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

Staying In Is The New Going Out

In view of the current Coronavirus crisis and the government guidelines to stay at home, we obviously cannot meet up at the moment so we have had to quite rapidly adapt to a new way of meeting.

At first it seemed that only the vulnerable would need to stay away and that we would hold a hybrid meeting with some people in attendance and others online, but with the situation rapidly changing and evolving it was soon apparent that we would not be meeting in person and would have to hold the meeting entirely online.

Bromley speakers committee wasted no time in getting together and organising its first online committee meeting using the remote conferencing services of Zoom Video Communications. For some of us it was the very first time we have used video communications in this way and we rose to the challenge wonderfully.

We are extremely lucky and thankful to have David Henson on our committee as, not only does he have great slide presentation skills, he has some extremely useful online conferencing experience and some useful equipment to get us all up and running with Zoom.

David shared his experiences and expertise with the committee at the Zoom meeting and we all tried it out for ourselves, in order to get a feel for it and we know that many other Toastmasters clubs were doing exactly the same at the same time.

That week we held our very first online club meeting and I am pleased to report that it was extremely well run and immensely successful.

Our members rose to the challenge spectacularly and the speaking slots and roles were soon filled by some very brave people.

There were a few hiccups, as expected, as people started to join the meeting but as one person after another joined it was great to see the faces pop up on the screen. We soon had a total of 30 people at our first online meeting, with six guests from other clubs. I guess they were keen to see how the Zoom meetings are working / will work for other clubs and it was a pleasure to have them with us.

Our Zoommaster was David Henson. The Zoommaster is a new role that has rapidly been created to adapt to this unforeseen situation. David explained how the meeting was going to work and invited everyone to change their name tags if they were not displaying correctly. The people taking roles and doing speeches were invited to also add this information to their nametags.

President Christine Morrell delivered a fabulous and inspiring introduction to the meeting, giving special thanks to Susan Rayner and David Henson for their hard work in making the meeting happen.

It was an extremely brave decision to take on the role of Toastmaster at our very first online meeting and Susan Rayner continues to be a shining example of what we can achieve if we just say ‘YES’!

The warm-up session, taken by Deborah Goodman, proved a little tricky as everyone appeared on people’s screens in a different order. It soon became apparent that the person taking the warm-up session would have to say everyone’s names as it went along.

Our timekeeper Tom Jewers, had to quickly think of another way of displaying the ‘red, yellow, green’ and as he was working from home he had no time to go out and buy coloured card so he cleverly used some household items that he had to hand. We also found it extremely useful for him to type in the comments to let us all know when the speaker had reached the different time stages.

We were continually learning as we went along.

New member Caroline Jeffrey has been throwing herself into the club roles without hesitation and holding the meeting online was no barrier to her taking on a new role. She gave us her Top Tip for the evening which was a lesson on how to use pauses.


Robert Parker was our first speaker of the evening with his speech entitled ‘What Communication Style Should You Use?’

Robert took up the online challenge with expertise and confidence. He used a slide presentation which was useful to experiment on how this would work in online meetings and we learned a lot from it in many ways.

Our second speaker was Phillip Khan-Panni with his speech, ‘Tell The Right Story’. Philip joined us from Dublin and we were delighted to be able to welcome him to the meeting.

Both speeches focussed on communication in different ways and the Zoommaster was able to ‘pin’ the speakers to the screen.

Evaluators Richard Green and Margot Glover also rose to the challenge and there was no information lost in translation over the internet.

Getting to know you better

At Toastmasters we can get to know people quite well over time, especially because many people give speeches about their own life experiences or interests. Some also form closer bonds and socialise outside of the club. However, another benefit of online meetings is that we get a sneaky preview into people’s homes – which gives us even more information about our fellow club members! It takes us to another level of ‘getting to know you’. We are well aware that there may be a few people who don’t want to take us into their home in this way and the good news is that they can create a background that prevents us from seeing their room, if preferable.

