Making a table topic speech is a terrifying experience. Needless to say, I cannot predict what the question will be, and therefore cannot prepare a speech in advance. The worst scenario at the District Contest would be to go blank after the question is given and become frozen for two minutes on the stage in front of an audience of 350 people. The greatest challenge for me before the District Contest was therefore to overcome this fear.
While making a table topic speech, what I used to do was to grope around in my pool of experiences for an episode that I could use for the speech. But finding the right episode in my extremely limited depository of past episodes within several seconds was as difficult as finding a diamond in the deep ocean.
So one way to overcome the fear was to expand this depository to more than just episodes associated with my wife and dog. But I only had several weeks left before the contest, and the time was too short for me to venture into the unknown world outside of my wife and dog. Everyday experiences and events, books that you read, current events in the newspaper, and conversations with people become good material for table topic speeches. I should have been taking note of them from much earlier on.
So I decided to rely on my imagination rather than my experiences. But again, my imagination was not good enough to overcome the fear. What should I do, then? The answer that I came up with was to give up (!) and stop struggling. Someone told me that the single most important thing to do when making a table topic speech is kakugo wo kimeru, or to make a resolution; in other words, to be determined to speak about something without worrying about the quality or results. I decided to take this advice, but what if nothing came up in my mind on the stage? Well, then I would sing a song. So I started practicing the song, “You Are My Sunshine”! This kind of hirakinaori, or “I’ll-do-whatever-I-can” attitude, brought me a great sense of freedom on the stage and gave me the courage to do anything, including even dancing!