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.