We were entertained in the break with some impromptu guitar playing from David Henson and Philip Khan-Panni, which is yet another benefit of online meetings and we are looking forward to developing this ‘entertainment’ idea further. Let’s see what talent we have in the club!

The second half of the meeting went well as David Hampton asked the Table Topics questions.

David asked some topical questions about first-time experiences, first impressions, dating on the internet and changing jobs.

Ross Taggart amusingly reminded us that, not only is there a first time for everything, but also a last!

Vinu Madhavan evaluated the topics and gave some helpful feedback to the speakers.

The ballot for the best Table Topic was held online with a very impressive voting form created by the Zoommaster which enabled us to see the speakers’ names and click on the one we wanted to vote for.

Congratulations goes to our winner – David Wilson!

Overall, it was an extremely successful meeting. General evaluator Sue Shaw congratulated everyone for stepping up and taking part. She said that it was a great opportunity for us to try something new. Something, she said, that we are going to need more and more from now on.

She gave us some great advice about how to adapt ourselves for online meetings. For example, hand gestures don’t work well when close to the screen, fiddling with our screens when someone is speaking and she asked us if the ‘word of the day’ actually added anything to the meeting.

What did we learn?

Guest Samir Malak has four years of experience of online Toastmasters meetings and he enthused about how impressed he was with the meeting and how smoothly our transition from face-to-face meetings to the online meeting was. He congratulated us on our first successful meeting.

Speak to camera

Many of us are learning a whole new skill. We have spent years being told to speak to the room. ‘Look at the people at the back’. ‘Don’t forget those at either side of you, as well as at the front’. Now we are speaking to one point only – the camera. It’s more like we are speaking to one person and it’s easy to get distracted by looking at ourselves or the other members on the Zoom meeting. Looking at our listeners on Zoom doesn’t translate the same as being in a room full of people.

Be fully present

We are not getting the energetic feedback from our audience. The audience has to learn to still be engaged with the speakers, to not get up and wander out of the room during the meeting. To not turn off their camera to do a chore or do things that they would not do in a face-to-face group meeting.

The additional nerves will decrease as we get more used to being online and for some it may even be easier.

Share the meetings

It’s so much easier now for people to join each other’s meetings as distance is no longer a limiting factor.  

Meet you at the bar!

After each meeting there is always an invitation to join us in the pub. Obviously we can’t do this at the moment so those who wanted to, stayed behind on the Zoom meeting, got themselves a drink and chatted online. It had a very different feel to it as usually people break off into smaller groups. However there is a feature on Zoom that enables people to break off into different meeting rooms so that might be something to think about in future.

Cheers everyone – stay safe and positive and please reach out to the committee, your mentor or anyone else who can help if you are in need of a bit of support at this difficult time.

Members Profile – Karen Mefflin

Karen Mefflin has been a member of Bromley Speakers for over six years after joining in order to conquer her fear of public speaking.

Toastmasters always encourages its members to visit other clubs and as well as attending regular meetings in Bromley, Karen has taken advantage of this benefit and has also visited other clubs in the south east in order to see how they are run, to join in the meeting and to meet other Toastmasters.

Years ago Karen suffered from a viral infection which resulted in her having a hearing impairment in her left ear it, which means that she occasionally mumbles when speaking. It also means that she can’t always define how loud she needs to speak and it can be hard for her to hear in a noisy place, with just one hearing ear. 

“I can’t define where the sound is coming from, for example if my mobile phone rings. I find it difficult to hear conversation in a noisy place like a pub or somewhere with music.”

Karen says, “The club has been good for me as it has encouraged me to speak regularly which I need to do with my hearing impairment. It has also helped me to improve my speaking skills and be more articulate.”

Karen, who works for a well-known insurance company, uses what she learns at Toastmasters to help her in her career.

“I have spoken occasionally on training days at work. I work in the marketing department, which is responsible for all the advertising on TV, radio and social media.

“My team manages the letters and policy documents to ensure it meets FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) regulations along with any other requirements like re-branding.

