Toastmaster Meeting Ideas  

Table of Contents

Meeting Ideas

Table Topic Ideas

Do have some interesting meeting or table topic ideas?  You can send me your ideas, so I can add it to the list and try it in my club.
 
 

Meeting Ideas

Hot Seat Meeting

While we normally try to be prepared at our meetings, we are faced with occasions when we need to fill in unexpectedly.  At the hot seat meeting, everyone draws for their assignment.  If a new member (someone who has given less than three speeches) draws speaker or toastmaster, they are allowed to draw again.

Members need to prepare enough that they could fill in for any position.  They need to have a speech topic or outline depending on their experience level.  They need to have a topic or envelope with topics ready.

Speaker/Evaluator Exchange

Your club sends a speaker and evaluator to a near by club.  They send a speaker and evaluator to your club.  In each case the speaker is evaluated by an evaluator for a different club.

Both clubs get a new speaker and a fresh evaluation.  The speakers and evaluators involved have the opportunity to speak in a different setting without leaving the Toastmasters' environment.

Poetry Meeting

Sheila from Tandem Toastmasters in Cupertino, CA suggests, "Once every six months, my club has a Poetry Meeting.  Everyone who wants to read poems brings one (or more).  After everyone has had a chance to read about five minutes' worth of poems, people can have second turns, and so on."

I thought Sheila's idea was interesting, so we tried it at our club.  Everyone enjoyed it.  Fortunately, people had more than one poem because Robert Service was very much a club favorite.  A couple people had to use their second choice.

After our all poetry meeting, Bill Manderfeld, a guest, suggested an all Shakespeare meeting.  He said his club really enjoyed it when they tried it.

For Halloween, an all Ghost Story meeting.  It's a fun way to get people to try story telling.  The first time we tried a poetry meeting, several people choose Robert Service poems that would fit will as ghost stories.  The library and the internet are possible sources of stories.
 

Theme Meeting

The meeting can be structured around a common theme.  Many clubs have a theme for the meeting.  Usually only the toastmaster works with the theme.  Sometimes the humorist and topicmaster will try to use the theme also.

With a couple weeks advanced planning, the entire meeting can be built around the theme.  The speakers present a speech on the  topic.  The toastmaster builds on the them during his/her portion of the meeting.  It may be possible to have table topics use the skills presented or debate the topic discussed.  Or, table topics may be a chance to practice the skills that were presented by the speakers.
 

Advanced Manual Meeting

Some people believe the longer advanced manuals are a problem to programing.  However, they provide an excellent format to build a meeting around.

A team presentation from the advanced manuals Technical Presentations or Professional Salesperson can be used in place of all of the speaking position.  The toastmaster and topicmaster can use the same topic the team presentation does for a unified program around a common theme.

The workshop projects in The Discussion Leader and Professional Speaker manuals make an excellent meeting.  They incorporate one or more speakers.  They also have one or more exercises like round robin discussion or buzz session.  These exercises give everyone a chance to participate so they make a good alternative to table topics. If you have never presented a workshop, the Successs/Leadership modules are a good place to gain experience before "starting from scratch".
 

Membership Building

A variation of the theme meeting is to make the theme membership building.  The speeches can focus on the importance of building membership, programs that have worked for other clubs, the elements of a good club program or on inviting guests.  Table topics can be a round robin discussion or an exercise on inviting new members.

Just because the meeting as a goal (increasing membership), you shouldn't skip the manual speeches.  The motivational speech can be "Make It Persuasive" from the "Basic Manual" or "Manage and Motivate" from Speeches by Managers.  Ideas from other clubs can be "A Fact-Finding Report" from Speaking to Inform.  The round robin discussion can be "Round Robin" from The Discussion Leader.

For a club to be successful, it needs a good educational program and a good membership program.  The Moments of Truth Successful Club manual provides a comprehensive plan for a good educational program.  "The Training the Sales Force" from The Professional Salesperson provides a good format for teaching members how to recruit.  The round robin discussion can center around where to look for possible new guests.
 

