Doncaster Speakers Meeting Report | 29th May 2014

General Evaluator’s Report | 19th May 2014

“Lessons Learnt the Hard Way”

So. What did Monday night bring us this time by way of Toastmastery delights?

Hot on the heels of the previous meeting due to the Bank Holidays in May, it was great to see so many people there, as well as a returning visitor giving us a second go.

Sean Ryan was in charge this time, taking on the Toastmaster role with his usual levels of energy and delight, clearly and precisely taking us through what Toastmasters is about and the size of the organisation.

Ever Tried Ever Failed Samuel Beckett
Image Credit: The Happiness Speaker

His theme of the day was “Lessons Learnt the Hard Way”. Based on his personal reflections on the progress he’d made over time and that problems he’d faced were really just things to learn from. That things don’t happen straight away, but you need to keep pushing to see the benefits. He even brought in a fantastic quote from Beckett:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”


This inspired Jean Stewart, as grammarian, to provide us with “Persevere”as the word of the day. Along with the promise of a chocolate bar if anyone managed to use it 10 times in the evening. Now there’s a glass and a half of challenge.

There were two planned speeches this evening. Richard Bluck was delivering Speech 6 from the Competent Communications Manual and was titled “Stuck at Work”. The focus of Speech 6 was to bring in vocal variety into the delivery. His story of how he got stuck in America when the Icelandic Ash Cloud went up. Richard has a very calm and measured style of delivery and was concerned that he comes across as monotone. But, whilst the variation may not be as extreme as some others, the subtlety of his intonation and variation, possibly has more impact. A very funny and engaging tale told in a very entertaining way.

The second speaker was Gail Powell and this was Speech number 10 !! This means that Gail has completed all the speeches in the first speech manual and is now able to move onto the more advanced projects. This final speech pulls together all of the lessons learnt from before and requires the speaker to inspire the audience with their message. As it is such a special speech, more time is allowed in which to get the point across, being 10 minutes maximum, instead of the usual 7.

Gail’s speech was titled “Living a Conscious Life”and launched off with another quote, this time from “The Matrix”to set up the theme of looking at things in a different way, especially if you know they aren’t agreeing with you. The specific context was to explain why she had recently turned virtually vegetarian following a number of experiences, including working with a vegan and nearly choking to death on a piece of beef. But Gail didn’t go down the ‘cute animals’route, but the impact that intense animal farming is having on the world. She illustrated the different elements of the carbon footprint created by animal flood production by using giant colour coded paper chains. The most astounding fact of the night was that lamb shipped in from New Zealand has a smaller footprint than home grown lamb, purely down to the type of feed used.

Food for thought and no mistake (or pun intended).

Following the speeches, Shelagh Jones delivered an excellent education session on what is required in the different roles of the Committee members. A useful topic as the new Committee will be voted in very soon.

Moving into the second half, the General Evaluator introduced Jean and Shelagh again who had been evaluating Richard and Gail’s speeches respectively. Andrew gave a great explanation around the importance of evaluation, as well as a comparison between Toastmasters and a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo. It’s nothing without the feedback !! Which successfully produced the biggest groan of the evening from the audience.

Following the very eloquent and well-structured speech evaluations, we moved on the fantastic improvisation round, Table Topics.

Sean Gordon had his first taste of being in charge of this section and, working with the overall theme, pulled together a series of questions around learning, failing and regrets.

Despite some pretty tough questions, everyone pulled out some cracking Table Topics.

Special highlights include a sterling performance from Bridget, our visitor of the evening, who was happy to volunteer. Despite only being her second visit, she delivered her topic like a pro, bringing in structure, fluidity and humour.

Then there was Andrew Miller (again) who, when asked to come up with something he’d regretted not asking, realised that he hadn’t taken the opportunity during the break to ask Jean if the promise of chocolate bar was true. Just in case, he shamelessly (but humorously) crowbarred in enough usages of “Persevere”to qualify for any prize, should it exist.

It didn’t!

Moving towards wrap up, Andrew Miller, as General Evaluator, gave the overall picture and then it came to presentation time for the awards.

The award for Best Speech went to Gail Powell whilst Lisa Johnson grabbed the pennant for Best Evaluator. And, in the absence of the promised chocolate bar, Andrew was compensated by getting the award for Best Table Topic.

A really good night and looking forward to the next one on the 9th of June where we will enjoy not one, but TWO speech 10’s plus a speech from one of the advanced manuals. So really high quality to look forward to there.

In addition, we will be voting for the new Committee. So, if you didn’t make it this time – Fail Better – and get along on the 9th.


Published by Doncaster Speakers

Doncaster Speakers meet at 7pm on selected Mondays at the Regent Hotel, Doncaster. We welcome guests. Please check our website for details of forthcoming meetings.

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