Report from Toastmaster Meeting 8th February by Andrew Miller
It was a real pleasure to get back to Doncaster Speakers tonight. Due to a combination of Christmas and holidays (oh, the humanity), this was my first proper Toastmasters meeting since November.
Michael J Clarke was our Toastmaster for the evening and he set a very apt theme of “It’s a Journey”.
As well as our own personal journeys that we go through as we gain experience and learn new things, Toastmasters itself has gone through its own journey. From its humble beginnings back in 1924, it is now a truly global organisation with a membership equivalent to the population of Bradford. Now there’s a fact to chew over.
Bridget Pearson was our Grammarian for the evening and set us a challenging word of the day in “Peregrination”. Tied into our theme, it means a journey, especially a long or meandering one. Amazingly, the word was used quite extensively. I suspect I heard that word more times tonight than I will do for the rest of my life. Even if there was heavy use of the “crow bar” to get it in some times, it was good work by all the members.
It was also good to meet the two visitors this evening. Ben Mullins was back for his second visit and brought with him his business colleague, Simon Taylor. Good to meet the two of you and I look forward to seeing you both again soon.
We had two really great speakers this evening. Jean Stewart and Shelagh Jones, both doing speeches from Advanced Manuals.
Jean was playing to her strengths by delivering a project from the Humorously Speaking manual. “Promoting to the over-50s”, a slightly less than serious insight into the marketing techniques used by Saga holidays, funeral planners and equity release agencies.
With a complete change of pace, Shelagh was working from the Storytelling manual and had to deliver a known Folk Tale. So, we all gathered round her closely in a half circle and pretended to be 8 year olds as she regaled us with her interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood.
Two very different types and styles. How do you decide who to vote for? Well, it turns out we couldn’t as the vote for best speaker ended up being a dead heat, which felt about right.
To wrap up the first half, I facilitated an Education Session around “What Toastmasters has done for me”. I think it’s important to remember why we come to these meetings. The reason isn’t to win ribbons and complete manuals. There is a real world benefit and we heard some of those examples tonight, including being comfortable in doing a presentation to a group of children, becoming a recognised expert on local radio and helping with the rehabilitation of prisoners.
After the break we had Stephanie Bisby and Andy Howell come up and evaluate Jean and Shelagh’s speeches respectively. Both gave really strong and clear presentations, well structured, supportive and useful and I was really impressed with the standard, not having seen either of them evaluate before. Very well done.
In fact, when it came to the vote for Best Evaluator of the evening, the prize went to a very deserving Andy.
In the meantime, he was back at the front to oversee the Table Topics round.
Once again the journey theme was brought to the fore, with questions such as “Your most memorable journey”, “The first holiday you remember” and “If you could travel anywhere in time and space, where would you go?”
Well done our visitor, Simon, for volunteering to make his debut on the Toastmasters stage by taking part in the TT session. He gave a very good mini-speech on his own personal journey of self improvement.
The winner of Table Topics was, very much to my surprise and delight, me !! “Name three people that I would share a journey with on the Orient Express”. After bluffing my way through the first two (including Hercules Poirot. Well you would, wouldn’t you?), I suddenly remembered I’d better add my wife to the list. Otherwise, there would have been a murder that really wouldn’t have taxed Mr Poirot’s little grey cells to any length.
Some extra thanks you’s to Sean Gordon for evaluating the Table Topics and covering the Ah Counter role when Julie lost her voice. Alison Turner did a sterling job as Timekeeper and the whole evening was wrapped up by our President Jean Stewart.
The next meeting is on 22nd February. We have two speakers lined up, including an Ice Breaker from our newest member Steven Bisby. We also have an education slot from a Toastmaster legend, Phil Heath, who has offered to come down and give us tips on how to use our voice effectively.
Should be a really good meeting, so make sure you get yourself down there.
Have a good couple of weeks and I’ll see you on the 22nd
Report from Toastmaster meeting 11th January by Shelagh Jones
Our Toastmaster of the Day (and also our President), Jean Stewart, chose the very appropriate Theme of Goal Setting for the first meeting of the New Year.
Grammarian Alison Turner built on the Theme with “Determination” as her Word of the Day which was reasonably well used during the ensuing speeches.
Table Topics Master Sean Gordon created a clutch of questions centred on New Year Resolutions past, present and imagined which were, as always, taken up very enthusiastically and effectively. In fact, so effective were the speeches that for the first time “in living memory” there were equal votes for every participant – until the one person who had not voted completed their ballot and Stephanie Bisby was declared as Table Topics winner.
David Allen “broke his duck” as Table Topics Evaluator, acquitted himself well for a first attempt, and learned some valuable lessons for next time.
