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.

Our Year-End Meeting

Thursday June 15, 2023

Post by David Hampton

James hands over the President’s chain of office to David

The Toastmasters year wraps up at the end of June, and so this was a special meeting as the new committee were inaugurated, together with our new President. But this is a speaking club, and there was a lot of speaking to be done before that! So we had a prepared speech from Kieran Mangan, in which he gave us an insight into the strange world of relativity and its potential for time travel (forwards, but not backwards, as it happens), and a skillful evaluation from Alex Clark who spotted some opportunities to add even more punch to a speech that deftly combined physics and humour.

After an extended break to get to know the 8 (or was it nine??) guests, we had a Table Topics session (impromptu speaking in everyday language) led by Neil Pettigrew, who stepped up for the role at the last minute and pulled a dozen thought-provoking ideas out of thin air. Most commented-on were Susan Rayner, who gave what looked like a pre-prepared keynote on the issues of animal cruelty in zoos, and Chichi Onah who was asked how it felt to be a nervous speaker, and gave us a warm and thoughtful description of how it feels to experience nerves in front of an audience. You could have heard a pin drop; no wonder she was voted the best impromptu speaker of the night.

Guy Dennis had the job of evaluating these mini-speeches. He praised their strong points but still managed to come up with insightful recommendations for everyone, which will help them develop and gain confidence.

Saadia Alege wrapped up the regular meeting with her General Evaluation (Saadia’s first time evaluating the evaluators – not that you would know from her confident and lively presentation) – her job being to look for ways in which we can continue to improve the way that we guide and encourage our members.

At the conclusion, James handed over the reins to me. James has led the club capably and confidently, and has always set a lively and positive tone to the meetings. He will be highly valued on the new committee as the Immediate Past President. The rest of the team is: Na Jiang (Vice President of Education), Saadia Alege (Vice President of Membership), John Cross (Treasurer), Susan Rayner (Secretary), Guy Dennis, (Vice President, Mentoring) and Margot Glover and Christine Morrell (jointly, Sargeant at Arms).

I tried my best to sum up what this wonderful club is like, for the benefit of our many welcome guests: Chichi spoke for many of us when she described the all-too-human fear of getting up in front of a group to speak, and Susan Rayner showed what can be achieved, with practice and encouragement. Guy demonstrated how that transformation happens – friendly, helpful advice on how to improve. Saadia showed that roles which seem daunting can be tackled well, even when it’s your first time, if you’re willing to give it a go. And Neil demonstrated the confidence that comes from the Toastmasters experience, giving him the ability to say “yes” when handed a task with very little notice, and carry it off as if he had been given a week to prepare.

That, for me, sums up what Toastmasters, and Bromley Speakers in particular, is all about

Impromptu Speaking At Its Finest

Thursday September 1, 2022

Post by David Hampton

Margot’s bag of surprises

Each meeting, we practice speaking off-the-cuff. It’s a fantastic skill to develop, whether for work or socially. Members are given a subject to speak about for one to two minutes – no preparation whatsoever, just go. We call these mini speeches “Table Topics” – nobody knows quite why.

I’ve been at Bromley Speakers for 20 years and I have seen all sorts of creative themes for Table Topics in that time. Margot Glover’s session on Thursday was one of the best. She had a suitcase containing all sorts of items, from the useful to the silly, and each person who came up to speak was invited to have a rummage, pick something from the suitcase and then sell it to us. Pink cowgirl hat with integrated tiara? We were sold on that. Giant Elvis sunglasses? Demand was so high we had to have an auction. And our lovely caretaker at Ripley Arts Centre even joined in – she sat at the back to see what this meeting was all about and ended up selling us a multi-coloured towel.

It’s all in the name of skill development of course, but we’re allowed to have fun in the process, and we certainly did that. The highlight, and winner of the vote for the best Topic of the evening, was John Cross selling us a portable compressor. He had the idea of turning this into a home shopping advert and – I’ve never seen this done in Table Topics before – invited another member, James Swift, to come up and help him explain the virtues of his compressor. The two of them latched onto each other’s wavelength immediately and it would have been utterly convincing as a Home Shopping Channel advert if it hadn’t been so funny. I’ll take my pink hat off to that.

Many thanks for a really entertaining session, Margot!

Worthy winners congratulated by our President, James Kirkby

Year End Awards and Committee Handover

Thursday 2nd July

Post by Deborah Goodman

In the good old days, before Covid-19 locked us down and prevented face-to-face meetings at Ripley Arts Centre, Bromley Speakers always had its annual committee handover and awards ceremony at a dinner celebration.

But of course these are unprecedented times and that was not possible this year. But did we let this pandemic hold us back? No, of course not. As we have done since this situation unfolded back in March, we adapted to the ‘New Normal’ and gathered online for our celebratory event. We dressed up as if we were meeting at the hotel and many of the members made their own cocktail in celebration of the successful year we were leaving behind and the exciting year ahead of us.

Sue Shaw led the warm-up and asked us all to name our cocktails and tell us who we would like to share them with. There were some very imaginative concoctions and some even more imaginative names.

The handover of the Chain of Office was filmed (on a very windy day) and expertly edited by our Zoommaster, David Henson at Ripley Arts Centre, where our meetings usually take place. The ‘socially distanced’ video was shown at the online meeting and it was a creative and imaginative way of handing over the chain in lockdown.

The ceremonial Chain of Office is a piece of Bromley Speakers history. It has a pin on it representing every President that has held the office at the club since it began in 1992. The Chain of Office now has 29 pins on it, up to and including Margot Glover.

An excerpt from the handover of Past President, Christine Morrell

“It is with a lot of sadness that I realise that my President’s year is coming to an end. But it is with great pleasure that I hand over the ceremonial Chain of Office to our new President, Margot Glover.

I hope you wear it with as much pride as I have done. I wish you and your committee every success with leading Bromley Speakers in the coming year. Leading us out of lockdown to the new era that we are all so looking forward to. My advice to you is quite simple. Have fun, enjoy every minute of it. You have an absolutely outstanding committee and I know that you are going to be a wonderful President.”

An excerpt from the acceptance by President, Margot Glover

“I’ve heard a lot about this chain, and how much it weighs. I can assure you, it’s not light. But the weight of this chain isn’t just down to its physicality. The challenge I face, which is heavy, is to meet the standard of all the names on these gold badges that have gone before.

While I have been a member of Bromley Speakers, the presidents I have seen (Sue Rayner, Dave Henson and Christine Morrell) have carried out the role with an extreme amount of professionalism and panache.

