Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Table Topics Ideas: Storytelling

We have a fairly empty roster for our Toastmasters meeting tonight, so I've decided to do a meeting devoted to table topics using storytelling games.

If you haven't heard of Table Topics, it's an impromptu speaking competition that we use in Toastmasters meetings to improve our speaking skills. We deliver short (1-2 minute) speeches after being given a prompt just before speaking. It's a great way to work on your "elevator pitch" and it helps you learn how to develop your speaking style.

For the storytelling games, here's what I've thought of doing:


We'll have the group throw out some possible heroes and villains. Maybe a school girl could be a hero and a giant carnivorous plant could be the villain, though just about anything could be personified. For instance, we could have a book be a hero and an oil rig be the villain. Along with heroes and villains, we'll create some possible tools through which our hero must overcome the villain. Perhaps the tool is a lightning bolt or maybe it's laughter. The person leading the game (the Table Topics Master) will jumble up the heroes, villains, and tools. When a speaker steps to the stage, they will be given a hero, a villain, and a tool and then they have to create the story to go along with it.

Update (2 March 2016): This one worked out great! I made a table for the heroes, villains, and tools and then had the audience throw out one of each per person. I then selected combinations of hero, villain, and tool at random. We had the Dalai Lama fighting Kanye West's music with an axe, we had a 6 year-old girl fight Donald Trump with a pen, and we also had Spider Man fight the god Loki using a grenade. It was awesome!

This one will be a little difficult, but could prove to be rather fun. The first speaker will come up to speak. The Table Topics Master will slowly tell a story about what they did over some period time today, making it as bland as possible (e.g. I woke up... I brushed my teeth... I walked my dog... etc.). While they add each little bit of information about their day, the speaker will take their words and embellish them. So maybe the Table Topics Master says "First, I woke up and got out of bed." Maybe the speaker could then embellish and say something like, "It was the crack of dawn, the sun's rays came ripping through my room and struck me from my slumber. I was thrown from my bed by a will I am sure was not my own..." 

Like I said, that might be difficult for some people, but I think it would be pretty fun. After each speaker goes, it's then their turn to just say a small list of things they've done during the day while the new speaker embellishes.

The Rappin' Ritter

An old friend of mine recently passed away. His name was Ryan Ritter. He was very good at rapping. When we were younger, it was common fair for him to start rapping at parties. One thing he loved to do was to start a rap and then have people throw out words or ideas to add in to his rap as he was going. In honor of his passing, I've decided to add a game where the speaker will start a story and then during the story a random list of words will be thrown out that they have to add in to the story while they are speaking. This is a pretty common game for lots of improv groups to get their juices flowing and will surely be good for Toastmasters as well.

Update (2 March 2016): This one worked really well, but it ended up taking up a good bit of our meeting. We decided to allow the stories to be a bit longer (most were 3-5 minutes) to get all of the words in. We set it up so that each speaker would have one audience member feeding them 5 nouns at random and then another audience member giving them 5 verbs at random. For instance, I ended up telling a story about a little girl who was skipping through a forest and petting a father badger and his baby badgers before a Super Star Destroyer almost destroyed the forest and she had to use a tank to launch giant sai at the ship to blow off its door so that the pressure forced it to crash in the region beyond the forest, but it started a fire that she and the forest creatures had to put out by shuffling side by side carrying buckets of water to the blaze. It was pretty hilarious!


The personification of non-human objects can make for some fun storytelling. This one should be pretty straight forward: the speaker is given an object and they must personify that object and tell us a story about it. Objects could include candles, basketballs, rings, notebooks, a planet, tables, caterpillars, fossils at the museum, a pair of rain boots, silverware in a drawer, car tires, bells, musical instruments, flags, electrical outlets, rockets, stars, volcanoes, etc.


Using voices for characters can be a very fun way to make stories more interesting. In this game, we'll have each speaker tell a story using their own voice for narration as well as a character voice that they have to create based on a prompt from the Table Topics Master. The prompts for the voices could include:

-A military drill sergeant who has lost their voice but is still trying to yell

-An intoxicated person 

-An opera singer who feels the need to sing everything they say

-An alien in a human body who is trying to pass as human but fails to do so

-The oldest living person on Earth

-A child of age 6

-A stereotypical "surfer dude" from the 1980s

-Someone who is hiccoughing 

-Someone whose mouth is full of food while they try to talk

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