Meeting October 5th, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humorous Speech Area Final

Wednesday, 4th October 2023

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

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

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

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

We’re looking forward to the next stage – the Division Final awaits on Sunday, 5th November from 10am to 3pm. It’s free to attend, all you need is this link:

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

Humorous Speeches Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Henson

The power of “yes”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For your eyes only … Meeting on July 20th

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

Bash and Margot – our joint Table Topics winners!

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.