It’s a heavy challenge that I face and I couldn’t do it alone. I’ve got a fabulous committee joining me in the shape of Sue Shaw, James Kirkby, John Cross, Ben Lopez, John Vickers and Adrian Clay and I am really looking forward to moving the club into the next year.

It is with great pleasure that I take this challenge and I make my promise to you, my friends and Bromley Speakers that I will do my best to take our club forward. I will do my best to support you, individually and collectively, so that we all move to meet the goals of Toastmasters International.”

The Merit Awards

As is our custom at the end of the Toastmasters year, Christine handed out Merit Awards. The recipients of these awards received the award certificates in the post, along with a book chosen by Christine. Christine also thanked and praised the outgoing Committee and club members for all they had done to help Bromley Speakers achieve the coveted President’s Distinguished Status. Committee members also received a welcome bar of ‘Thank You’ chocolate in the post. Awards went to the following members:

Toastmaster of the Year – David Henson

Mentor of the Year – Sue Shaw

Rising Star – Harry Langley

Rising Star – John Vickers

Outstanding Contribution – Deborah Goodman

Most Inspirational Member – Rob Parker

Most Dedicated Member – Susan Rayner

The Educational Awards

Susan Rayner, the outgoing VP Education presented the following Educational Awards were achieved throughout the year:

Competent Communicator – Margot Glover
Competent Communicator and Competent Leader – John Vickers
Competent Leader – Christine Morrell
Advanced Communicator Silver – David Hampton
Presentation Mastery Level 1 – Ben Lopez
Presentation Mastery Level 1 – Deborah Goodman
Presentation Mastery Level 1 – Rob Parker
Presentation Mastery Level 1 – Vinu Madhavan
Presentation Mastery Levels 2 and 3 – John Cross

Member Neil Pettigrew also completed Presentation Mastery Level 2 and was awarded his certificate at Beckenham Communicators club, of which he is also a member.

Well done to everyone who achieved their awards!

John Cross led the Table Topics in the second half of the meeting and, as usual, some stayed online to join in the after-meeting ‘pub’ chat.

So, it is with eager anticipation of our return to Ripley that we continue into our 29th Year with our new committee and new President Margot Glover at the helm.

The PR role is currently vacant and we are hoping that it will be filled soon. It’s a fun and fulfilling role so do let the committee know if you are interested to learn more about it. As Susan Rayner is always telling us ….


You will be supported by a great team.

After the year we have had, we have learned to expect the unexpected. Whatever happens, we will find a way through it – supporting each other as friends and as a team.

Bromley Speakers Club meets on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursdays of the month at 7.15pm

The Final Meeting of the Toastmasters Year – 18th June 2020

The final meeting of the Toastmasters year, before the handover to the new committee, was opened by our Zoommaster David Henson, who then handed the meeting over to our President, Christine Morrell.

Christine, who was wearing the President’s chain, gave an inspiring introduction to the group. When Christine joined Bromley Speakers, around three years ago, she had no idea that she would be fronting the club as our President. With the encouragement of her mentor she took on the role and in those three years she has climbed completely out of her comfort zone and taken on challenges above and beyond what she ever expected.

As Christine’s term of office comes to an end, she told us how she has expanded her horizons way beyond learning to speak in public. She has learned a lot about resilience and about her own strengths and weaknesses. She has made great friends, not only at Bromley Speakers but with the Presidents of other Toastmasters clubs.

Christine has probably had one of the most challenging years as President since the club started. Because of the lockdown she was tasked with taking the meetings online and with the help of the committee (mostly David Henson to be fair) the online meetings were up and running in just a few days. Christine has continued to boost morale at the club with her enthusiasm and energy and the club has benefitted greatly from her unwavering loyalty and input.

It has been an absolute pleasure to serve on the committee with Christine at the helm and I am sorry that her year in office has come to an end. However, she will continue to support the new President, Margot Glover, in her role as Past President in the coming year.


Our Toastmaster for the evening was Susan Rayner. Susan has been incredibly busy this year helping members to achieve their goals and objectives as well as taking on other busy roles in Toastmasters. I really don’t know how she does it all!

As it was our last meeting of the Toastmasters year, Susan gave the evening the theme of ‘flowers’, assigning a flower to each speaker, giving us clues as to what the flowers might be.

David Henson fully embracing the flower theme


The warm-up was led by Neil Pettigrew, with the topical subject of walking. Most of us are going for a daily walk whilst being in lockdown and working (or not working) from home. Neil wanted to know where our favourite local place to walk was.

It turns out that most of us are lucky enough to have a beautiful green space quite close by to our homes. And thankfully, Ade and David Henson are within walking distance of a different kind of wood – One In The Wood! (That’s a local bar that does take-aways for those who don’t know.)

Hot Tip

Robert Parker presented his Hot Tip with professional expertise. He talked about how to overcome the need to use ‘ahs and ums’ when speaking. He suggested that we use pauses – as it shows that we are thinking – and to believe in what we are saying. He also suggested keeping a log of our ‘ahs and ums’ for a few weeks and to note the changes to enable us to trim them down in future talks.

Prepared Speeches

Our first prepared speech was from John Vickers who delivered a speech entitled ‘Running to Toastmasters’. John told us how he discovered his love for running at 12 years old and how he went from training three times a week to completely losing interest. Thankfully John’s running bug was reignited after going to watch the London Marathon and he went on to complete the Brighton Marathon 18 years after first starting to run.

John used a clever comparison between his running and his Toastmasters’ journey. He told us that being VP of Mentoring was his 100m race and that Pathways was his Marathon. He completed his speech by asking us ….

What is going to be your next 100m race and when are you going to do your marathon?

Evaluator Sue Shaw said that this was an engaging speech with great structure and a good conclusion. The subject connected with the audience and we are pleased that John stuck with his Toastmasters’ journey!

The second prepared speech was from John Cross entitled ‘I promise it won’t be boring’. John used slides to get his message across to us and it worked really well on Zoom.

John opened with this quote from David Bowie.

I don’t know where we’re going but I promise that it won’t be boring.

He talked about ways in which to be creative and gave us three examples of creative people who lived locally to Bromley. The first was William Morris who was, John said, a champion of diversity and an experimental artist. The second was singer Siouxsie Sioux, and the third was David Bowie – both very creative and unique individuals.

Evaluating John was Margot Glover, who told us that John had some good examples of famous local people.

Our third speaker was David Hampton with a hilarious speech entitled ‘A Stitch in Time’. David told us about a delicate operation he had undergone and it was such a shame that we had our mics turned off because the laughter would have been great to hear. 

