Click, Zoom – We’re In The Room!

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

Ah Counter Alain Culos displays the Bromley Speakers Background


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

Success story

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

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


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


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


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

Prepared speeches

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

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

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

Some of our multi-talented members entertained us

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

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

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

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

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

2. Use your new skills to help others

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Top tip

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

Table topics

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

According to, hearts represented the church, spades represented the military, clubs represented agriculture, and diamonds represented the merchant class.

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

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

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

Other roles and the awards

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

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

Best Speech – Ben Lopez

Best Evaluation – Sue Shaw

Best Table Topic – David Hampton

* Congratulations to you all *

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

What did we learn?

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

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

Other business

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

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

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

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

Stay positive

Deborah Goodman
PR Officer, Bromley Speakers

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