Nervous, anxious, panic. These are the words the that come to mind when people are asked to speak without preparation. When put into these situations, we often find ourselves unable to find the right words and struggling to organize our thoughts. As a result, we may struggle to deliver our message effectively.
While impromptu speaking is a skill that many people fear and avoid, it is also a skill that we can learn and improve with practice and feedback.
At Toastmasters meetings all around the world, club members confront the feelings of nervousness, anxiousness and panic, and step up to speak unprepared for up to two minutes about an unknown prompt from the Table Topics Master. Through this training, we improve our mental agility and develop the confidence to deliver an effective message, in a friendly and encouraging environment.
On November 23rd, 2023, Cambridge Toastmasters held our annual club level Table Topics contest. This contest gives our members an opportunity to put the training into practice in a friendly, competitive environment.
For this year’s contest, myself and the four other competitors from our club were presented with a single word prompt: Chocolate. Based on the rules of a Table Topics contest, we had to speak for no less than one minute and no more than two minutes and thirty seconds on the topic of Chocolate, or we would be disqualified for a time violation.
Kevin Swayze, Sergey Bobryshev, Adam DeMille, Neila Ramsingh and CJ Janzen receiving contestant certificates from Bill Kirby, Contest Chair
At a Table Topics contest, just like during a normal meeting, you do not hear your speech prompt until right before it is time for you to speak. Back in April of 2023, our club transitioned back to in person meetings. As a result, contestants were secluded in a room away from the audience and judges and retrieved one-by-one by our Sergeant at Arms, Brad Willey. This provided a nice opportunity to chat with my fellow competitors and to relax our minds ahead of the competition to come.
First Kevin, then Sergey, then came my turn. Bill Kirby, the Contest Chair, introduced me using the customary Toastmasters speech introduction: Adam DeMille, Chocolate, Chocolate, Adam DeMille.
Lucky for me, several years ago, I took my wife to Stratford Ontario for a valentine's day weekend, and we had a fantastic time enjoying what they call the: A self-guided tour of beautiful downtown Stratford where you redeem vouchers for delicious chocolate treats. I am always most comfortable with an impromptu speech when it’s about a topic I have experience with. This combined with the weekly training I receive during our club meetings allowed me to compose a short speech on the spot.
After my turn, I was treated to the speeches on chocolate by Neila and CJ. Both took us on a chocolate inspired journey of the senses.
Once we all had a chance to complete our speeches, Bill Kirby completed the contestant interviews and we got to share a little bit more about ourselves with the audience. Bill is always a great contest chair. He leverages his years of experience and Table Topics training to create an entertaining and engaging interview.
After the interviews, we had a break. The break is a great opportunity to socialize and network with the audience. A club contest will often be filled with members from other Toastmasters clubs, who are always happy to help out, volunteering to support in various roles such as judges.
Then the contest chair announced the results.
Third Place: CJ Janzen
Second Place: Neila Ramsingh
First Place: Adam DeMille
This time, I was the lucky winner! I will have the opportunity to represent Cambridge Toastmasters at the upcoming Area T92 contest, competing against representatives from the other five clubs that make up our area.
A big thank you to everyone involved, from my fellow competitors: Kevin Swayze, Sergey Bobryshev, Neila Ramsingh and CJ Jazen, to the timers, counters, judges and contest chair. A Toastmasters club can’t thrive without a strong community of members committed to their professional development.
If you want to develop your impromptu speaking skills, come join us at one of our weekly Cambridge Toastmasters club meetings. Guests are always welcome. You will not regret it!
CJ Janzen receiving third place from Bill Kirby and Nancy Movrin
Neila Ramsingh receiving second place from Bill Kirby and Nancy Movrin
Adam DeMille receiving first place from Billy Kirby and Nancy Movrin
Some of the volunteers and contestants that made the evening a success: Nancy Movrin, Brad Willey, Puneet Kaur, Piyush Nanda, Jing Li, Bill Kirby, Neila Ramsingh, Kevin Swayze, Adam DeMille, CJ Janzen, Sergey Bobryshev and Alejandra Marquez