“I haven’t done any prepared speeches for a while at the club and I would like to do more. However, I have been working on my evaluating skills which means that I have to listen very carefully to the prepared speeches and I have learned a lot from doing this.”

Outside of work and Toastmasters Karen’s passion is travelling and she has travelled all around Europe including Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

We are very pleased that she finds the time to travel to Bromley Speakers Club and we are looking forward to hearing some more prepared speeches in the near future.

I Want To Be A Star in Your Show!

Meeting Thursday 20th February 2020

We had a packed room at Bromley Speakers on Thursday with plenty of members and guests.

We were delighted to welcome Area Director Michael Crane to the meeting. It’s always a pleasure to see Michael and we appreciate his visits to the club. Michael noted that we had all committee members present at the meeting which is not unusual for our club as our committee members are extremely supportive to the club, its members and each other.

President Christine Morrell also warmly welcomed two other distinguished guests, Phillip and Evelyn Khan-Panni. Phillip was a founder member of Bromley Speakers back in 1992 and was a runner-up in the International Speech Contest, which is quite an achievement for anyone to get that far in the competition.

We had four other guests, two of whom were first-time visitors to a Toastmasters club and all of them gave good feedback after the meeting.

Our Toastmaster for the evening was Karen Mefflin. Although Karen has been a member of the club for six years, it’s been quite a while since she has taken on the role of Toastmaster. Members can sometimes become very comfortable with certain roles and it can take a bit of courage to step up to another challenge, so well done to Karen for stepping into the Toastmasters shoes for the evening.

If you won the Euro Millions what would be the first thing you would buy?

The warm-up for the evening was guided by Harry Langley. Some of the answers were as predictable as a red sports car, a bigger house and a round-the-world holiday and others were more boozy like a pub and even several pubs! My personal favourites were from Caroline who said that she would give her friends envelopes with something that they all wanted in, and Richard who said that what he would want, money couldn’t buy.

Prepared Speeches

Our first prepared speech was delivered by Jamie Simpson. Freshly off the plane from Sri Lanka, Jamie regaled us of tales from his exciting and adventurous holiday, making us all green with envy of his exotic trip.

Jamie’s ‘second honeymoon’ speech was an Evaluation and Feedback speech from the Visionary Communication pathway. Jamie’s remit was to incorporate feedback from his last speech, which he did extremely well by not using any notes at all.

He made us laugh when he said that his missus ‘borrowed’ some food from the breakfast buffet, put some bananas in his rucksack pocket without his knowing and he had the monkeys chasing after him and he had no idea why!

He took us on his train journey through the tea plantations and he said that it was like Tuscany without the tourists. He visited the botanical gardens full of palm trees and saw flying foxes amongst other animals. He even saw his first leopard!

Jamie also told us about his visit to the turtle sanctuary, which seemed unnatural but then he struck it lucky when he was walking on the beach and a turtle came out of the sea and laid its eggs right in front of him! How amazing.

I love hearing stories of people’s travels at Toastmasters. It was an impressive speech which made me want to pack my bags and fly to Sri Lanka!

Speech number two was delivered by Sue Shaw. Her speech entitled ‘At the Heart’ was from the Storytelling pathway and her remit was to arouse emotions whilst telling a touching story.

Susan certainly did that when she told us about a man named John whom she had met through the hospice at which she was volunteering. When Sue started giving speeches to the hospice, she told us that the experience wasn’t connecting with her emotions and her heart. And then she had an epiphany moment when she heard stories like John’s.

“How patients are cared for remains in the minds of those who are left”

John was an ordinary man who loved to walk. He even walked an impressive 163 miles to Hastings. And then he got his diagnosis and became more reclusive. When he went into the hospice they did a wonderful thing for him. He was never going to be able to get to the seaside again and so the hospice brought the seaside to him. They arranged for the sights, the smells and even the taste to be there in his room on a very special day.