Community Action Meeting
Based on idea from Patterns In Programming by Toastmasters International

The idea is to encourage members to be come active the community.  Find out what issues on the agenda of your county or town.  Many of they issues will have a report prepared by the county or town staff.  Obtain a copy of the report.  Have someone present the majority view while someone else presents the minority view.  Table topics could discuss the issue that was presented.

Success/Leadership Module

Toastmasters International has several modules on topics such as evaluation, listening, leadership and creative thinking.  These are in a seminar format that can fill one or more meetings.  The modules have scripts that you can paraphrase or modify to fit your meeting format. They also contain exercises that compliment the scripts.  (You need to register the module if you will want to use them for an Able Toastmaster or Advanced Toastmaster award.)

A module can be broken into pieces and/or a series of modules can be presented. This can be presented much like a Speechcraft. This allows you to have a membership event without competing with other clubs who may be offering Speechcraft at the same time.

Speechcraft

Speechcraft is Toastmasters number one membership tool. It is an eight week course which covers the basics of speaking. Experienced members of our club or guests give how-to speeches. The Speechcraft participants have the opportunity to give their first one to three speeches. While this can be given outside of the club, it's most effective as a membership tool when given at club meetings.

The only draw back to Speechcraft is it's not only Toastmasters most effective membership tool; it's Toastmasters most popular membership tool. For example, last fall 4 of 5 clubs in our area presented a Speechcraft. I gave a guest for 2 other clubs in near by areas. It's wise to check with nearby clubs when planning a Speechcraft.

Contests

Twice a year, we have international and regional contests.  In the spring, there is the Internal Speech and Evaluation Contest.  In the fall, many regions hold the Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contest.

You aren't limited to these contests.  Your club could hold a contest its self for invite near by clubs.  You could hold a Tall Tales Contest.  Some people have complained that the topics in the International Speech Contest are too safe; you could hold a Controversial Topics Contest.

To get your club members to compete the standard contests, you need to sell it to your members.  When I was Area Governor, I was surprised by the number of people who forgot what they learned in speech #8 "Make It Persuasive".  List some of the things the members will get from the contest.  The contests are an opportunity for them to speak in a different environment but still among Toastmasters.  It's one of the few times we give a speech, take the feedback and improve that same speech.

Reverse Meeting 
Suggested by Alice Schubach

You asked if anybody has other ideas for meeting variety. One thing we do in our club, a couple of times a year is the "reverse meeting."  Everything is backwards. You start with "closing the meeting", have the General Evaluation, work backwards through speeches and Table Topics, ending up finally with the Invocation and Pledge. Speech Evaluations come before the speeches ... but, of course, since this has to be a "made-up" evaluation, the speaker gets a "real" evaluation from somebody, outside of the actual meeting. A Table Topics speaker talks about anything he or she wishes ... then the Table Topics leader says what the topic "will be" ... or actually was! And so on ...

This is a nice break from routine and fun ... and surprisingly, it's educational, too. The thing is that you literally have to know your meeting routines "backwards and forwards" to do them in reverse.  We really stop to think ... Now, how does that order of events go?

Because the Grammarian, timer and Word Master all give their reports at the beginning of the meeting ... the people they report on try to follow whatever was in their "report" ... speaking over or under time, etc. An interesting thing is that, we've observed our rate of "converting members into guests" seems higher at these meetings. It gets people over any intimidation they might feel about Toastmasters.

[We've tried this in our club meetings.  This tends to be love it or hate it type of meeting.]
 

Evaluation Workshop

 For the prepared speeches, have one or more of  the speakers use evaluation for their topic.  If there is more than one speaker talking about evaluation, there needs to be coordination to avoid overlap.  Some possible topics are: For table topics, each participant will evaluate one of the speakers.  To encourage people to look at the speech in different ways.  Copy blank evaluation pages for other projects.  Place a speakers name on each page so each speaker has about the same number of evaluations.

There should be a person who has the speakers manual and do the official evaluation.  The official evaluators can participate as part of table topics or as part of the normal evaluation section of the meeting.  The official evaluations should be setup ahead of time so they can contact the speakers and check for any special objectives.
 

Officer Training

Officer training is important.  However, morning and noon clubs sometimes have trouble getting their officers to a training session in the evening.  If your club has several experienced members, present a training session in one of your club meetings.  We had a session organized by a member working on "The Team Technical Presentation" from the Technical Presentations advance manual.

