Our evening of public speaking and fun started with Rosy, our club president, wishing us all a very happy new year. Some of us may have been forgiven for thinking she had gone slightly mad, but then she explained that Toastmasters clubs operate a yearly programme which starts in July of each year. As the weather warms, this is an ideal time to make “new year’s resolutions” about improving public speaking and leadership skills.
I was the Toastmaster of the evening on this occasion. We rotate the roles for our meetings so that everyone has chance to practice their skills. As Toastmaster, my task was to guide everyone through the planned activities. Nadia, a brand new member of the club, was our grammarian for the evening. She challenged us to use the word Kudos as many times as possible. Kudos to Nadia for choosing such an interesting and positive word. Nandarane, another new member, had volunteered to help us pay attention to our distracting “filler-words”, such as ah, erm and … well, and… Finally, Dorothea kept us all running to time throughout the evening.
After all the introductions had been made, we started with our prepared speeches. This is where the speaker has used the Toastmasters International Education Programme to help them craft their speech.
Ekong started off with a speech entitled “The greatest is charity”. His aim was to persuade us all to give (and give more) to charity. He made a very compelling argument, particularly when talking about helping homeless people. I was pleased to provide him with feedback afterwards. His confident delivery helped us all to focus on his key message. As this was Ekong’s eighth speech in Toastmasters, it was clear that he has been learning a lot and getting benefit from the practice.
Rosy then treated us to some reflections on changes in the way people travel. Her “travelling changes” speech helped us understand some of the trends in the travel industry over the years. We learned that the USA is no longer the top destination for travelers from the UK, and how air travel has grown dramatically. Rosy also shared stories about how people used to complain in the days before smartphones, Tripadvisor and Twitter. John then commented on the value that he had gained from the speech. He also shared with us all some handy tips on using flipcharts effectively.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. For our final prepared speech, I shared a story about “Poor Michael”. A folk tale about the trials and tribulations of Poor Michael trying to get a job. The message of the story was that it’s important to think carefully about the advice that you receive. Salem kindly commented on the use of language, structure and energy in the speech. These were all things that I learned about in the Toastmasters Storytelling advanced speaking manual. Salem also offered me some great advice on how to use contrasts to make even more impact.
Impromptu public speaking
After catching up with friends and meeting new people in our networking break, we practiced our impromptu or off-the-cuff speaking.
Barbara guided us through this section, which had an extra-terrestrial theme. We were asked to imagine what would happen if we how we would respond if abducted by aliens or whether we would move to another planet. All very thought-provoking and entertaining questions to try an answer. Sinita was speaking to us about her shape-shifting flights-of-fancy, whilst Lee pleaded with the alien visitors to be friendly. Dorothea shared what she would do if she found an inter-dimensional portal under her stairs. John won our Table Topics award for the evening by telling us what happens when he finds an alien curled up on his favourite chair.
Salem provided each of our speakers with feedback on what they did really well and what they can consider for the future. This provided just the type of support, advice and encouragement that we come to expect from Toastmasters evenings. The club voted Salem as the Best Evaluator for the evening.