Something never seen before!

This Thursday at Bromley Speakers we saw something that has never (as far as we are aware!) been seen before at the club – The ‘best speech’ prize was shared between all three of this evening’s speakers in a 3-way tie! Speeches delivered by Na on Multitasking, Viyom on Sand Dunes in Dubai, and Kieran on Growing a Money Tree divided the audience exactly.

We also saw a record number of guest visitors, who really contributed to the club’s friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

As winter makes way for Spring, we posed for an updated club photo (which you can now see on the homepage), saying a welcome goodbye to our previous Christmas theme.

A final shout has to go to David Murray, who led a fantastic table topics session – his first time in this role. This weeks session was won by Bash (picture below). David Hampton closed the meeting with the reminder that it will soon be time to decide on this year’s committee members – all members are very welcome and encouraged to stand for a role!

A full house for festive speaking

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

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

Our annual Bromley Speakers group photo!

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

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

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


An original line up – 2nd November meeting

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

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

Club president David presents Michael with his Table Topics award

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

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


Humorous Speeches Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-August meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mixing Old and New: 3rd August Meeting

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

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

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

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

David Hampton presents Bash and Margot with their Table Topics award

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


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.


July 6th Meeting – Sometimes, there is cake!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impromptu Speaking At Its Finest

Thursday September 1, 2022

Post by David Hampton

Margot’s bag of surprises

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

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

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

Many thanks for a really entertaining session, Margot!

Worthy winners congratulated by our President, James Kirkby

5, 4, 3, 2, 1….. and we have lift off!

Vinod Venkatanarayana offers some praise to Club President Richard Green as he receives his award for best speaker of the evening.

As he receives his award for best speaker of the evening, Vinod Venkatanarayana offers some praise to Club President Richard Green.

President Richard Green reviews the meeting at Ripley on 20th November.

“5…….4…..3……2……1. you may put down your pens”. Not my words, that of our timer for the evening and what a great time we had too! Another epic evening at Ripley!

Guy Dessoy our new Sergeant At Arms let us have it at 7.30 sharp. The opening went to plan. Phew!

The Club President sat calmly in his chair. Not only was the program correct, without last minute cancellations, but Richard knew this was all under control. Gone were the days of chaos theory as our super suave Dave Henson took the helm as the Toastmaster of the Evening.

Wow, he looked the part. Dark suit with charcoal open necked shirt. He certainly walked the walk, could he talk the talk? Absolutely! Dave was competent, confident and polished as he delivered an almost flawless display and a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Very well done indeed sir and a huge thank you from myself and everyone for a great fun night.

Step into the limelight Paul Goodhill our timer, always a delight and thoroughly entertaining. Paul kept us on time with military precision, except on the odd occasion when he nodded off, eh em, titter titter, only pulling your leg sir. Thank you Paul. However, we did finish 1 minute 53 seconds late due to the Club President not wanting to go home.

Our Grammarian Alison Morey was a delight too. We learnt so much from a very comprehensive account of our parlez. Now I do not want to sound ‘dogmatic‘ but how does one shoehorn all that which has been conveyed well into those four tiny minutes – easy, take seven and a half! Hahaha. Very well done Alison for illuminating our evening.

Our VPE Patricia Caesar gave us a deep and meaningful hot tip. “Be yourself, be genuine and be authentic. Brilliant Patricia, thank you – I’ll give it a go!

We were then all warmed up by the illustrious Karen Mefflin. “If you could design a website.”  There were lots of ideas flying around and I am sure the nabobs in the room were making all sorts of notes. Thank you Karen.

Our first prepared speech was delivered by the debonair Alex Clark, who started his journey by delivering his icebreaker. “The Emperor Napoleon the Third” Where are we going with this, I thought. Then Alex said they were both exiled in Chislehurst – great; then on to a naked civil servant, what? Say no more. Thank you for a very interesting and articulate speech with lots of twists and turns. Very well done that man.

Then Vinod Venkatanarayana, (hang on my spell checker has gone into melt down) entertained us all with a thoroughly humorous speech about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Having babies that is – no not Vinod, his wife, silly. An excellent speech delivered with advanced skills which were extremely engaging. This chap has so improved in all areas of public speaking you know.

Then to our final speaker Mr Neil Pettigrew. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful speech, expertly and naturally delivered in a conversational style. We all had a chuckle when we saw Neil as a young bus conductor. It brought back childhood memories, hopping on and off buses with our red rover passes, generally misbehaving, so what’s changed now Richard?  Thank you again Mr Pettigrew for another hugely entertaining speech with a brilliant message. Life is a rich tapestry, get out there folks and sew! I love stories like that.

Our evaluators were Ian Brett, yours truly, and Evelyn Khan-Panni.  Three experienced evaluators.  First came the gentle support and encouragement, then the recommendations or improvement points, finally the conclusion, a real commendation lifting the speaker and inspiring the audience. All three came through with huge aplomb. Well done!

Table topics, what a scream it was too! Friendly challenging questions, sensitively put to each and every speaker by our very own Area Governor and previous president, Jenny Taggart.

I had to laugh when Mrs T asked Neil Pettigrew should his wife be his best friend or best lover. Get out of that one Neil, I thought. True to form, came a brilliant retort. Buy me a pint and I will tell you what it was. Hahaha. Neil once again walked off with best table topic speaker.

Curtis Christie was our TT evaluator. I was so impressed when Curtis delivered a much improved evaluation of eight table topic speakers. This chap has come on in leaps and bounds and so engaging with his heart warming smile. Keep it up Curtis.

Our General Evaluator was Tony Babatunde another previous President. What a man! Always ready to help the club with his passionate, energetic overview of the evening. Thank you so much for your wealth of experience Tony. What was that, there was no club recommendation? Tut tut Tony, for such an experienced Toastmaster. We previously had a beautiful tip about moving our chairs together so as to allow our speakers to formulate good eye contact and it worked beautifully. Never mind Tony, put it in the post.

Please, please, please all you budding GEs let us have your club recommendations like the above, so we can improve, you see.

Finally over to Mr. President for a little bit of fun and a round-up of a truly beautiful evening which I have to say was incredible and very funny too.

Thank you once again to everyone who took part.

Richard Green, Club President