In Richard Green’s evaluation of David, he said that the speech was a masterpiece of comedy. There were some very funny moments with double-entendres and it was full of suggestion and wit.

Table Topics

The Table Topics session was run by Caroline Jeffery and was as entertaining as ever with some very unusual and clever questions. As Richard moved away from the toilet to a more ‘convenient’ location, Eddie managed to avoid getting arrested. Rajesh told us a moving story about his hero and Cecilia held the world’s attention for 60 seconds. These were just a few of the answers to a whole list of topics from Caroline.

Well done to the deserving award winners who will receive their certificates in the post.

Best Speaker, David Hampton
Best Evaluator, Richard Green
Best Table Topic, Rajesh Deshmukh

Other Roles

Table Topics Evaluator, David Wilson
General Evaluator, Cecillia Mbullah
Timekeeper, Ben Lopez
Ah counter, Rajesh Deshmukh
Grammarian, David Henson

VPPR’s Note

As the Toastmasters year comes to a close, this will be my final blog as VPPR. I hope that you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have loved writing them.

I have worked alongside the best team possible and I shall miss being part of that team (Christine Morrell, David Henson, Susan Rayner, Vinu Madhavan, John Vickers, Susan Shaw and James Kirkby). I would like to thank them all for their support, encouragement and help throughout the year, particularly Christine Morrell and David Henson. I could not have done it without them. They are true Champions.

Being on the committee is extremely rewarding and it has been a wonderful experience. The whole committee has pulled together and worked extremely hard this year to ensure that the club runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible, especially through these difficult times. 

The club members have also been extremely supportive and it is a joy to know them.

The New Committee

At the beginning of July we will welcome the new committee, who I am sure will do just as good a job, and I wish them all the very best.

President, Margot Glover
Vice President Education, Susan Shaw
Vice President Membership, John Vickers
Vice President Public Relations, Vacant
Secretary, John Cross
Treasurer, James Kirkby
Sargeant at Arms, Ben Lopez
Mentoring, Adrian Clay

Club Member Interview

PR Officer Deborah Goodman Interviews Bromley Speakers member, John Vickers

Hi John, thanks for giving this interview. It’s great to have you with us at Bromley Speakers Club. I’d like to kick this off by asking you what do you do for your job?

Hi Deborah. I head up the client services team of eight account managers at an online advertising network.

That sounds like a busy role. Were you a Toastmaster before you joined Bromley Speakers or is this the only club you have been a member of?

No, it’s not my first club actually. When I lived in Ealing, I tried Hammersmith Athenians and I attended Trojan Toastmasters in Ealing for a couple of months back in 2012, completing my first Ice Breaker. 

I liked that Ealing Trojans meetings were early in the week (I think they held their meetings every Monday) so by Tuesday I felt very productive. 

When I moved to Bromley I tried Bromley Speakers, but I was not in the right frame of mind at the time. It took me two more goes until it took hold at the end of 2016. Even then, I took a 9-month break from it. I saw how people had progressed when I came back, which really showed me how much I had missed by not attending. So now I make it a point to attend Toastmasters whenever I can, even if I do not feel like it.   

“I don’t think I have ever regretted attending a meeting, but I certainly have regretted avoiding one”

That’s interesting that you say that. Yes, we don’t realise how much we are missing out when we don’t attend the meetings. I’m so glad that you came back and that you are finding it beneficial. How long have you been at Bromley Speakers club now?

It’s been three and a half years, including the 9-month break.

That’s longer than me. I’ve been here about a year less than you. I know why I joined, but I’d like to hear why you wanted to join Toastmasters.

I have been in B2B (Business to Business) sales for most of my working life, which you would think meant I could speak to people. Unfortunately though, I am introverted and I have almost always had a phobia of public speaking, never liking the limelight. I was able to work well on a one-to-one basis, but put me in front of a group and I would crumble. 

As I grew professionally, I didn’t want a fear of public speaking to hold me back in my career. There was one time during my nine-month break when I was afraid to pick up the phone, which is not a good ‘feature’ for a sales person.

“So, rather than change careers, I decided to deal with it”

That’s brave of you. We often only seek help to improve ourselves when we feel that we can’t carry on the way things are. When it gets so bad that we HAVE to do something!

And so now you’ve been with us for over 3 years, can you tell me some of the things that you like or love about being in Toastmasters and in Bromley Speakers specifically?

Yes, of course. When I first started, I was a little suspicious, thinking Toastmasters was a multilevel marketing scheme! Over time, my barriers have broken down and now I feel different. I love the fact that everyone at Bromley Speakers (and Toastmasters) is looking to improve themselves, either with public speaking or leadership. Every single role in Bromley Speakers is taken up by volunteers – it’s a very positive environment to make friends. 

Thanks, I feel the same way about the friendship aspect at Bromley Speakers actually. People are so supportive and I get a real sense of genuine friendship with no competitiveness or unhealthy judgements in the club. I really miss the face-to-face meetings at the moment, although the online meetings are working really well.

There’s a busy schedule at Toastmasters meetings. What do you think about the format of the meetings?

I like the format of the meetings; having the speeches first, then the evaluations and lastly the Table Topics. I have attended other club meetings and the Table Topics session was at the beginning which meant some members left before the prepared speeches!

I’ve never heard of it being that way around before. What do you think about the Table Topics sessions?

When I first started, Table Topics terrified me, I barely made it to 30 seconds first of all.  Sitting in the audience, waiting to be called up to speak about a topic for 1-2 minutes felt like The Hunger Games. The sigh of relief by not being selected, it felt I could live for another day. I even started to take on meeting roles just so there was less chance of being picked for a topic! 

Then, over time, I realised this was holding me back and I worked out how to handle Table Topics, which is to ALWAYS put my name down.

By practicing each meeting, my impromptu speaking has improved considerably and I almost look forward to Table Topics now.

That is an incredible strategy, good for you! I think it’s very brave of you and I commend you for that.

In what other ways has Bromley Speakers helped you with your work and social life?

Bromley Speakers has given me a lot more confidence to speak in front of people, and also with leading my team. I even used some of the warm-ups from the club with my own team meetings. The impromptu storytelling (where everyone says a word to make a story) makes a regular showing.  During lockdown, I have three Zoom video calls a day with my team as well as weekly client calls.  The experience, advice and feedback I have received from Bromley Speakers has meant I’ve been more confident with the calls. Bromley Speakers recently organised two actors who presented a workshop which has helped me with video calls, and Dave Henson’s slide presentation course has helped with looking at presentations differently.

