Table Topics: Book Author Tour

One of my favorite parts of a Toastmasters meeting is the Table Topics, which help attendees with their extemporaneous speaking skills. One member, designated the Table Topics Master, comes to the podium and selects random attendees to answer questions. Each selected victim then has to stand up and give a one to two minute talk on the given topic.

A Table Topics session can range from just a simple list of questions to something considerably more elaborate. I love being the Table Topics Master, and my sessions are always on the more elaborate side. Here’s an example of one of my Table Topics sessions, entitled “Book Author Tour.”

The Setup

As Table Topics Master, I come up to the podium to address the audience. I pause for a moment to heighten the tension. By now, of course, my club is well aware of my penchant for elaborate and often challenging Table Topics sessions. I then reveal the setup for the Table Topics, taking on the persona of a radio announcer:

“This is WDOV News Radio from Dover, Delaware. Folks, it’s been a slow news day, but fortunately we have some extra special guests in our studio today. Hydra Publishing is in town for a book tour, so we’ve decided to bring their authors into the studio to talk about their books.”

The Reveal

Since my Table Topics sessions tend to be more complex than just a simple list of questions, I often need to explain “the rules” to the audience. In this case, I step to the side to symbolically step away from the persona of the radio announcer. In a different, less bombastic tone of voice, I explain how the session is going to work:

“Here’s how this is all going to work. I’m the radio announcer and I’m going to ask you to talk about ‘your book.’ I will provide you with the title of the book you’re going to talk about. Now, I want you to know in advance, none of these titles are made-up. They’re all real. I found them all online.”

The Questions

I step back to my previous position. Now, once again in character as a radio announcer, I ask members to speak about their book, varying the format of the questions as much as I can. “<insert name of victim>, I must confess that I was really intrigued by the title of your book, <insert title here>. Can you describe your book to our listeners?”

Here are the book titles:

  • I Miss My Man, But My Aim is Getting Better (a mystery)
  • Hack: How I Stopped Worrying About What To Do With My Life and Started Driving a Yellow Cab
  • Why Geese Don’t Get Obese
  • The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing
  • The Wonderful World of Waste Management (juvenile fiction)
  • The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification
  • Godzilla: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Monster

The Closing

During this Table Topics session, we’ve all been in character as either the radio announcer or an author. It just seems proper that I should wrap it up in character as well:

“I’d like to thank the authors of Hydra Publishing for being on our show today. I hope our listeners have enjoyed hearing about these books as much as I have.”

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