Our third prepared speech entitled ‘Who Do you Think You Are?’ was delivered by Phillip Khan-Panni who told us not about the Spice Girls but a story about mistaken identities. His brother happily accepted congratulations for an achievement that was Phillip’s and the judges of the ‘most stylish young skater’ award mistook another lad for himself and presented the award to the other boy! Phillip told the lad that he thought it was a mistake and that they had given the award to him in error and the lad retorted, ‘who do you think you are?’.

Phillip left us with a message.

Why be an extra in someone else’s dream when you can star in your own?


Feedback was given on all three speeches by our evaluators Vinu Madhavan, Susan Rayner and Richard Green.

Vinu said that Jamie had delivered an enjoyable speech and had brought it to life.

Susan commented that as Sue Shaw painted us her picture, we all smiled. Sue Shaw is a great storyteller and she used her expertise to draw us all in.

In Richard’s evaluation of Phillip, he pointed out that Phillip used all advanced techniques and also used his body well as he spoke to us. Again, Phillip is a very experienced speaker. In fact, he is a business speaker and presentation consultant and you can see his showreel here.

Richard finished off his evaluation with a strong message to Phillip…

I want to be a star in your show!

Some of the helpful recommendations given in the feedback this evening, which we can all learn from, were as follows:

  • Pause for the audience to absorb the messages
  • Gather everyone’s attention before you speak
  • Have a strong final message
  • Keep the body of the story to three main points

Table Topics

The Table Topics session was brought to us by Caroline Jeffrey who asked some interesting and thought-provoking questions. Caroline is a new member to the club and the role of Table Topics Master is quite a challenging one so it was ambitious of Caroline to take it on.

As well as being a valuable tool for learning to speak off the cuff, Table Topics questions are a good opportunity for members of the club, who haven’t had an opportunity to speak in the meeting, to stand up and talk. It’s always impressive when guests do a table topic but paid-up members are given the chance to speak first, if they haven’t already done so.

Some of the questions that Caroline gave the audience were, ‘what is your favourite way to relax?’, ‘what was the first job you ever had?’, who or what could you not live without?’, what is your opinion of tattoos and would you have one?’ and my personal favourite, ‘would you eat food past its sell-by date?’.

Two of our guests, Adam and Laurence courageously stepped up to the challenge and delivered very good first-time table topics.

Other Business

Our esteemed ‘best-dressed’ guest Evelyn Khan-Panni reviewed the meeting and gave us feedback on all of the roles that hadn’t been evaluated yet.

Area Director Michael Crane presented our President Christine Morrell with a Toastmasters Core Values Award which helps us remember that Integrity, Respect, Service and Excellence are a set of timeless, guiding principles for everyone in the organisation.

Michael Crane with the evening’s award winners – Vinu, Adrian and Sue

Slide Presentation Workshop

Christine wrapped up the meeting and reminded us that there will be a workshop on 30th April (usual place and time of meeting) run by David Henson, The Slide Presentation Man.

David is an experienced speaker and an expert creator of professional slide presentations. We are fortunate and grateful that he will be giving us his time and sharing his expertise on how to produce engaging, effective and empowering slide presentations

Club Member Interview

Tom Jewers, Bromley Speakers club member, gives an interview to Public Relations Officer Deborah Goodman

Hi Tom. It’s always a pleasure to see you. Thanks for taking the time to give me this interview. I know that you joined Bromley Speakers in September 2018 but why did you join Toastmasters in the first place?

I joined to improve my communication skills and to face my fear of public speaking! After avoiding any situation which involved public speaking, like customer meetings, team meetings, University seminars etc. I decided it was time to face my fear and grow my confidence in a friendly environment.

I attended a public speaking course originally and following that programme before I was made aware of Toastmasters. Soon after, I did some further research on how Toastmasters works before attending as a very nervous guest!

Most people, if not all people, find it quite nerve-wracking at first. I still get nervous about the Table Topics session. But people soon realise that we are a very friendly and supportive bunch of people. Despite your nerves, how do you feel that Bromley Speakers club helps you?

