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.