That holiday feeling at our public speaking club

We had the right weather for a typical  English summer holiday on Monday 7th August.  It was raining.  That didn’t stop 13 intrepid Toastmasters and 4 very welcome guests from attending a fun evening at The Winchmore.

John was our Toastmaster of the evening and guided us through the agenda in his friendly and efficient style.  Anna kept us all running perfectly to schedule throughout the evening by gently indicating to everyone when their time was up.  Nadia performed the “ah-erm” counter for the first time.  She helped us all to avoid distracting “filler” sounds and words that detract from our meaning.  Our grammarian was Lee, who was clearly inspired by the weather when thinking of a word of the day: Holidays.  He challenged us all to use the word “holiday” during the evening, or “vacation” if we were so inclined.  The scene was set, and we were ready for our prepared speakers.

Prepared speeches

At each meeting we listen to speeches that our members have prepared.  Our club members use the guidance in the Toastmasters education programme when doing this, and each speech allows the speaker to practice specific skills.

Dorothea spoke first, and Wendy was assigned to introduce her.  Wendy explained that this was Dorothea’s second speech at the club and that she would be focusing on how to structure her speech effectively.  This means making sure that there is a good opening, a well organized body, and then a clear conclusion.  Dorothea spoke to use about “The Mother of all Frustration” – an intriguing topic indeed!  She opened with a story about a husband’s return from work, and led into the quote “expectation is the mother of all frustration” by Antonio Banderas.  She provided examples of where frustrations were felt because expectations were not met.  It was certainly a thought-provoking speech.  Wendy’s evaluation of Dorothea’s speech was clearly well observed.  It was supportive and provided good suggestions about how it could be made even better.

Kavita was up next.  Kavita is a very experienced speaker and this time she was working on her storytelling skills.  She exhorted us to “seize the day”, by sharing a personal story with us.  She talked about a difficult encounter at work, but which worked out well once she had remembered some advice that her father had given her when she was young.  Kavita clearly demonstrated the skills that she has learned so far in her Toastmasters journey, combining clear description with an effective structure and good rhetorical techniques.  Graeme provided feedback to Kavita, including tips on use of the lectern and how her excellent use of descriptive language had enriched the story.

Impromptu speaking

We always have a networking break in the middle of our meeting.  This time people were enjoying the conversation so much that John had his work cut out to get us to reconvene.  Certainly the holiday mood was present.  We settled down eventually though, in anticipation of the fun “Table Topics” portion of the meeting.  At this point, one of our members introduces a topic and invites one of us to speak on the topic for just one or two minutes.  It’s a great opportunity to practice speaking off the cuff and typically leads to some wonderful flights of fancy.  This evening was no exception.

Barbara had come up with some very creative questions for us to answer.  This led to:

  • Salem provided us all with very useful advice about what to do if you find yourself in a scary movie
  • Nadia told us about her exploits in Cuba
  • Katherine imagined what she would do when driving through Arizona
  • Ernest was asked about Puerto Escondido, and deciding it would be much more interesting to talk about a different country instead
  • Lee shared “close encounters” in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Seema tackled the conundrum of what to do if her jeep broke down in the middle of an African safari

We certainly all had a lot of fun.  After everyone had spoken, Rosy provided her thoughts on everything she’d heard and seen.  The ability to think on your feet when providing feedback and encouragement to others is one of the things you learn at the club.  Rosy certainly showed how it was done.

Recognising success

At the conclusion of the evening’s agenda, we all thanked everyone that had contributed to such a good meeting.   Graeme was voted our Best Evaluator and Salem receieved our Best Table Topics award.

One of our guests described the club as one of the town’s best kept secrets.  We’d be inclined to agree!  It’s not a secret on purpose though.  All our welcome to visit us for our fun evenings, so why not visit us?

In short, another fun meeting of the Winchmore Hill Speakers club.  Many of us felt refreshed, as if we’d been on our holidays.  I look forward to the next one!