It’s allows me to practice in a safe environment and to work at my own pace. With a variety of roles which all allow for different speaking requirements, I can pick a different one week by week, depending on how confident I feel.

Moreover, everyone at the club is extremely supportive, whilst also providing relevant advice for all levels of expertise. I have enjoyed learning and watching the more experienced speakers and taking notes on small aspects of their speeches to add into my own style.

The club has allowed me to realise that being nervous is normal and that it’s about embracing the nerves and adapting to the situation.

I could not have put it better myself Tom. And it’s so true, it’s such a safe place to practice and make your mistakes. Not that you make many mistakes, I think that you are a very engaging and humorous speaker. What do you specifically like about the club?

Thanks Deborah. I like Bromley Speakers because it’s a friendly, warm and welcoming group.

The sessions are extremely structured and we stick by this week by week. I feel that this is great for new members or more nervous beginners as you soon become familiar with the sessions and this allows people to step forward to challenge themselves.

Yes, I totally agree. It’s such a friendly group and we always have fun, but the structure and purpose of the meetings are always taken seriously and handled professionally.

People often join Toastmasters because it helps them with their career. What is it that you do for your job?

I’m an Institutional Banker. I work in the Fund Finance Team at RBS International.

It sounds interesting and important. What does your team do?

We provide investor-backed and asset-backed finance to large Corporate Infrastructure and Renewable Funds in the UK and in Europe.

And what is your role in the team?

My role is to act as the Relationship Manager to an existing portfolio of RBSI Fund names. This involves business origination, leading customer meetings, managing our Infra and Renewables portfolio, structuring new transactions and leading loan negotiations with lawyers and other lenders.

Very serious stuff indeed by the sounds of it. I can see how your personality would help you in this role. How have you used the speaking and leadership skills that you have learned in Toastmasters?

For me it’s been a slow process; however I have definitely seen a huge improvement in my communication skills at work. I have volunteered to present on several occasions, where previously I may have not put myself forward.

I also think it’s improved my communication in sports, as a semi-professional footballer, it’s enabled me to communicate better with my team mates in the dressing room and also during the games.

I’m very impressed that you play semi-professional football! That must keep you very fit. What team do you play for?

I play for Homesdale FC in the Kent League and I have represented Wales Universities at football playing against England and Scotland.  I’m also a huge boxing fan.

Wow, what an achievement! What would you say has been your biggest achievement at Bromley Speakers to date?

Completing my first speech at the club was a huge achievement for me. I waited a year to put myself forward and the feedback was extremely positive.

I’m so glad to hear that you felt that the feedback was so positive. The general rule at Toastmasters clubs is always to give positive feedback, followed by a few recommendations on how to improve and then finish with a positive comment. This way it helps the speaker to improve and also to feel more confident in their ability.

What do you want to achieve at the club?

My short term plan is to develop myself further at Bromley Speakers and to complete every role on the agenda – with a focus on the evaluation roles and prepared speeches.

My long-term goal is to compete in a Toastmasters competition at some point and also lead a session as ‘The Toastmaster’ at Bromley Speakers in 2020.

The Toastmasters role at the club is not as daunting as people think once you do it Tom. If I can do it, anyone can, trust me. And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s about trying it, learning from it and improving. The point of the Toastmasters clubs is to practice in a safe environment. I look forward to your first stint as Toastmaster and then many more this year!

The competitions are obviously a bit more nerve-wracking as everyone wants to win. But they are fun and people always learn a lot from entering, so I wish you luck with that. Your mentor will help you and I am sure you will be fantastic. You are already winning awards for the best Table Topics session so you are clearly quite good at impromptu speaking.

Thank you for talking to me. We really love having you at the club and I look forward to hearing more from you this year.

Freddie Daniells Masterclass in Writing Winning Speeches

On Thursday 30th January we were delighted to welcome one of Toastmasters’ most experienced and respected speakers, Freddie Daniells to our club.

