A full house for festive speaking

Our final meeting of the year was held on 21st December, and what a year it’s been for Bromley Speakers! We’ve welcomed many new members, seen many great ‘Icebreaker’ first speeches, and many inspiring speeches from experienced members. We’ve seen hundreds of short, impromptu ‘Table Topic’ speeches, and many more members taking on roles for the first time.

Our festive meet was indeed a fitting end to the year. We once again enjoyed three prepared speeches, with John’s moving speech, titled ‘The Gift’, winning Best Speech on the night. It elicited an equally moving and inspiring evaluation from Alex, who also nabbed the Best Evaluator award, describing the speech as one of the best he’s ever seen at Toastmasters!

Our annual Bromley Speakers group photo!

After a short break, where copious mince pies were consumed, we enjoyed a festive Table Topics session, where members (and some guests!) gave short, unprepared speeches on festive topics. They were capably evaluated by Kieran, with David H winning the public vote with a speech that taught us an original dance!

The evening was once again an evening of firsts, with many members taking roles for the first time. Kem did a sterling job as Toastmaster, Thomas ran Timekeeping very efficiently, Carol skilfully managed Table Topics, and Bash rounded of the evening with a thorough General Evaluation.

Thanks to everyone involved – 2024 is teeing up to be a bumper year!

KC

An original line up – 2nd November meeting

Thursday’s meeting was a veritable feast, featuring three prepared speeches which each brought something original to the evening. We started with an inspiring speech on membership-building from Alan, our very welcome guest from Beckenham Communicators. Then followed a panel-style speech from Na, which saw our club president David stand up very well to quick-fire questions on Chinese current affairs. Our third speech was an Icebreaker from Carol, who’s moving and personally inspired introductory speech won the audience vote for the evening.

After our usual tea and chat, Bash conducted his first Table Topics session, with each participant given an ‘inspiring phrase’ to muse on for up to two minutes. The people’s vote went once again to a club guest, with Michael picking up the honour. We look forward to welcoming Michael back to have a go at retaining his title at the next meeting!

Club president David presents Michael with his Table Topics award

Alex completed a memorable Table Topics evaluation which succeeded in the challenging task of providing both a recommendation and a commendation to each speaker, with Margot then mirroring that accomplishment in the general evaluation.

David wrapped up the evening with some general club news, including that of an extra festive meeting being added in December. Details to be confirmed but I would bet on mince pies and festive jumpers featuring strongly. 

KC

Meeting October 5th, 2023

October 5th gave us a meeting that few of us will forget for a while.

We had just one speech, from Kieran Mangan. Kieran is not a man for doing something predictable (Kieran’s previoius speeches were his icebreaker based on what he learned from doing a paper-round and a 6 minute explanation of the Time Dilation Effect, part of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity). So we were prepared for something different, and we got it – Kieran shared his knowledge of Sumo wrestling with us, complete with a broad selection of Japanese terms and insight into the lives of some of the champion wrestlers.

The other highlight was Table Topics, where Saadia Alege took an unusual approach – she had pictures of classic (and not-so-classic) cars and asked members in turn to variously describe, sell or critique the car they had been given. What followed was a series of remarkably good responses, with highlights including John Cross describing his misbehaviour in the back seat as a child, cracking debut speeches from new members Tom Daniels and David Murray, and Guy Dennis describing a Nissan sports car with all the credibility of a motoring journalist. Come to Bromley Speakers, we’ll show you how to wing it convincingly!

But then our guest, Alpha, stunned the whole room with his description of the humble 2CV and the role it plays in the life of farmers in his native Ghana. It was informative, poignant and funny all at the same time.

Our thanks go to the evaluators of the evening – Neil Pettgrew who evaluated <Mieran, David Hampton eveluating Table Topics and Guy Dennis who evaluated the evening as a whole – all ably supported by Mohammed Bashiru (aka Bash) on the lights and Susan Rayner counting the ums and ers, Our thanks especially to Na Jiang, who was Toastmaster for the evening and ensured a warm and jovial atmosphere.

Do come and join us for our next meeting on Thursday, October 19th,

Humorous Speech Area Final

Wednesday, 4th October 2023

We’re delighted to report that Bromley Speakers maintained its tradition of success at the Area Final of the Humorous Speech and Table Topics competition, hosted by Lewisham Speakers on October 4th.

