bigstock-Young-woman-in-jobWhether you need to provide an unexpected update to a boss, engage in a conversation with a stranger at an event, or “sell yourself” during a job interview, the ability to deliver an organized message off-the-cuff is a valuable skill to employ.

Many people feel unsure of their ability to respond in such situations, and can benefit from training and practice.

One activity that has worked wonders for me is “Table Topics” during Toastmasters meetings.

Table Topics help members develop their ability to organize thoughts quickly. During Table Topics, members respond to a question or statement that they hear just before they begin to speak. They are given one to two minutes to respond.

You don’t have to be a member of Toastmasters to practice this skill. Take time (10 minutes should suffice) during team meetings, small gatherings of colleagues or at job-search circles. Have one person ask a question that another person needs to address in one to two minutes. Use the stopwatch function on your phone to time them. You also can do a “round-robin” exercise, where several people take turns asking questions of others.

Encourage every participant to keep talking for at least the minimum time of one minute. Toastmasters uses a color-code system to advise the speaker about how much time has transpired:

  • Green at the minimum time of one minute
  • Yellow at the mid-point of one and one-half minutes
  • Red at the maximum time of two minutes

A “grace period” of 30 seconds is offered by Toastmasters, so that someone who speaks for up to 2 and one-half minutes is considered to have successfully completed the exercise.

I have seen how Table Topics have improved my ability to speak cogently at work and at events in my profession. It can work for you and your team, as well!

The ability to speak persuasively and in an organized fashion is just one aspect of effective communications. If you would like me to address a communication challenge or opportunity facing you and your organization, contact me to set up time to discuss it.