I do like it when we have a workshop, I learn so much more from them.

We’ve talked about the positive impact that Toastmasters has had on you but have you found any negative aspects to being in the club?

The one negative thing I have found from Toastmasters is that I notice when other people haven’t been trained in public speaking, especially with ‘ums and ahs’. I attend trade shows and exhibitions, where talks are given. I want to give out flyers for Toastmasters to help these extremely talented people improve their delivery! Toastmasters and Bromley Speakers has helped me become a more considered and thoughtful speaker.

That could be considered a positive though because it means that you are much more aware of your own ‘ums and ahs’. But it must be a bit grating when you are more aware when others do it! You could be focusing more on the ‘ums and ahs’ than the talks! Maybe we should get T-Shirts made with ‘Join Toastmasters and become a better communicator, ask me for details’ on them!

Being a member of Toastmasters often helps people with their personal relationships. Have you seen any benefits in this area at all?

I’d like to think my relationship with my family has also improved by me attending Bromley Speakers. I hopefully take ‘feedback’ better from my wife, and I try to be more considerate when giving advice to my son. Explaining to him about how I have felt when giving speeches has helped him manage his own stage fright!

That is just priceless, I love that. By taking on the role of evaluator, we really improve our listening skills and people usually listen more to their loved ones, sometimes without even realising they are doing it. It seems that you have a very good awareness of your communication skills.

An important part of the meetings is the feedback. What do you learn from the feedback, do you find it helpful?

When I first started Toastmasters, I found the feedback to be quite tough to take onboard – not really understanding that Toastmasters is a ‘safe space’ to fail – and by failing in Toastmasters, it makes me stronger outside of it. 

The thing everyone needs to remember with Toastmasters, is that everyone is learning, including the evaluators. Just because one person picks up on an aspect of your speech, it doesn’t mean that others see the same thing.  It also helped me to have my mentor, Susan Rayner, giving me another point of view. 

With regards to receiving evaluations, I have asked myself this question: ‘how did I feel when someone said X to me? Could I word it better?’. This has helped me soften my feedback as sometimes I feel that it can be quite direct.

I totally agree John. Feedback is given from people’s own perspective and level of knowledge and we can take on board what we think is valuable to us and helpful. Every bit of feedback is given as helpful advice and its purpose is to help us to grow, to become better speakers and better leaders. It wouldn’t be helpful to us not to receive honest feedback and that’s the whole point of it all. But no-one likes to be told that they could have done better, even if they know it.

At Toastmasters, taking on board feedback is another learning for us. To actually listen to it, think about it and apply what we feel is helpful is very valuable. It’s a skill that a lot of people outside of Toastmasters would benefit from in general life I think.

Bearing this in mind, would you say that you find the club welcoming, friendly, supportive and helpful?

YES! Everyone is so welcoming and friendly; there is a great supportive atmosphere where everyone has come to learn and give their time.  

I can see that Bromley Speakers is extremely beneficial to your life, and it is also fun and friendly. What else do you do for fun?

Pre- or during-lockdown? Pre-lockdown, I enjoyed spending time at the gym, relaxing for hours on end in the sauna or swimming with my 7-year-old son.  Now, it’s lots of sci-fi reading, online learning (such as LinkedIn learning or TED talks), podcasts, walking the dog or trying to do some exercise. I have started to learn the electric guitar but I think that’ll be something for the long haul as I am not naturally musical.

I think we are all missing a lot of what we used to love. It sounds like you are very resourceful and utilising your time well.

A year ago you took on a committee role and the club is grateful to you for that. The club would not exist if it were not for the committee so it’s important that we have people volunteer to help run the club. You have just signed up for a second year on the committee. How have you found the experience and what has been your role this past year?

I have been on the committee for 2019-2020, being the Club Secretary and VP Mentoring. The Club Secretary helps to manage the admin of the club, keeping records up to date in Easyspeak and taking meeting minutes. The VP Mentoring role helps with matching mentees and mentors for the club.  It’s been a ‘year of two halves’. I was initially taken aback with how much happens behind the scenes; the hard work the committee puts in for the running of the club, the competitions and also the club officer training.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic happened in the UK. The committee changed to cope with this – initially from discussions about whether we should continue to shake hands in face-to-face meetings, through to online Zoom meetings, supporting members during this time and working out how to ensure the club continues to meet. My role has been small but I have been incredibly impressed with how the committee pivoted, and we have even seen attendance increase during this time! I am looking forward to taking on the larger role of VP Membership next year.

You’ve done a great job John, with TWO roles! Have you been on any other committees in the past for anything else?

No, this year is the first time I have been on a committee.

That’s great, thank you for helping the club in this way John.  Is there any advice you would give to other members or anyone thinking of joining Toastmasters?

If you are struggling, please get a mentor. A mentor can help with everything from just one speech to the whole of your Toastmasters journey. My mentor, Susan Rayner, has been very supportive and I have found it incredibly helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off, as well as give me feedback. 

Also, take up as many leadership roles as you can. I created a to-do list of all the roles I wanted to complete, ticking them off each time. I knew I had cracked it when I was Contest Chair for the International Speech Contest in 2019 – it might not have been my best performance, but I learnt so much from the experience, including how understanding other members are when things go wrong!

That is great advice and I hope that the people reading this will take it on board. Thank you and well done for taking on the role of Contest Chair. I think that this has been an incredible year for you at Bromley Speakers!  Do you have any final words for us John?

The initial clubs I tried were a little too early on my path to Toastmasters. My heart will always be at Bromley Speakers. Completing an Ice Breaker is one thing, but getting truly involved with Toastmasters with leadership roles is very different.

I always learn much more about my fellow members through conducting these interviews. Thank you so much for your time, honesty and openness John. I wish you the very best for another great year at the club and on the committee.

Headcount – an instance of counting the number of people present

By Deborah Goodman VPPR

The Coronavirus lockdown is now in its eighth week and as many Toastmasters clubs are becoming more and more adept at holding their meetings online, there has never been a better time to use the word ‘headcount’ to describe the number of people present at our meetings.

Once again, we had a busy room at Bromley Speakers on Thursday with the ‘headcount’ reaching 25. We were delighted to welcome as guests, no less than four past Presidents of Bromley Speakers – Winston Marshall, Edwin Woodger, Joe De Souza and Roman Klimczak. What an honour it was to have them with us.

We also had another five ex-Presidents who are still club members with us in the room, namely David Henson, Susan Rayner, Richard Green, Jenny Taggart and Neil Pettigrew. That means that we had a total of NINE past Presidents in one room!

