Toastmaster roles: Table topics master

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERN by Image Editor

Last Monday I performed the role of topicsmaster, a role that is part of the Toastmasters Competent Leader Manual. This role required me to devise and introduce a series of topics for people to talk about without any preparation.

The theme I chose for my topics was Quantum Physics. I wanted to scare the participants into thinking they would have to try and talk about something they had no idea about and then changing direction at the last minute asking something very open-ended and manageable. Here is the list of questions I came up with:

  1. Quantum Physics has been in the news a lot over the past six months because of the Large Hadron Collider, a research utility that is smashing particles together to look at their component parts. Some people fear that this may unleash so much energy it will destroy the universe. If the universe was going to end tomorrow How would you spend your last day?
  2. One of the hopes of the Large Hadron Collider is that the research will yield new clean energy sources. What have you been doing to reduce your carbon footprint?
  3. Everything is made of Atoms. In 1909 Ernest Rutherford claimed that an atom is made up of protons, neutrons with electrons orbiting around them. Ernest Rutherford once said “All science is either physics or stamp collecting”. Tell us why you enjoy stamp collecting.
  4. Nils Bohr received the Nobel Prize for devising the Copenhagen Interpretation of the Atom. Nils Bohr once said “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field”. Tell us about a mistake you’ve made.
  5. There is a famous thought experiment in quantum physics called Schrödinger’s cat, where Erwin Schrödinger uses the metaphor of trapping a cat in a box to explain aspects of sub atomic particles. Who would you like to trap in a box?
  6. Steven Hawking said that research into quantum physics could make time travel a reality. If you could travel back to the time of prehistoric man, what one item would you take with you?
  7. Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman said “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. Tell us about a time when you were misunderstood.
  8. Albert Einstien was critical of the unpredictable nature of Copenhagen Interpretation stating that “God does not play dice with the cosmos”. What is your favourite board game?
  9. Physicists are often perceived as introverted with no social skills. What advice would you give to an introverted physicist to create the perfect Romantic evening?
  10. Research into Quantum Physics may lead to Star Trek like technology like teleportation. Star Trek has just made it’s 11th MovieIf you could adapt a TV show into a movie which TV show would it be?
  11. People in America queued up overnight to see the new Star Trek movie. What would you queue up over night for?
  12. Most of the cast of Star Trek are on Twitter and Facebook. How would you justify using twitter and Facebook to your boss?
  13. Albert Einstein said “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.” What makes time go slowly for you?

Despite the actual questions being unrelated to Quantum Physics lots of people managed to incorporate the theme into their speeches. The speaker who “enjoyed stamp collecting” told us about the most expensive stamp: the quark. The speaker who “queued up over night” was queueing for a quantum physics lecture.

The role is very involved. With thirteen speakers there was a lot to keep track of. I found that I only caught snippets of what each speaker was saying as I was concentrating on the next question and who would deliver it.

Overall I really enjoyed this role and people seemed to appreciate having a slightly different topic.

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One Comment

  1. Posted July 29, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I stumbled onto your site by searching for master of arms roles. This posting clearly doesn’t mention what I’m looking for, but I am glad I read this. Did you notice if the room’s nervousness levels were heighten when you presented the topic? I’m looking forward to do the same with my club. I hope you don’t mind that I copy / print this posting for that club meeting.

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