Club President Femi opened the meeting with lots of energy and explained how Toastmasters nurtures the natural speaking ability in everyone. He likened public speaking to ice skating – the only way to get better is to “get on the ice” and start practicing.
The Toastmaster for the evening Jason introduced his theme for the meeting – music. He said he felt that a good speech should be like a good piece of music in that it should move you or otherwise affect you, and had asked each speaker to tell him their favourite song and why.
The timekeeper Ilze (favourite song Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”) explained the importance of keeping to time and started with a quote: “Make sure you always make time to spend with your special people, because otherwise one day you’ll find yourself with lots of time and nobody special to spend it with”.
Grammarian Renars (who had just learned to play “Trouble” by Coldplay) introduced the word of the day “reciprocate” and encouraged all participants to use it. He compared his role to that of a heckler in a comedy club, picking up on things that he didn’t like from the speakers – particularly related to language and grammar – but also highlighting “amazing uses of language”.
The first speaker was new member Jasr (favourite song “Al Atlal” – The Ruins), with his Icebreaker speech entitled: “Survivors”. In an honest and touching speech Jasr told the story of an encounter with a woman in a pub (which didn’t go quite how he’d hoped), then neatly transitioned to a discussion of natural history and some of the remarkable species to survive to the current day.
The next speech was from Michael (chosen song “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables) – a No.2 speech entitled: “Is Cycling A Drug?”. A passionate cyclist himself, Michael gave us a short history of the Tour de France – a race of 2000 miles over 3 weeks with only 2 rest days – from a uniquely murky perspective: that of drug use. He revealed that as far back as 1903 riders were using alcohol to dull the pain of the race and in 1924 two cycling brothers even used cocaine to improve their performance!
The third speaker was AG who told us about how a love of jewellery led her to take a jewellery-making evening class, which means she’s now able to make jewellery of her own for herself, her friends and her family. She took us through the various stages of the process she used for making a piece in the shape of a flower, including design, “annealing” (softening the metal) and “doming” (shaping).
The fourth speaker was by Joe with his No. 8 speech “Looking For My Keys” in which he used visual aids and the concept of keys as a metaphor for finding the tools to unlock the human mind. He explained one of these tools – powerful visualisation – and how it could be used to create the confidence and success that many of us aspire to achieve.
After the break each of the prepared speeches was given a formal evaluation by one of the club members, who gave both commendations and useful recommendations to each speaker.
Evaluating his ice breaker, Ratan commended Jasr for engaging the sympathy of the audience and also vividly setting the scene at the start of his speech. He admitted to feeling some confusion in the main body of the speech but ended by congratulating Jasr on his excellent hand gestures and even gave him a quick tip for talking to women in pubs!
Christopher was our next evaluator, critiquing Michael’s speech about cycling and paying close attention to the project objectives: creating an appropriate outline, having a clear message, and using appropriate transitions. He particularly commended Michael’s use of factual information to support the main message and said he was really looking forward to Michael’s next speech.
Carrie (favourite song “Everything is Everything” by Lauryn Hill) was next up, evaluating AG’s speech about jewellery making. She started by stating that she felt AG had certainly met her speech objectives, particularly that of having a clear purpose, and commended her on giving the entire speech without notes. She recommended making the speech more engaging for people who might not naturally be interested in jewellery by, for instance, bringing a piece of her jewellery in for people to see and also by incorporating more humour into the speech.
Finally, Ahmed (for whom Donald Byrd’s “Dominoes” is a favourite tune) evaluated Joe’s No. 8 speech. He enjoyed Joe’s opening device of the image of a set of keys on the screen which engaged the audience, who wondered where this might lead, and overall he felt that the use of visual aids had complemented the speech. In terms of recommendations, Ahmed advised that standing closer to the computer might make Joe’s transitions slicker.
After the break, the Table Topics (impromptu speaking) session was run by Glen (favourite song “Fluorescent Adolescent” by The Arctic Monkeys) who took as his theme the weather. He felt we should embrace our natural tendency to make small talk about this very topic and push the limits a bit further. He invited various volunteers to speak off-the-cuff for one to two minutes on a number of weather-related topics, including:
- If you could control the weather (like Storm from the X-Men) – what would you do?
- Describe snow to someone who’s never seen it before.
- Explain why you should be the new face of BBC Weather.
- Does every cloud really have a silver lining?
Both members and guests tackled the wide range of topics with great enthusiasm and overall the standard was very high.
After an evaluation of all the topics speakers by regular member Joyanta, Ilze gave her final report as timekeeper. This was followed by Renars’ report as Grammarian – and he turned out to be a real stickler for ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ but also commended good use of language during the meeting.
The General Evaluator Stella from Society Speakers provided useful feedback for all members not yet evaluated, and had a number of commendations for the club as a whole, including the very friendly welcome she received on arrival.
Closing the meeting, Femi reminded everyone of the forthcoming Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests on 10th September before handing out the awards as voted by the audience.
The best evaluator award went to Ratan for his evaluation of Jasr’s speech. The best Table Topic award went (jointly!) to Renars and Swarajit. And best speaker went to Michael for his speech on drugs and cycling. The President’s award went to Ilze for her fantastic performance as timekeeper.
Our next meeting is on Monday 23rd July 2012, upstairs at The Clerk and Well pub, 156 Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1R 5BX.