Freddie gave us an absolute corker of a masterclass on how to write and perform a winning speech for the Toastmasters International speech competition, which is held at the Toastmasters International Convention each year.

Freddie is in great demand so we were extremely privileged to have had this opportunity at Bromley Speakers to welcome him to a packed room, with, not only our own members, but also many guests from other clubs. Every club in our area was represented and we even had two Area Directors in attendance, Michael Crane from Area H35 and Mo Dawodu from Area H37.

Who is Freddie Daniells?

Freddie is a public speaker and a presentation skills coach and trainer.

A Toastmaster since 2004, Freddie sat at the head of the Toastmasters organisation in Great Britain and Ireland as the District Governor and has held many other positions within Toastmasters.

He has spoken at, run workshops or coached for companies and organisations such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Google, Ernst and Young, and the Association of Certified Accountants amongst others.

The Presentation

Freddie delivered what can only be described as an ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT presentation, full of top tips on how to become a winner at the International Speech contest and showed us the skills needed to become a world-class speaker.

Analysing videos of Toastmasters International champions and looking at some of the patterns that are being repeated, Freddie pointed out which type of speech does well in the competition, and that happens to be an inspirational one. The speeches all had some level of humour in them and included great storytelling.

Using a memorable message, taking an idea and making it original and repeating a message throughout the speech are just some of the valuable lessons we learned on Thursday.

Tell a Story

Everyone has a story to tell. Not just one story but many stories. Good speakers can take an ordinary story, such as changing a car tyre, and make it into a great speech. One such speaker who did exactly that was World Champion of Public Speaking 2013, Pres Vasilev. His speech was about the most basic of things but was humorous and had an important message running through it. And it won the International contest!

Stories help us to understand that we are not alone. People can relate to them. They give us direction and maybe even a route to solving our own issues. They can give us hope.

So, when you’re thinking about your next speech, be it at your Toastmasters club or elsewhere, think about your own stories. Think about not only the bigger events that happen in your life but also the little everyday happenings. Freddie suggested that we take notes throughout our day and capture the details of our lives. So guys, write down anything that made you laugh or that happened in your day. These are the little things that give us ideas for our speeches.

Do not think that nothing interesting ever happens in your life because it does! Value your stories and share them with the world. Remember that ordinary stories told really well can be highly amusing and entertaining. And they can win international competitions!

Freddie shared numerous pearls of wisdom with us about the many things we can do to ensure that our speeches are winners and it’s fair to say that every person in that room came away completely inspired and ready to get writing.

Speech Contests

Speech contests are a Toastmasters tradition and they include table topics, humorous speches and evaluator competitions as well as the International Speech contest.

The International Speech contest begins at club level with members vying to win the club contest before going on to compete in the area contest, then on to the division and finally the district competition. If they win that, they are then into the quarter finals, which is a video round, the winners of which then get to attend the Toastmasters International convention where they will compete in the semi-finals and then possibly the finals.

The Toastmasters International 2020 convention is to be held on 5-8th August 2020 in Paris, France. The semi-finals will be held on Thursday 6th August and the finals on Saturday 8th August. 

Bromley Speakers meets at Ripley Arts Centre, Bromley on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursdays of the month, at 7.15 pm.

For more information please email us

Members Profile – Robert Parker

Robert has been a member of Bromley Speakers for over 6 months after moving from St Neots in Cambridgeshire to Orpington. He wanted to continue his Toastmasters and Pathways journey at a local club in order to continue to improve his public speaking skills.

 “The evaluation and feedback is the most powerful element for me. Both receiving and giving feedback aids my learning. Watching and listening to other members also helps me pick up new tips and techniques.

“I like Bromley Speakers Club because of its friendly, positive and entertaining atmosphere.  Ripley Arts Centre, where the meetings are held, is a good venue conducive to speaking.”

Robert is a qualified and experienced Family Historian. As a genealogist he has a wealth of experience and knowledge built through practical family history research.