Alex Clark (Humorous Speech) and Nisha Munavar (Tab;le Topics) represented our club, and while Nisha was unfortunately not able to maintain her 100% success rate at Topics since joining the club (OK, her winning streak was only two competitions long, but still impressive), Alex Clark left no room for doubt with his reprise of “Date Night Disasters”.

Alex’s tale of falling into a workman’s trench while on his way to a Hot Date really hit the spot with the audience. The fact that the trench had been freshly filled with liquid concrete probably helped with this. The fact that the incident might, years later, be turned into an award-winning humorous speech was probably far from Alex’s mind at the time, but Alex as worked out how to milk every possible laugh from the episode, not least the trail of concrete-crumbs he left as he walked down the street, or the fact that his trousers were able to stand up on their own the next morning.

Alex told his story with energy and charm and, from the perspective of an audience member, there was little doubt who the winner was going to be after he had spoken.

We’re looking forward to the next stage – the Division Final awaits on Sunday, 5th November from 10am to 3pm. It’s free to attend, all you need is this link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84563068470?pwd=VVY5ZHk1T2lQZ3FzZHJtUDdvZElhdz09

Good luck, Alex! And Nisha, keep plugging away, your ability to tackle an impromptu speech from an unexpected angle has blown us all the way and you will surely have even more success in the future.

Humorous Speeches Competition

The meeting on 7th September was one of the highlights of the club year; the humorous speeches competition. Entering competitions is a great way to improve our public speaking skills and is a key part of the Toastmasters’ ethos.

Members were grateful to Sue Shaw and Susan Rayner for taking on the key roles of Contest Chair and Chief Judge and, between them, organising the competition so smoothly. Sue and Susan were supported in their task by members stepping up to take on judging, vote counting and stewarding roles; it would not have been possible to run the competition without them.

First up was David Wilson on ‘Wise Words’. David highlighted the use of buzz words and clichés: how annoying they were and how they can get in the way of effective communication. He conducted a straw poll of the audience and ‘blue sky thinking’ seemed to be our least favourite cliché. He ended by loading his closing remarks with an amusing concentration of clichés.

Next up was Alex Clark who told us a memorable tale of a date night disaster; and what a disaster it was! (the story, that is, not the speech!). The image of Alex waist deep in a trench filled with quick-drying cement and then going home on the train with rigid trousers will linger long in the memory. The only regret on the night is that there were only two entrants; previous years have seen five or six contestants and it would be good to get back to that level, next year. Alex and David were interviewed by Contest Chair, Sue Shaw, and both encouraged members to enter future competitions; its never as bad as you fear and there are great benefits in terms of building confidence and honing speaking skills. Alex got the nod from the judges on the night.

Our competition winners on the night – Nisha, David and Alex.

In the second half of the meeting, we had the humorous table topics competition, with a healthy seven contestants, and it produced some entertaining speeches. The question each contestant was asked was “If you were invisible for 24 hours, what would you do?’  Continuing a remarkable recent run of new members performing strongly in Table Topics, Nisha won on the night. Nisha skillfully examined the terms of the question, shared with us that she had felt invisible for much of her life and encouraged us to be more visible in our lives, rather than hiding in the background. Alex came second and David Wilson, third.

Alex and Nisha will be the club’s representatives in the area contest and we wish them both well. Club President, David Hampton closed the meeting by thanking Sue Shaw for her huge contribution to Bromley Speakers over 12 years at her final evening at the club. Sue has been a stalwart member of the Club, an excellent speaker and she will be missed. We wish her well for the future.

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.

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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.

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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!

For your eyes only … Meeting on July 20th

Another meeting with plenty of guests, some of whom have already signed up as members! The Toastmaster of the evening was the stalwart Neil Pettigrew who steered us through the agenda with his customary skill. John Cross warmed us up by asking us to name our favourite plants, a seasonally appropriate subject.

Bash and Margot – our joint Table Topics winners!

It was good to have three speeches at the meeting for the first time in a while. Saddia gave us a well-structured speech from the leadership pathway on the importance of emotional intelligence and the power of empathy. Alex gave us an entertaining and humorous speech on the history and discreet charm of greyhound racing using strong vocal variety techniques, and Marian gave a speech on stress management using body language skills. Marian’s message was that its good to talk about stress and that we need to be mindful that we may be causing stress to others.  She opened and closed her speech sitting down, quite a daring departure from the norm, which, evidently, appealed to the discerning members and guests as it won best speech!