Edwin Woodger was a particularly special guest as he actually founded the club at his home 28 years ago in 1992. Edwin was joining us from Essex where he is in lockdown with his children and grandchildren and this is a great example of where online meetings or hybrid meetings could be a useful tool in the future, even after this crisis is over. What a great opportunity it was to meet him and we thank all of our special guests for joining us.

As our President Christine Morrell was unfortunately having a bit of difficulty with her sound, our VPE Susan Rayner took the opportunity to tell us about the Pathways rollout. This will be implemented from 1st July and everyone is required to be registered on it by then. Susan is running training sessions on Basecamp and Pathways, and she kicked this off with a beginner’s guide to Basecamp on Saturday.

Despite Christine’s audio challenges, she did manage to deliver an uplifting message, reminding us all that we have embraced the lockdown challenge and that our leadership team is the best. I have to agree with her on that, we have an extremely supportive committee and our leaders in the Area, Division and District have also been enthusiastic and supportive. She reassured us that, not only will we survive but that we will THRIVE!

It is time now to renew our committee and we are still asking for three roles to be filled.

* Vice President Public Relations
* Vice President Education
* Sergeant at Arms

Although we won’t be able to hold our traditional annual dinner at the beginning of the new Toastmasters’ year in July, the new committee will hand over online and there will be a big celebration as soon as possible when lockdown is over.

Christine introduced Cecilia Mbullah, our Toastmaster.

“She lights up the room and will bring a sparkle to our online world this evening.”

Cecilia certainly did light up the room with her charisma and enthusiasm and did a great job of running her first online meeting as Toastmaster.

Her helpers for the evening were:

Timekeeper – Jenny Taggart
Ah Counter – Deborah Goodman
Warm up – Caroline Jeffrey
Hot Tip – Karen Mefflin

Karen’s Hot Tip for the evening was to talk about something we are passionate about when delivering a speech, and not to bombard the audience with too much information.

Prepared Speeches

We had two prepared speeches, delivered by Vinu Madhavan and Richard Green.

Black Gold by Vinu Madhavan

Presentation Mastery #1-4 – Researching and Presenting

Vinu Madhavan had a strong opening and engaged the audience from the start with her question, ‘who composts?’

Her speech, as you may have guessed, was about her journey from not composting, to creating her own ‘black gold’ compost.

She used a banana skin as a prop and the visual on screen worked well. Vinu always litters her speech (sorry, couldn’t resist that one!) with excellent visual phrases such as ‘the landfill is an endless sea of rubbish’, which I thought was a great description.

Vinu gave us some statistics such as ‘28% of rubbish is food waste’. She told us how she made her own composter (well done Vinu) and she gave us a call to action at the end to get composting our food waste. It was a brilliant, well thought out and well-rehearsed speech.

Just One More Week by Richard Green

Presentation Mastery #1-3 – Evaluation and Feedback – 2 (5:00-7:00 min).

Richard Green, as usual, was engaging and effervescent when delivering his speech about his enjoyment of being in lockdown and the benefits it brings. His speech was not only jam-packed with comedy but also conveyed some important messages.

Richard told us how his pride soars each Thursday at 8pm when he goes outside his house to beat his saucepan in a tribute to the NHS and carers.

He reminded us how the planet is starting to recover and he joked that even Greta Thunberg has raised a smile! It was a joke, but also an important truth and time in history.

Richard was relishing the fact that the world has slowed down. He said that we are all ‘walking at a wonderful pace’ and I loved that description of a slower pace of life. Many of us have wished for things to slow down a bit and Richard reminded us to be careful what we wished for.

He pointed out to us that people have now re-connected with nature as they are enjoying the great outdoors and that he has even become a tree-hugger. People have discovered new hobbies and we have all had to get ‘tech-savvy’ to continue connecting with each other.

Richard asked the question that is on most people’s minds right now.

“How am I going to fit it all in when they let me out?”

I think he was right when he said that we will look back on this period with ‘lockdown nostalgia’ and again, I love his use of language. He left us with this final plea:

Our speech evaluators for the evening were John Cross and Neil Pettigrew.

Table Topics

Out Table Topics Master was Susan Shaw who did a great job of handing out some great topics. The Table Topics winner was one of our distinguished guests, Joe De Souza with his emotional tale of ‘love is blind’.

David Hampton evaluated the topics from his treadmill, as he didn’t get a chance to do his daily exercise. David is one of those who is lucky (or unlucky depending on your point of view) to be working as hard as ever at this time.

David Wilson was our General Evaluator for the meeting and he preceded Christine who wrapped up the meeting with the award for best Table Topic. As there were only two speeches on Thursday, there was no vote for the best speaker or evaluator.


This is a time of great uncertainty for many and there is so much being spoken about the current situation. One positive thing that has happened to me is that I have got to know my neighbours after we celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE day on Friday. I’ve lived in my street for 22 years and only knew my immediate neighbours up to now. We are now benefitting greatly from our newly-found local friendships at this time.

Celebrating VE Day with social distancing in household couples

Celebrating history reminds me that these blogs will now become a part of our current history. A record of how Covid-19 affected the people of England and not only the situation that Toastmasters members find themselves in with having to meet online, but a record of events through the topical speeches that have been delivered through this period, at the club.

Vinu’s speech is particularly apt at this time of re-adjustment. People who have time on their hands are clearing out their houses as the refuse centres and boot fairs are closed. People are recycling and upcycling more than ever and are leaving items outside their houses for others to take. Just yesterday I acquired some books, a small table and chairs, a blackboard and a light for my great niece from a lady in my road who I didn’t even know a week ago and I have heard many similar stories.

Richard’s speech was a record of how the lockdown has changed us for the better. He focused on the positive aspects of slowing down and having more time to do the things we love and how our essential services and those who work in them are more valued than ever.  Life for many has become more and more stressful in recent years and people are now beginning to realise that what we are missing is not our material possessions but our family and friends. 

Bromley Speakers meets every 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursday of each month. Guests are welcome to join us in our online meetings.

Speaking and Slide Presentation Masterclass

Date and Time:
Apr 30, 2020 18:45 (GMT)

Instead of our usual meeting on Thursday, we have a different and very exciting event on Zoom – a speaking and slide presentation masterclasses!

Join us to get top insights from three leading experts in this valuable session.

Part One

Actor and Effective Communication Coach, Stu Goodwin helps leaders achieve confidence, integrity and clarity by focusing on vocal technique, body language and bringing content delivery to life.