His professional genealogy and training qualifications include a postgraduate certificate in Genealogy and a certificate in researching House History.

Robert has been researching his own family history for over 30 years.

“I help others to understand who they are by researching their family history too. I deliver guidance, talks and research services, plus courses, and being at Toastmasters has helped me with this.”

Robert is also a qualified and experienced management and leadership coach and trainer, but due to his health he currently focusses on delivering talks and helping people to develop their own family trees.

“I had to have my leg amputated in 2019 and am now a wheelchair user.  Speaking from a chair feels very different from standing up and speaking and the more I do it, the more I get used to the change. I want to continue to improve my speaking skills from my wheelchair.

Robert, Front left, with other members at the Christmast meeting 2019

One of Robert’s goals at Toastmasters is to enter and progress in the international speaking contest.

Robert says that he is pleased to have joined Bromley Speakers and he looks forward to continuing to improve his speaking skills at the club.

You can visit Robert’s website here and his YouTube channel here.

Bromley Speakers meets at Ripley Arts Centre, Bromley on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursdays of the month, at 7.15 pm.

For more information please email us

Meeting 16th January 2020

Happy New Year!

The first meeting of the year was opened by our Sergeant at Arms, James Kirkby.

In the event of a fire, run this way!

President Christine Morrell received a book entitled ‘The Fear Bubble’ for Christmas and she told us how the author, Ant Middleton, controls his fear and uses it to his advantage.

Conquering fear is an important step in our Toastmasters’ journey.

Our success story was given by Deborah Goodman who gave a speech at The Bromley Court Hotel on Monday to the Lewisham and Penge Rotary Club. Deborah and Christine were warmly welcomed by the President and members who listened attentively and asked lots of questions.

Our Toastmaster for the evening, Susan Shaw, talked about being an ambassador for the Heart of Kent Hospice and how her confidence has risen through being at Toastmasters, enabling her to speak about subjects that are out of her comfort zone.

It’s really helpful to our members when more experienced Toastmasters tell us how being at the club has helped them in their life.

Ben Lopez warmed up our vocal chords by asking us what our primary goal for 2020 is and judging by some of the answers that were given, it looks like it’s going to be a very interesting year ahead.

Other roles were taken up by the following people:

  • Timekeeper – Deborah Goodman
  • Ah Counter – Jenny Taggart
  • Grammarian – Cecilia Mbullah
  • Hot Tip – David Henson

David Henson was asked to give the hot tip at very short notice and appropriately his hot tip for the evening was to always have something in your back pocket that you can use at the last minute, like a speech, some table topics or indeed, a hot tip!

Prepared Speeches

Our first speech was presented by Margot Glover who gave us an interesting talk entitled ‘This is what we do.’ Her guidelines for the speech were to select visual aids that are appropriate for the message and the audience and she chose to use slides to convey her message. Margot cleverly asked us to close our eyes and smell the image on the screen and you should have seen our faces! I can still smell it now but I’ll leave it to your imagination to guess what it was!

Evaluating Margot was Neil Pettigrew.

Our second speech, entitled ‘John’ was delivered by Robert Parker. Robert told us all a story about his ancestor which was both moving and captivating. Robert has spent over thirty years tracing his family history and because of this, he has uncovered details about his family that would have been lost forever.

Robert’s speech was evaluated by Richard Green.

Our final speaker in this section was David Wilson. David’s speech was called ‘Making friends with your chimp’ and was all about three different areas of our brain and how they work for (and against) us. David gave us some good advice on how to feed our chimp positive thoughts to enable us to make friends with our chimp, or indeed our fears. His talk was both interesting and extremely useful.

David’s talk was evaluated by Jamie Simpson who stood in at the last minute. It’s only the second time Jamie has done an evaluation and he did a very impressive job.