Feedback is a big part of what we do at Bromley Speakers so Margot Glover evaluated Saadia’s speech, Kieran evaluated Alex’s speech and Guy evaluated Marian’s speech. All three evaluations gave useful suggestions on how each speech could be improved. Kieran’s was voted the best evaluation on the night.

The second half of the meeting featured table topics provided by Thelma (her first time in this role!). Table topics are short, unprepared speeches which develop our skills of thinking on our feet. Thelma’s theme was titles of James Bond films. Unusually, we had joint winners at the meeting: a new member, Bash, gave us an entertaining personal story of how he met his wife when asked to speak on ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Club past president Margot gave an amusing account of tormenting her older brother when asked to speak on ‘Live and Let Die’.

The experienced David Wilson gave an excellent evaluation of all 9 Table Topic speakers. This is one of the most challenging roles at our meetings but David carried it off with ease.

Susan Shaw, one of Club’s most able speakers, then gave a General Evaluation of the meeting: the aim is make sure that every person taking on a role at the meeting receives feedback and an evaluation. Club President, David Hampton, then gave us some closing remarks and sketched our forthcoming club roadmap.

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July 6th Meeting – Sometimes, there is cake!

This meeting was notable for a large number of guests visiting Toastmasters for the first time (they are always very welcome!) and for a couple of innovations introduced by the Toastmaster for the evening, the indefatigable John Cross. It was also John’s birthday: he generously spoiled us all with cake.  After the meeting was called to order by Sergeant at Arms, Christine Morrell, our Immediate Past President, James Kirby, stood in for our new President, David Hampton who had decided to celebrate his elevation by going on holiday.  James reminded members that the Humorous Speeches and Table Topics contest was coming up in the first week of September and encouraged us to get involved: speakers, judges and time-keepers are all needed. Thelma Corkson explained the ah counter’s role. Beatrice gave an entertaining account of the importance of the timekeeper role.

Our Toastmaster for the evening, John Cross, gave us all a good warm up by asking us to name our favourite seaside resort.

Our first speaker, Susan Rayner, gave a humorous speech from the Persuasive Influence pathway, titled ‘Vive La France’. Susan told a funny personal anecdote about a hotel mix-up on a trip to France.  She started strongly with a great analogy comparing France to an older sister: more sophisticated and glamorous but also more annoying! Susan held the audience’s attention and tickled the funny bone with her tale of linguistic confusion.

Our second speaker, the vastly experienced David Wilson, gave us a competition speech titled ‘Words of Wisdom’. It was a witty and enjoyable look at management speak and produced groans of recognition (“going forward’) and laughter (‘Have you noticed how often some people begin sentences with ‘so’?).

At this point, John introduced his first innovation and arranged members into two teams to play the one word at a time game.  It provided some fun and a change to the usual format.  We then returned to the programme and Susan’s speech was evaluated by Alex Clark and David Wilson’s by Na Jiang. Feedback is a key element to the Toastmasters experience and both Alex and Na provided good quality feedback on how the speeches could be made even better.

After a 10 minute break for John’s delicious cake, it was time for the Table Topics session. Table topics are short unprepared speeches that help develop the skills of thinking on our feet. Na Jiang was the Table Topics Master and she set some challenging sales pitches for our impromptu speakers.  A couple of guests stepped up to have a go which is always good to see. Thelma was asked to sell the club stand which she managed with some aplomb. Guy was asked to sell a printed Windows 95 catalogue and rose to the challenge. The winning Table Topic on the night was, however, from Kemi who was asked to sell the contents of his recycling bin. With a straight face, Kemi told us that his recycling bin contained a Lamborghini and he then proceeded to extol the merits of Lamborghini for the rest of this 2 minutes. He demonstrated a clever technique for dealing with awkward table topics: if you don’t like the question set, ask another one and answer that. Remember that you are not on oath when answering table topic questions and there is scope to gild the lily. Former Club President John Vickers gave an excellent evaluation of all the table topics.

Next, there was another departure from the usual format when a new member, Bash, was encouraged to come and give a short icebreaker speech. He read from notes (as I did when I started at Toastmasters) expressing his determination to overcome his fear of public speaking and included a great quote from Mark Twain:  “The secret of getting ahead is getting started”. A sentiment that we could all relate to.  

We then had an insightful General Evaluation from Neil Pettigrew who evaluated all those who had not already been evaluated by the others and some winding up remarks from James.  All in all, another excellent meeting at Bromley Speakers.