Stu will be joined by Actor and Writer Simon Thorpe to talk about how to use your voice when speaking online as well as how to appear professional in front of the camera.

Stu Goodwin

Part Two

David Henson, The Slide Presentation Man, will show you how to create slides that will WOW your audience and make your presentations engaging, empowering and effective whether speaking online or in-person.

We are so lucky to have them all with us on Thursday to share their knowledge and skills and this is a not-to-be-missed one-off event – so please make sure that you register for it.

David Henson

You must register to join us. Register using the link below.


Please note that this is a different registration number to our usual online meetings.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Click, Zoom – We’re In The Room!

Bromley Speakers held another successful online meeting on Thursday (17th April) with 27 members and 2 guests in attendance.

Ah Counter Alain Culos displays the Bromley Speakers Background


The Zoommaster is a newly-created role in response to the current situation of holding our meetings online. Our talented Zoommaster was David Henson who works hard behind the scenes to make these online meetings happen, for which we are all thankful.

Success story

David explained the protocol of the meeting before our President Christine Morrell welcomed us with her own success story of how, only six weeks ago, she would have avoided online meetings like the plague (or more aptly like the Coronavirus – I wonder if that saying will now be changed forever!) but, because of having no option but to deliver the Toastmasters meetings online, she has now hosted two successful online events this week in her daytime work environment.

She enthused that she has Toastmasters to thank for this achievement as it’s such a supportive environment to learn and practise in.


Our Toastmaster for the evening was Vinu Madhavan. Christine commented that she has seen Vinu blossom and grow in the three years that she has been with Bromley Speakers and I have to agree. She takes on the roles with gusto and confidence and made us laugh when she told us how she has learned a new skill in the lockdown – that of a hairstylist, cutting her husband’s hair. I wonder how many people are turning their hand to this new pastime?


Caroline Jeffrey is another member who throws herself into the roles with enthusiasm. She relishes an opportunity to get involved and led the warm-up by asking us if we are a ‘sweet or savoury’ person and, as such, what are our favourite sweet or savoury dishes? We discovered that we are a mixed bunch of sweet, savoury or a combination of both. I thought that was a great idea for a warm-up, leaving some of us a little peckish at the thought of lemon meringue pie, chips and crisps!


James Kirkby expertly kept the timing in check, using the Toastmasters-created backscreen colours for the first time and they worked extremely well.

Prepared speeches

Our first prepared speaker was Ben Lopez with a speech entitled ‘The Magic of Isolation – Aren’t We The Lucky Ones’. It was just what we needed to focus on the positives of the ‘stay at home’ situation we find ourselves in, so a great choice of speech at this time of uncertainty – oops, I mean opportunity!

Ben shared with us his experience of home schooling his children and how he decided to ensure that the lockdown situation would be a positive experience for his family. We chuckled when he told us that his children had invented a new game of ‘throw the beanbag at Dad’ and how his diet had gone out of the window! He told us that being creative and working with ‘what we have’ has been a positive experience and that they have connected with more friends and family than ever. Ben has been passing on the positivity to friends and family around the world and it was a very uplifting talk. He finished on a high with a message of ‘never, never, never give up!

And on that note, we had a break and joined our neighbours outside to clap our appreciation for the NHS workers. Some of us could hear Eddie’s trumpet as he blasted it in the street and when we came back online Richard had a little strum on his guitar and David Henson also gave us a snippet of insight into his talent on his mandolin. It was a bit of light-hearted fun before we resumed the meeting.

Some of our multi-talented members entertained us

Back to the task in hand, the next speech was delivered by Margot Glover and it was entitled ‘Not Smart’. At Toastmasters we work through a manual or a pathway with guidelines on which type of talks to deliver. Margot’s speech was from the Competent Communication Manual #9 – Persuade With Power.

Her remit was to persuade her listeners to adopt a viewpoint or ideas, or to take some action; Appeal to the audience’s interests; Use logic and emotion to support the position; Avoid using notes.

Margot told us that the original speech she prepared wasn’t appropriate to deliver in these challenging times, so she adapted her speech to tell us what she had learned from using online meeting tools. This was:

1. Before you start an online meeting, whatever type it is, you need to:

  • Check your equipment and make sure it’s all in working order
  • Check your position on the screen
  • Check your background is suitable
  • Dress appropriately for the meeting
  • Comb your hair, put your make-up on – act the same as if you were going to a face-to-face meeting in this regard
  • Think about your gestures – don’t point at the camera

2. Use your new skills to help others

For many of us, this is a brand new way of working and the information from Margot’s speech is really helpful and it’s great to be reminded of what works well and what doesn’t. Margot reminded us that online meetings may well continue to be the norm after the lockdown and so these Toastmasters meetings will hold us all in good stead going forward.

Margot definitely practised what she preached. She was well-positioned within her camera vision, she looked smart, we could see and hear her well and…. she’d combed her hair!

The speeches this week were, not surprisingly, about our current situation and our third speaker, John Cross followed in the same vein with his speech entitled ‘Out of Office’. This speech was from Pathways Presentation Mastery #3-5 – Connect with Storytelling.

His guidelines were to present an established story, a story about the speaker’s life, or a fictional tale of the speaker’s own creation.

John shared a personal story with us about how he was encouraged to write to his grandmother and about how he found other ways to communicate with his family. He told us that he enjoys being in the office and that he likes the camaraderie and company of his fellow workers and this is apparent as John is extremely good at getting people together in online games, meetings and gatherings.

It was a touching story and I am always interested to hear about people’s lives – the good and the challenging.


As usual we had three evaluators who gave us their thoughts and recommendations on the speeches.

Neil Pettigrew evaluated Ben Lopez, saying that he liked his style of presenting. He pointed out that Ben had a clever ending – the quote from Winston Churchill – never, never, never give up!

Sue Shaw evaluated Margot Glover and Tom Jewers evaluated John Cross. Tom noted that John’s speech had a good life-cycle and that he built the story. He commented on John’s friendly and open approach.

Evaluations are a difficult skill to master for most of us and all three evaluations were insightful, helpful and well-delivered. Well done!

Top tip

It was great to see Royston Pistone again after a period of absence due to work demands and he gave us a great tip about being prepared for the online meeting. He looked extremely smart in his suit jacket, shirt and tie and then we laughed when he got up from his desk and he had no trousers on! What a great joke that was. I do love it when there’s humour in the meetings.

Table topics

The table topics session was brought to us by Robert Parker who delivered a very clever session based on his deck of playing cards. Interestingly he told us that playing cards were invented in China and it is said that they were based around the four major pillars of the economy of the Middle Ages.