This doesn't count toward training in the Distinguished Club Plan.  However, it does serve the more important objective of getting all of your officers trained.  This, also, introduces your newer members to being an officer and make it more likely that they will volunteer to be an officer at your next elections.
 

Trial
Suggested by Shelly Turner, DTM

One of your members is on trial.  The meeting can be fun if the charges are something fun.  For example, they could be the charge of stealing the cookies from the cookie jar.  The charges against the accused and the description of the scenario are handed out a week or two before the meeting.

The two prepared speeches are the opening arguments by the prosecutor and defense attorney.  Table topics is the testimony of the witnesses.

[I've also done this as table topics where we put Goldy Locks on trial.]

Joke-a-thon
Suggested by Shelly Turner, DTM

[This was part of a meeting that included a humorous speech contest.  Clubs with shorter meetings can have the joke-a-thon as a standalone meeting.]

After the club speakers, I gave my workshop on the value of humor in speaking.  Then, they had a joke-a-thon.  Every member had been told to come prepared with several jokes.  They were very well prepared!  The whole meeting was fun, funny and great fellowship.
 

Book Report Meeting
Suggested by Dennis J. Chada, ATM-G, CL

Everyone at the meeting presents a short speech on one topic.  An all book reports meeting.  The object would be to get everybody in attendance up to lectern for short (1-3 minute) speech.  The assigned topic would be to report on a book the member read, liked, hated, would recommend, would recommend be burned, etc..
 
 

Table Topics Ideas


 

The Envelope or Grab Bag

Each of the following table topics have the same basic format.  The topic master decides if the person draws their topic when the person before them starts or finishes speaking.  This way each person gets the same amount of time to prepare.
Fortune Cookies
3/4 cup unbeaten egg whites 
1 2/3 cups sugar 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 cup melted butter 
1 cup flour 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon lemon juice 
3/4 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
Preheat oven to 350o

Mix egg whites, sugar, and salt until sugar disloves.  Add other ingredients. 

Drop the dough, 1 tablespoon at a time onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake until golden brown (about 10 min). 

Mold cookies over a wooden spoon handle, inserting fortunes (on 3 by 3/4 inch papers).

Continuing Story

The topic master creates a cast of characters and a starts the story in motion.  Each person takes the story from where it was left and continues it.  The only exception is the last person who must provide a conclusion.

Each person tries to leave the story at a mini-climax.  For example, "when Bob arrived in Portland, he went to the baggage carousel but instead of finding his suit case he found [pass control to the next speaker] ".

It's also fun to make a sudden change in the plot.  This frustrates the people who have pre-planned their segment.  For example, "But, instead of heading to the mountain to go skiing, Bob headed for the coast."

The Last Noun

This requires the speaker exercise listening, think and speaking skills.  Each speaker talks about the last noun in the speech of the speaker preceding them.

Introductions

Half of the club is given a 3x5 card.  They write their name and a short biography.  It includes their area of expertise at work and hobbies.

These cards are shuffled and given to the other half of the club.  Their table topic is to use the information on the card to create in introduction explaining why the topic is of interest and why the speaker is knowledgeable.  (This is very effective if it's preceded by a speech on introductions.)

Once introduced, the speaker delivers their table topics on the subject that was introduced.  Since it is from the speakers biography, it's a subject that they know.

Round Robin or Buzz Session

The advanced manual The Discussion Leader projects "The Round Robin" and "Buzz Session" make a good variation for table topics.  They provide everyone with a chance at impromptu speaking, but the format is very different than standard table topics.

With the Round Robin, you move around the table each person getting a chance to speak or pass.  The time is shorter than standard table topics because you will go around the table several times.  You quit when people seam to be reaching a consensus, most people are passing or you run out of time.

An excellent application of the Round Robin is to generate ideas for membership building.  Use the first part of the Round Robin to brain storm ideas.  The use the last part of the Round Robin to select a set of ideas to try.  Be sure you assign each idea you want to try to a person to lead that activity.

With the buzz session, you break the room into groups of about four to six people.  Each group is given a subtopic of your main theme.  Each group has a leader and an note taker.  They talk about their subtopic within their group.  One person from each group presents their ideas for the entire club.

