
Ah, she’s so right. For me, I need practice, practice and more practice to reach a point where I can freely think on my feet.