According to www.theplayingcardfactory.com/facts, hearts represented the church, spades represented the military, clubs represented agriculture, and diamonds represented the merchant class.

David Hampton won the best Table Topics award with his clever and quick-thinking speech about the 9 of spades. David told us the story of why he came to have nine spades in his shed.

Rajesh Deshmukh told us a beautiful love story about the 2 of hearts; Adrian Clay was given the ace of spades and, of course we heard about Mortorhead; The Joker was given to Susan Rayner who says that she isn’t funny but we all know that she has a good sense of humour so she can’t fool us with that one; Arun Vijay talked about the shape of the diamond; we were reminded by David Wilson that the queen of hearts would have trouble finding the ingredients for her tarts at the moment (and this is true because I can’t get any flour but, by the way, Polhill has LOADS of eggs – just saying).

The jack of clubs was given to Eddie Barnes who told us how he fixed his car with a playing card and avoided a £300 bill and the king of diamonds was received and delivered by Georgina Singleton who told us about her favourite card game, Sevens. She cleverly rounded off her impromptu speech by telling us that, where most of the other speakers said that they had been given their favourite card, the king of diamonds was actually her least favourite as it worked as an ‘end card’ in the game of Sevens.

Other roles and the awards

Jenny Taggart evaluated the Table Topics; Alain Culos reported on our um’s, ah’s and filler words; Richard Green delivered his Grammarian report and our use of the ‘word of the day’; Stir-Crazy!

Karen Mefflin delivered her evaluation of the meeting in general and our President Christine Morrell wrapped up the meeting with a positive vibe and delivered the awards of :

Best Speech – Ben Lopez

Best Evaluation – Sue Shaw

Best Table Topic – David Hampton

* Congratulations to you all *

Thank you to Susan Rayner VPE, who works hard alongside the Toastmaster Vinu Madhavan to ensure that the roles are all filled and that the agenda is up-to-date and to all of those who took part in the speeches and the roles.

What did we learn?

We learned that we need to check our equipment before a meeting. David Hampton had a problem with his tight area. Don’t be fooled by Royston’s appearance, it’s not what it seems. You can fix a car with a different kind of jack. It’s impossible to find the right ingredients for tarts at the moment. Speakers have musical talent.

We also learned that online meetings can be fun and work well, if done properly, and whatever challenges we face, we can overcome them together.

Other business

The next meeting – on 30th April – will take a different format as it will be a Presentation Masterclass delivered by The Slide Presentation Man, David Henson. We are extremely lucky to have this opportunity to learn from the master so please do come along and join in if you can.

The after-meeting gathering in the virtual pub was different but fun and we discussed the meeting over a drink as well as larking around a bit with various musical instruments and banter.

Whatever your views on the world, the online meetings, the situation, it’s all OK. Stay positive, have fun, have respect, stay safe and keep smiling. For many this is an opportunity to take stock, to breathe deeply and to craft a speech!

We are a community. If you are struggling in any way, or just want to talk, I encourage you to reach out to your fellow Toastmasters, your mentor and/or your committee. Be there for each other, not only in these challenging times but always.

Stay positive

Deborah Goodman
PR Officer, Bromley Speakers

Zoom Meeting and General Evaluation – 2nd April 2020

By General Evaluator, Neil Pettigrew

What a memorable meeting we had on 2nd April. And how reassuring it is that, in these strange times, we can all stay in touch, still say a few ‘ers and ums’, still get supportive feedback from one another, and still have a few laughs.

I was General Evaluator on the night but, because of technical problems with my sound (still not resolved), my evaluation had to be abandoned. So I present it here in written format instead.

Several of my recommendations will be ‘Zoom-specific’. In other words, recommendations on how we can improve the way we look and sound on-line.

We had two Zoommasters for the on-line meeting.

Zoommaster #1 – David Henson

Once again David made sure that everything in the meeting went smoothly on a technical level. His lighting, background and sound were all good examples of how on-line speaking should be done.

I especially appreciated his suggestion about timing, because sometimes it isn’t easy to work out exactly where the time-keeper is on the Zoom screen. David’s suggestion was that we all need to take control of the timing of our speeches, by having some device in front of us that displays the time.

Zoommaster #2 – David Hampton

David’s sound and lighting were very good. He was especially good at explaining in easy-to-follow instructions how to do things, such as change the way your name is displayed on your Zoom tile.

Recommendation for David Hampton: David left at the end of the formal meeting and some people stayed on to chat. However, his tile was still showing and we weren’t sure if he was still there or not. It might be a good idea to clarify with David Henson what the correct protocol is for a departing the meeting when you are the Zoommaster.

President – Christine Morrell

Our president is so good at presenting on-line that I suspect she is an old hand at it. She spoke confidently and welcomed our guests in a friendly manner. Christine gave a brilliant summary of how we all have to learn new skills, and she coped impressively when told we were losing her audio. She gave a first class introduction to our Toastmaster-of-the-evening Robert Parker, having clearly given it much thought before the meeting.

Recommendation for Christine: On the technical issue – can her sound problems be resolved before the next meeting? 

Toastmaster – Robert Parker

It must be quite a daunting task being Toastmaster of a Zoom meeting but Robert made it look easy. I would like to thank him for getting in touch with me – and perhaps others – before the meeting, offering tips on using Zoom and asking if we had any concerns.

I liked the very positive message he gave about the NHS. He gave enthusiastic introductions for each of the prepared speakers, and he also added numerous humorous comments between each speech.

Recommendations for Robert:

  1. As he realised later on, he had overlooked the 1-minute feedback slot after each speech – but he handled the oversight brilliantly, getting us to do all three feebacks after the final speaker. We had a break after the three speeches, whereas we normally have the break after the three evaluations. Was this planned or an oversight? I’m not sure.   
  2. I believe the 8pm ‘NHS Clap’ is going to be a regular thing from now on. Many of us want to be on our doorsteps at 8pm and therefore I recommend that the Toastmaster re-jigs the agenda as necessary so that we are free to do so. For example, if it is 7.55 and the next item on the agenda is a 7-minute speech, then I suggest that the Table Topics Master be prepared to do a couple of topics, and the Toastmaster postpones the 7-minute speech until we all return from our doorsteps. What do other people think? I noticed that while Arun was delivering his ice-breaker, a number of people sneaked off to their front doors, which must have been disconcerting for Arun – but I must say he didn’t let it phase him!