Debate

Debates make a good variation to table topics.  They not only give members a chance at impromptu speaking but also a chance to interact with other members.  Our club has used two formats for debates.

In the first format, the members draw a topic.  The first person speaks in favor of the topic while the second person opposes the topic.  This format gives people the chance to speak with little time to plan.

In the second format, everyone speaks on the same topic.  Every other person speaks in favor of the topic, and the others oppose the topic. This format requires club members to work as a team.

Book of Questions

Joan suggested the book If.  She selected questions from the book and call on people to answer them.

Donna McNabb suggests using a book of questions with numbered lists.  Each member picks a number between 1 and the number of questions.  The Topicmaster reads the question.  If there are any questions that aren't appropriate for Toastmasters, the member is asked to pick an other number.
 

Random Topic Ideas

Random Topics from pairs of index cards

Pass out two pieces index cards.  They should be two different sizes so they can be easily sorted.  For example, if the cards are 3 x 5.  Cut half the cards so they are 3 x 3.  Cut the other cards so they are 2 1/2 x 5.

Now have the participants place half of the information on one card and half on the other card.  Continuing the example, have them list a person on the square card.  (It's better if they use Mother, girl friend, etc. instead of Jan Smith.)  Have them put something they would like to thank the person for on the other card.

Collect the cards.  Sort them into two piles.  Shuffle the piles.  When it is the persons turn to speak, they will draw a card from each pile.  Read the two cards and then speak on the topic.

Random Topics with dice

The following idea was suggested by Rick Farley, CTM.

This Table Topic idea is based around Christmas gifts, and it was a dice deal.  The object was to roll the dice and what ever they added up to was the age of a boy or girl, you would speak on what you would buy them for Christmas.  The first dye was rolled and if it was odd the child was a boy and if it was even, the child was a girl.

This will also work with birthday gifts.

Custom Topics

We are often asked by our friends questions about our hobbies or profession.  This table topic is intended to simulated that.  As topic master, you pick a topic for each person.  The topic is selected based on the person's life.  For example, I asked a librarian what effect the Internet is having on libraries.

In case there are any guest who want to participate, I have some general topics.  I often use, "You've been asked by a local school teacher, to speak to his/her class about your profession.  What will you tell them?"

The draw back to this topic is you need to call on each person and give them their topic.  This is what I refer to as my cold breakfast topic because breakfast always comes at the beginning of table topics.

Create A Story 
Suggested by Dave Kelly

I did table topics once where I asked three questions of three different people.  Here were my questions:
  1. The first line I am giving you is "once upon a time", and the last line is "happily ever after".  Tell me the story that goes in between.
  2. The first line is now "happily ever after", and the last line is now "once upon a time".  Tell me the story that goes in between.
  3. For the final question, I got the favorite color, favorite animal, and favorite pastime from the three featured speakers.  They happened to be blue, an armadillo, and fishing.  I then asked one of our seasoned veterans to tell me a story about a blue armadillo who enjoyed fishing.

What Do You Expect From Your Club?
Based on idea from Patterns In Programming by Toastmasters International

In order for our clubs to grow they need to meet our needs.  In order to meet our needs, the club officers need to know what are needs are.  Have each person discuss what they want to get from Toastmasters and what the club can do to help them reach their goals.
 

Invite Your Neighbor

 The first person invites the person next to them to a Toastmasters meeting.  Unlike most table topic ideas, this can be a dialog.  The person being invited can ask questions.  As the topic continues around the room, the person who was invited invites the person on the other side of them.

As part of the introduction, the topicmaster should explain that the person doing the inviting should talk about the benefits of Toastmasters to the potential guest.

Change the Timing

Does your club use the same timing every week for table topics?  Your experienced members become very good at hitting the window between the green and red lights.  If the time limits are changed, they suddenly have to work much harder to come in on time.

Postcards
Suggested by John Sleigh, DTM, ATM-S

Have a collection of picture postcards available for this group.


Now provide the next speaker with a picture post card and ask her why she would like to visit that place. (Do this several times with a variety of cards.