Table Topics

After a short tea break the meeting continued with our table topics section, led by Eddie Barnes. Eddie chose to use ‘Three Words’ for the topics this evening and asked the audience to speak on the following subjects:

  • Kippers for breakfast
  • Learn a language
  • Visiting the seaside
  • Joining a gym
  • Growing a beard
  • Travelling by train.

We welcomed a first-time guest to the meeting, Nicola, who bravely agreed to do a table topic and she did a fantastic job. Just getting up and speaking for the first time is a great achievement and Nicola has now taken her first steps to becoming not only a better speaker, but a part of our amazing club.

We have a new member, Caroline Jeffrey who also did a table topic and was so good at it that she won the award for the best impromptu speaker.

**Well done to both Nicola and Caroline**

Tom Jewers did a brilliant job at evaluating the table topics, especially as it was his first time as an evaluator. You never would have known it!

Other Roles and Awards

After our ah-counter and grammarian reports, we had the meeting report from our general evaluator, David Henson who gave us lots of good feedback on the meeting.

Everyone in the room got a chance to speak and it was a fantastic start to the new year. 

Our Worthy winners were Caroline Jeffrey for best table topic, Jamie Simpson for best evaluator and David Wilson for best speaker.

Winners Caroline Jeffrey and David Wilson

The post-meeting conviviality is always something to look forward to after the meetings as we convene to the local hostiliary.

With the first meeting of the year done and dusted, we remind you that the International speech and evaluation contest for Bromley Speakers will be held on the 5th March so please enter the competition and get practising everyone!

Bromley Speakers meets at Ripley Arts Centre, Bromley on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursdays of the month, at 7.15 pm.

For more information please email us

Toastmasters and Rotary Form an Alliance

Providing members with more opportunities for personal and professional growth is at the core of the newly formed Rotary/Toastmasters strategic alliance. There is much excitement to leverage unique and similar strengths and meet the evolving needs of current and prospective members.

Toastmasters International

As Rotary and Toastmasters clubs team up to form an alliance, our members are actively connecting with our local Rotary Clubs.

Member Jenny Taggart visited the Bromley Rotary club today and reported back that they are interested to hear more about what we do and also to have a speaker from our club to visit their club to give a speech. Jenny said that they are an extremely friendly and professional group of people.

Bromley Speakers member Jenny Taggart

Public Relations Officer Deborah Goodman and President Christine Morrell were guests of Lewisham and Penge Rotary Club yesterday evening, where they were warmly welcomed by their President, members and guests.

Christine Morrell and Deborah Goodman with the President of Lewisham and Penge Rotary CLub

Deborah gave the after-dinner speech to which the Rotary members listened attentively, followed by a very engaging question and answer session.

Speaker Deborah Goodman

Christine then picked out the winning raffle ticket, which was….. Deborah’s! It really couldn’t have gone better 🙂

Find out more about Rotary and Toastmasters.

Bromley Speakers meets at Ripley Arts Centre, Bromley on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursdays of the month, at 7.15 pm.

For more information please email us

Freddie Daniells Workshop

With the contest season fast approaching, would you like to learn what it takes to deliver a world class speech? Then join us at Bromley Speakers when Toastmasters legend, Freddie Daniells will be delivering a workshop on how to win the International Speech Contest.

This event is open to existing Toastmasters members only.

Freddie will be analysing the skills of Toastmasters World Champions and sharing his expertise on how to use powerful and persuasive communication. Even if you don’t have ambitions for international success, Freddie will provide you with lots of tools and tips to take your communication skills to the highest standard.

Freddie’s workshops are renowned and and we are delighted and privileged to welcome him to Bromley Speakers. He is a professional public speaker and coach and has run workshops and coached for organisations such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Google, EY and the Association of Certified Accountants.

Freddie has held many positions within Toastmasters including Club President, Area and Division Governor (responsible for London), Great Britain and Ireland (District 71) PR Officer, Lt Governor Membership and Marketing and Lt Governor for Education and Training.

This is an opportunity not to be missed and is only available to members of Toastmasters. Places are limited and so please register as soon as possible.