Timekeeper – Harry Langley

Lateral thinking is what is needed in these unprecedented times, and Harry certainly came up with an excellent bit of improvisation to indicate timings – a green apple, an orange and a red apple! He also explained the role very clearly, and gave precise, thorough timings when asked. A job well done. 

Recommendations for Harry:

  1. Try adjusting the camera position slightly – the bottom of Harry’s head was missing from the shot.
  2. At the start of the meeting his image was a bit dark, but he altered his lighting as the meeting progressed. 

The Speeches

We had three prepared speeches.

We were all impressed with the Icebreaker speech by Arun Vijay, one of our newer members. The title of his speech was ‘How are You Doing?’ and at one point in the speech he asked his audience that question and then invited us all to pause and think quietly for ten seconds about our answer. What a brave technique to use in an icebreaker. 

Our second prepared speaker was Susan Rayner, delivering a speech entitled ‘Summer of ‘73’. This was a very personal, confessional speech about being bullied at school, and she held us all in the palm of her hands as she bravely told her story.

Our third prepared speech, entitled ‘Bridging the Gap’ was delivered by Sue Shaw who told us all about how she had conquered her fear of heights. It was a definite case of ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ and Sue walked away with the vote for best speech of the evening. Congratulations Sue!

Speech Evaluations

Evaluator #1 – David Wilson evaluated Arun Vijay

As we all know, David is a very experienced evaluator and he gave Arun some very supportive praise as well as two thoughtful recommendations.

Recommendation for David: David praised Arun’s hand gestures, but when he demonstrated this, his own hands disappeared out of the sides of the camera view. It’s something we all need to think about in this new medium: if we are going to use gestures, then we need to make sure our arms are still within camera range.

Evaluator #2 – Karen Mefflin evaluated Susan Rayner

Karen’s lighting and sound were both of excellent quality, making it easy to listen to her. She is a very experienced evaluator and as usual had listened carefully to the speech and came up with some thoughtful comments.

Recommendations for Karen:

  1. The camera was placed a bit low, so that we were looking up at Karen. Try to position the camera so that it is level with your face.
  2. I have noticed several times that Karen’s evaluations are short – on this occasion she spoke for only 1 minute and 58 seconds. Speakers deserve to receive evaluations which go the full three minutes. If you struggle to think of things to say, see the document I compiled a couple of years ago listing around thirty aspects of a speech that you can comment on.
Information Compiled by Neil Pettigrew

Evaluator #3 – Caroline Jeffrey evaluated Sue Shaw

I am very impressed by how Caroline, who has only been a member for a couple of months, has jumped into the deep end and taken on her first evaluation. Not only that, but she evaluated one of our most experienced speakers. For a first time, it was surprisingly perceptive, giving praise and recommendations where appropriate. Her lighting and sound were both sharp and clear.

Recommendation for Caroline: For part of the evaluation, Caroline addressed her comments directly to Sue. It is better to address remarks to the whole audience so that we can all benefit from the recommendations. 

Other Roles

Ah Counter – Jenny Taggart

Jenny listened well to everyone’s speeches and gave a thorough report on all our ‘ers and ums’.

Recommendations for Jenny:

  1. At the start, when Jenny explained the role, I would have liked to hear an explanation of WHY we count ‘ers and ums’.  
  2. Jenny’s lighting was over-exposed, meaning we couldn’t see her properly and her head was too low in the frame (sofa too comfortable maybe?)

Grammarian – David Henson

I was impressed with the way David volunteered to take on the role with just a few seconds notice when the Toastmaster asked for someone to step forward.

Recommendation for David: He admitted that being Zoommaster and Grammarian was too much and he regretted volunteering to be Grammarian. He apologised that, as a result, his report was too short.

It would have been better to omit these negatives and just given us the report. I doubt if any of us would have noticed that it was a bit short. Why draw attention to your failings?

Warm-up – Vinu Madhavan

Vinu picked a highly relevant topic.

What new activity are we doing as a result of being stuck at home?

She announced each person’s name clearly so that we all knew when it was our turn and she remembered to include surnames when there was more than one person with the same first name. Her lighting was excellent.

Recommendation for Vinu: Sorry Vinu – I can’t think of one – you’re too good!

Hot Tip – Ben Lopez

What a great tip – go for a walk and practise your speech while you are on the move.

Recommendation for Ben: It looked and sounded like Ben was reading from notes, and as a result his presentation lost some freshness and energy. I bet he could have done it without any notes!

Table Topics Master – Tom Jewers

I loved the way Tom explained WHY we do Table Topics, and how we can benefit from doing them. I enjoyed his topics which were all about being quarantined. He kept his topics short, allowing the speakers the maximum time possible.

Recommendation for Tom: Sorry Tom – I couldn’t think of anything!

Table Topics Evaluator – Richard Green

Very good lighting and sound. Lots of thoughtful praise and recommendations.

Recommendations for Richard:

1) Recommendations were needed for Dave Henson and Margot Glover. 

2) There was some distracting pen waving.

3) If the timing was correct, he only spoke for five minutes when he had seven available.

General comments

Well done to John Vickers for winning best table topic by telling us about his favourite meal in isolation which he said would definitely not be bat stew!

I noticed that many of us dispensed with the usual protocol of starting our speeches with ‘Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and Guests’.  What do people think – should we still stick to this protocol on Zoom?

I am not sure why we went so over time. Was it the 8pm hand clapping? As a result, the table topics session was reduced to one minute per person, which is too short for someone to really develop an idea and grapple with it. I wonder, since we are all already at home, and therefore don’t need to worry about getting home after the meeting, perhaps the meeting could run on longer. That way we could make sure that EVERYONE gets a chance to speak, and the table topics could still be a full two minutes. What do people think? Another fifteen minutes perhaps?

Please leave your comments and feedback below. Thank you.

Note from PR Officer, Deborah Goodman

I would like to thank Neil for writing the blog as I was absent from the meeting. It’s easy for members to get disheartened at this difficult time and struggle to adapt to this new way of meeting and speaking; I have struggled with the stresses of the whole situation myself and I totally understand.

Bromley Speakers is an extremely strong and supportive team (or family as I like to call us) and has rapidly adjusted to this new way of working.

The committee is working exceptionally hard behind the scenes to keep the spirit and momentum of the club up.

Any member who is finding things a bit difficult should not hesitate to speak to either their mentor or another club member or reach out to the committee. We are in this together and we are always here for you.

I look forward to seeing you all at our next meeting on Thursday 16th April. In the meantime, stay safe and stay healthy.

Bromley Speakers Club meets on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursdays of the month, at 7.15 pm. Our meetings are all on-line until the foreseeable future. For more information please email us