Mid-August meeting

The meeting began with last year’s President, James Kirkby, presenting Sue Shaw with the Toastmaster of the Year Award, which she was unable to collect on the evening that it was announced.  Sue earned the award for her tireless support of the committee over many years and her willingness to give advice and guidance on pretty much any subject, based on her long experience.

The Toastmaster for the evening was the polished and urbane David Wilson who warmed us up by asking what is on our bucket lists. David also provided the hot tip. He encouraged us to pronounce our names clearly, and explain our jobs succinctly, when we meet people for the first time, in a work or social context, as this will help others to remember us and understand what we do. New member AK took on the Timekeeper role. It was an evening for double-hatting as Na took on both the Grammarian and Ah-counter roles. Members were grateful to AK and Na for stepping up – meetings can’t run without people taking on the roles.

There were two prepared speeches from experienced speakers. Alex Clark shared three near death experiences and explained how he had survived and processed these challenging events into something positive. As usual with Alex, there was more than a smattering of humour, despite the seriousness of the subject matter, and his demonstration of the correct technique for strangling our club President, David Hampton, will live long in the memory. David may think twice about sitting in the front row in future. 

Susan Shaw gave a thought-provoking speech about the hospice movement and end of life care. Susan provided an object lesson in how to present a difficult topic by focusing on positive and uplifting messages about improving the quality of life for the terminally ill. Alex’s speech was evaluated by Margot Glover and Susan’s by Susan Rayner (both former club Presidents). They provided practical tips to improve the speeches as feedback is essential for improving our public speaking.

After the break, the Table Topics Master John Cross set questions on a bookish theme featuring favourite books and book titles. Table topics are short, unprepared speeches which develop our ability to think on our feet. Continuing a remarkable recent trend of success by guests and new members, Nisha, a guest on the night, was voted best Table Topic speaker for her inspiring account of how she bounced back from a difficult time in her life. Our immediate past President, James Kirby then gave an excellent evaluation of all the Table Topic speeches, providing useful recommendations to all the speakers. Another former club President, John Vickers provided a high quality General Evaluation of the evening with a brief to provide feedback to all participants who had not already received an evaluation.

Susan Shaw then encouraged members to sign up for a speech or a Table Topic in the forthcoming Humorous Speech competition and David Hampton provided some concluding observations on another enjoyable evening at Bromley Speakers.


Mixing Old and New: 3rd August Meeting

The smiling Saadia Alege was our welcoming Toastmaster for the meeting. Saadia warmed up the room by asking us for our mindful moments. She introduced her team for the evening: new members Bash and Jason had volunteered for roles at the last minute, Bash as time keeper and Jason as the ah counter. It’s always good to see new members helping out the club by volunteering for roles. The stalwart John Cross was the grammarian, the first time we’d seen this role (designed to highlight good and memorable uses of language) filled since before the pandemic. All gave good explanations of their roles.

It was a meeting for the return of old favourites: Neil Pettigrew was up next with the hot tip. Neil encouraged us to accept our nerves: feel them, notice them and then move on.  A mindfulness technique and one very relevant for dealing with those nerves before speaking in public.

Our prepared speech this evening was delivered by our President David Hampton, with his customary style and panache. David drew a parallel between his approach to playing chess and his experience of public speaking in that both had been choked by nerves, so much so that David gave up playing chess as a young man because he got too stressed. First, under the benign tutelage of Toastmasters, David’s public speaking improved and then, years after giving it up, David started to play chess again. His message was to accept the stress but push yourself to try new things, remember to enjoy yourself and don’t over-prepare. Alex Clark evaluated what was an excellent speech and struggled to suggest how it could be improved.

After the break, Kieran introduced the table topics: short, unprepared speeches on themes provided by the table topics master. Kieran changed the format to paired debates which were very entertaining.  It’s good to experiment and this is a format that went down well on the night and members will want to see again. New member Bash was paired with former club President Margot to debate the relative merits of apples and chocolate: they must have been to the audience’s taste as they were voted best table topic of the night.

David Hampton presents Bash and Margot with their Table Topics award

The multi-tasking John Cross evaluated the table topics (feedback is key to Toastmasters), where he identified the importance of turn-taking when debating, and then provided examples of good uses of language in his insightful grammarian’s report.  We were then treated to a masterly general evaluation of the meeting by David Wilson who provided feedback on those not covered by previous speakers. Our President provided some reflections on the evening and encouraged members to enter the humorous speeches and table topics competition which is coming up next month.


Dave Henson

The power of “yes”

At Bromley Speakers, we give people all sorts of opportunities to develop their communication skills – mainly, delivering prepared or impromptu speeches, or evaluating speeches to guide and encourage other speakers… but there are many other projects you can tackle if you wish, such as writing a blog, moderating a panel discussion or leading a project team.  The common thread that runs through all of these is to have an opportunity outside your workplace to try different challenges and see how you get on, knowing that if it doesn’t go so well, you’ll get help and encouragement to set you up to succeed next time.

So there’s only one thing you need to get the most out of Toastmasters: the ability to say “yes”.

One of our club members who definitely has the habit of saying ‘yes’ is Dave Henson.  Dave has always been ready to volunteer for whatever role is needed in a club meeting – writing a speech, giving an evaluation, devising topics for impromptu speeches or indeed running the whole meeting.  Dave said ‘yes’ the role of club President in 2018-19.  And Dave said ‘yes’ to the challenge to write and perform a stand-up comedy set last year.  He followed that up by saying ‘yes’ to delivering a stand-up gig at a club in Ireland, where he pulled off the remarkable feat of getting an international audience to laugh at his stories about famous people from Bromley (don’t believe it?  The youtube link is here).

So of course, when Dave was asked to write a piece for the Toastmasters magazine, he said ‘yes’.  He’s an expert on making slide presentations deliver a powerful message (see Dave’s website) and put together a great piece, 5 Basic Tips for Effective Slide Presentations

Soon afterwards, Dave was contacted by the Toastmasters International podcast team, Greg Gazin and Ryan Levesque, who had read his piece in the magazine and loved it.  They asked if Dave would do a podcast for Toastmasters, and received the usual reply: “yes”.  So the podcast Breathe Life Into Your Slide Presentations was recorded and (I know you’re way ahead of me already) Diana Passow, Senior Marketing Manager at Toastmasters International said they had heard it and loved it – and would Dave like to give a keynote speech at the Toastmasters International Conference?  Of course, the answer was “yes”, followed by “er… where is it?”.  Suffice to say, Dave was not disappointed to learn that it’s in the Bahamas this year.

So, our own Dave Henson will be giving a keynote speech at the Toastmasters International Convention in the Bahamas, and we’re thrilled for him (and of course, not even slightly jealous…)

It just goes to show where things can lead if you are willing to give things a try.  All you have to do is say “yes”.

Don’t forget to send us a postcard, Dave!