What’s Toastmasters you ask? Only the finest club dedicated to improving the public speaking and leadership skills of individuals all over the world. There are once a week, 2-hour meetings where everyone can practice speaking in front of an audience whether it’s a 1-minute “Table Topic” or a prepared 10-minute speech. I used to participate on the Speech and Debate Team at Santa Monica College so I was looking for a way to get back into public speaking.
Every meeting opens up with “Table Topics.” The “Table Topics Master” prepares a series of creative questions before the meeting to ask the members. The members have one minute to answer the question and the group judges how well the question was answered.
Toastmasters is a fun and festive crowd. It brings together a diversity of ages, professions, and skill levels at public speaking (including those who are learning English). For the week of Halloween, everyone dressed up in costumes and there was a fun vibe to the meeting. For “Table Topics,” the questions were all Halloween-themed such as, “What is your favorite scary movie?” and “Describe your favorite costume?”
As a new guest, I wanted to participate and the questions seemed easy enough – and fun! The Table Topics Master opened it up to non-members and I was the first one to raise my hand.
He was delighted I decided to join in on the impromptu speeches! I stood up waiting for the festive Halloween questions when he looked at me…
“There have been several serial murderers throughout history (proceeds to name off several uncommon killers). What propels people to do such evil?”
The room fell silent. Everyone turned to me. I stood there shocked and my stomach sank. I had gotten the hardest question of the night!
I didn’t know how to answer. I couldn’t comment on the murderers (he didn’t mentioned people like Ted Bundy, etc.) and with only 1 minute, I couldn’t have a full on speech on the evil side of the human condition.
“Um, uh, er….,” I stuttered as I am completely showing how much I do really need Toastmasters.
“Evil is in all of us (um) and what scares us with these serial murderers is that we as a society helped create them. It’s like (uh) with Frankenstein. What really scared us was that the scientist created the monster (um) and then the monster carried on with that evil. This is what scares us and fascinates us about Halloween (uh) – a look into the scariest parts of society. And that’s all I have to say!” I quickly sat down after that.
The Table Topics Master thanked me for my speech. He asked if any other new people would like to get a question and no one else raised their hand. He then led on with the rest of the meeting.
I was super nervous but I was glad I did a “Table Topics.” I am joining Toastmasters because one of the things I do want to improve is to be able to quickly think on my feet. When the meeting ended, I felt the support of the other members as they said they were proud of me for speaking so soon and validated the fact that I had received an extremely difficult question. I am looking forward to future meetings and being able to prepare a speech for some of the fun topics!