I’ve written about Toastmaster’s in a few posts recently, but in case some people don’t know what Toastmasters is, I’ll give a brief overview.
Toastmaster’s is an international organization, and their mission is to help people become better public speakers and better leaders. There are thousands of clubs throughout the United States.
I joined my company’s Toastmaster’s club last fall, and I’ve fallen in love with everything about it.
Every Toastmaster’s meeting follows the same agenda. There is always time allotted for Table Topics.
What are Table Topics?
Oh, they are just this fun activity whereby someone comes up with random questions, and people volunteer to answer those questions. The person answering has no idea what the question is going to be, and they have to give an extemporaneous speech that is between one and two minutes long (an eternity for those unfamiliar with extemporaneous speeches).
I had to take a speech class in college (way before I knew about Toastmaster’s), and our professor made us participate in similar activities. My memories of that speech class are painful, and extemporaneous speeches have always scared the crap out of me.
At first, volunteering for Table Topics was extremely daunting. I typically do not like attention, and my mind shuts down when I am required to speak extemporaneously in front of groups of people.
Or those things used to be true.
Now I freaking love Table Topics.
During last week’s meeting, I volunteered to do one, and the Table Topics Master asked, “What is the most random and pointless fact that you know?”
I said, “Oh, sweet. I got this.
“Did you know, sloths are so stupid, they sometimes grab their own arms thinking they are tree branches, and then let go of the branch, and then fall to their deaths?”
Everyone in the room started laughing.
Someone said, “That’s so sad!”
I said, “It’s the number one killer of sloths.”
“Is it really?!?”
“I don’t know, I just made that part up. But sloths really are incredibly stupid, and this happens on a regular basis.”
I knew I didn’t make it to the one-minute mark, so I answered a question that someone else was asked a few minutes before.
“I’d like to talk about what I got in trouble for most often as a kid. Whenever I got in trouble, I had the bad habit of sticking my tongue out at my mom as she turned away from me. Unfortunately, my mom has 360-degree vision and almost always caught me.”
Even more laughs.
“Then one time, I was getting in trouble, and I licked my lips. I wasn’t doing it nefariously. I just needed to lick my lips, but because I had a habit of sticking my tongue out, my mom thought I was doing it again, and I got into even more trouble. I tried to tell her I wasn’t sticking my tongue out at her. I tried to tell her it wasn’t me!”
There were only six other people in the room, and all of them were laughing heartily by the end of my speech. It felt amazing. I love making people laugh, and I am proud of my growth in that area of public speaking.
Several people did their own Table Topics, and they were all funny and entertaining. I ended up getting voted for Best Table Topics, which felt really good. I would’ve felt accomplished and proud no matter the outcome, but that was icing on the cake.
If you told me a year ago how much I’d grow to love speaking extemporaneously and that I’d become quite good at it, I’d have thought you were crazy and stupid.
“Me? That’s one thing I will never be good at. Ever!”
The ability to speak extemporaneously has helped me as a coach, and it’s greatly improved my ability to interact with humans. I no longer want to melt into the floor at social gatherings. I’m comfortable with speaking up and saying the funny thoughts that have always been trapped inside my head.
I’ve learned that above all else, I want to make people laugh, and I get a huge kick of dopamine anytime I cause laughter.
It’s like a drug to me.
And I want more.