Other applications for picture post cards (ask the same question to each participant, just change the card):

Yesterday
Suggested by John Sleigh, DTM, ATM-S

I guess as we get older the past seems to be more exciting just because there is more of it, but there are some things that can only happen once, and I would like you to recall some of the firsts in your life.

Do you remember:

Book Titles
Suggested by John Sleigh, DTM, ATM-S

Mix the questions, with the book titles (of course you can add your own favorites)

Questions


Book Titles  (these are all legit books)  - check out your own library or bookstore for even better ones.

Some Addtional Titles I found Mary Pamber suggests using children's books like Little Red Riding Hood, Little The Three Little Pigs, and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer to ask the questions from the top of this section.
 

Topics for the Holidays
Suggested by Joy Gaylord, ATM

Tag Team Table Topics
Suggested by an audience member at a District 7 District Meeting

The topic is given to a pair of Toastmasters.  One Toastmaster starts.  The Topicmaster rings a bell part way though.  The other Toastmaster continues.  When the Topicmaster rings the bell again, they switch again.

Next Question
Suggested by an audience member at a District 7 District Meeting

The Topicmaster gives everyone a topic.  S/he gives the first person a question.  When that person finishes, s/he gives the next person a question.

M&M's
Suggested by Teri Hogenkamp from Johnson Creek Speakeasy

We started by  passing a bowl full of M&M's around the table witha plastic spoon and asked each person to take a spoonful of M&M's place them on their napkin and don't eat them yet.

Once everyone had their M&M's in front of them, I pulled out my easel, on which were 6 questions, each labeled under a different color:

Brown   You just won $100 million on the lottery. What would you by first?
Green   you have $1 million to give to just once charity. Which one do you choose and why?
Blue   If you could acquire a talent/skill just by asking, what would you ask for and why?
Orange   If you could relive one day without changing anything, what day would it be?
Yellow   You just won a trip to anywhere in the world for an entire month. where would you go?
Red   if you could spend the day with any one person, past or present, who would it be and why?

The object is that for each M&M you have of a certain color, you had to answer corresponding question. for instance, if you have 3 green M&M's then you have $1 million to each of 3 charities, and have to tell every one which 3.

Round Robin

We often do round robin evaluations for contestants going on to higher contest levels.  We also uses the format for members who are giving a speech they will later repeat at work.   We often do these during table topics because they are impromptu speaking and the round robin evaluations need a block of time.

The problem with unstructured round robin evaluations is after about the forth person, the evaluations sound like "I agree with ___".   We want everyone to observe the speech from a different perspective.  I had copied the evaluation page from basic manual and advanced manual speech projects.  I gave everyone a different page. 

I told them, "please comment on anything that you really liked and any suggestions that you have.  The evaluation forms are so everyone will look at his speech from a different perspective.  This will help us comment on more aspects of the speech.  When we are done, we will give him the evaluation forms.  We want to maximize the feedback we give."

Goldy Locks Trial

I've used Shelley's idea of a trail for a meeting and used it for table topics at a couple clubs.  I used Goldy Locks.  Both times the responses where hilarious.

[The story of Goldy Locks is about a young girl who gets lots and goes into the house of the three bears.  She eats their porridge and breaks Baby Bear's chair.  She's caught sleeping in his bed.]

Everyone drew a slip of paper.   I had both the order and the character that would be played.  The prosecutor and defense attorney went first followed by the witnesses.

Egg Carton Table Topics
Suggested by Mary Palmer

I have idea for next time I am Topicmaster and that is to get an empty egg carton and put recipes with eggs in each slot.  I would then have table topic participant draw question.

So far I have gone to magazines and cut out a couple of recipes with eggs in them I have recipes for little chocolate souffles and Spanish style scrambled eggs.  Any ideas on what type of questions to ask about egg recipes?  I had something in mind about asking if they ever made anything like that recipe and if they liked it.  Would you include this recipe in your next cookbook?  Would you pay for this type of food at a restaurant?  I don't want participants to spend too much time reading the recipe.

(Toastmasters International logo)Ideas for Toastmasters.  A collection of meeting ideas, ideas for officers and speech ideas.

(house)Rick's home page with index without index

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Last Updated:  $Date: 2005/01/08 21:49:00 $ (GMT)

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