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.

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