There was no vote for best Evaluator as David fell short of his allotted time and Alison was giving so much feedback as Grammarian that she ran way over her time. We certainly get plenty of opportunity to practice keeping to time at Toastmaster meetings!
The final part of the meeting was devoted to an informal “workshop” about ways to spread the word about Toastmasters in the area and bring more members to the club. Jean Stewart led the discussion and it was really helpful to have the input of all members present and, most importantly, a guest who was seeing the club from a different viewpoint.
There were some excellent suggestions which will be implemented over the second half of the Toastmasters year.
Those of us who are members know just how much there is to be gained from being involved with Doncaster Speakers. We really owe it to others to let them know too!
The meeting ended on a positive and upbeat note with everyone buzzing about what they themselves are going to do.
Next meeting is on 25th January at the Regent Hotel at 7pm and, as always, guests are welcome.
General Evaluator’s Report | 28th July 2014 | By Shelagh Jones
The most interesting themes for a Toastmasters meeting are often topical, especially if they take a sideways look at what is going on. Andrew Miller chose the Commonwealth as his theme for the meeting on Monday July 28th and gave a fascinating insight into the origin of the word and how the Toastmasters ethos of working for our mutual good and wellbeing and the good of the organisation is comparable.
Grammarian Bridget Pearson (our newest member who is stretching herself at every meeting!) chose UNITE as her word of the day –both in its meaning related to the Commonwealth theme, but also as a noun meaning an old English coin worth 20 shillings which was then equal to one pound. Some members had great fun with this use of the word!Richard Bluck took on the challenge to research a topic and speak about it by demonstrating the Triz problem-solving, analysis and forecasting tool derived from the study of patterns of invention in the global patent literature, which was created by Genrich Atlshuller in the late 1940s.
Richard managed to explain this complicated idea very clearly – and I for one have already gone online to read more!Derek Badger is working on one of the 15 Advanced Manuals, called Technical Presentations, and his first speech was a Technical Briefing which he chose to make a session about preventing Fire in the workplace. Helped by a stack of visual aids he expertly lead us through the “triangle” of fuel, oxygen and heat that is needed for a fire to take place, and emphasised his points with poignant personal anecdotes.
The new Area 15 Governor Chris Worfolk was warmly welcomed to the meeting and gave us a very informative talk about leadership – applicable to both Toastmasters and the workplace. He identified the five areas against which a potential leader should measure him or herself, and then gave a diagram on which to evaluate ourselves and, as time goes by, measure our progress.
His five areas were:
- Be the expert – your team expects you to know
- Be the role model – lead from the front
- Learn the patience to teach
- Become a coach – empower people by delegating to them
- And finally – be the Manager.
After the break Jean Stewart ran a lively and very enjoyable Table Topics session in which we were invited to choose one of a series of objects from her home. Gail Powell’s tale about why not to buy people a mug and Bridget Pearson’s sad story of what happened to her cuddly toys were joint Winners.
The evening ended with the evaluations, showing contributors to the evening where they performed particularly well and where they could improve.
Alison Kitchman was Ah Counter and she decided to challenge herself by not simply pointing out crutch words but also offering ways to reduce their use.
She started off by saying that Filler words are not written into a speech. She then explained how using crutch words weakens our credibility and authenticity.
In general, she suggested we should:
- Raise the level of preparation of role introductions etc
- Slow down (allow mouth to catch up with brain!)
- Embrace the pause. Give yourself time to think.
She then gave detailed feedback to participants.
This resulted in her going way over her allotted time (and she had more to offer if people wanted to talk to her afterwards) and therefore could not be included in vote for Best Evaluator.
In the Q and A session at the end of the meeting Alison made an impassioned plea for the same amount of time to be allocated to the Ah counter as to the Grammarian. After a lively discussion it was decided to do this in future meetings.
At the end of the meeting, Andrew resumed his role as Club President and awarded Mark Powell with his certificates and pins for achieving the two Awards Competent Communicator and Competent Leader.
He also awarded the Best Evaluator to Derek Lucian, Best Table Topics to Gail Powell and Bridget Pearson and Best Speaker to Richard Bluck.
This meeting was held, unusually, in the Earl of Doncaster Hotel. All future meetings will revert to the Regent Hotel in Doncaster. The next two meetings are on Monday August 11th and Monday August 18th, and the Club Speech competitions will be held on Monday September 8th. All meetings start at 7pm.
General Evaluator’s Report | 14th July 2014 | By Andrew Miller
Lisa Johnson, Toastmaster for the evening, found an excellent way of theming the meeting.
The concept of the security blanket, something we hide behind that helps us or stops us from stepping outside our comfort zone, was nicely tied into the fears we feel when we stand up and speak in front of an audience. That we need to step out from behind our shields and face our fears if we want to progress in anything we do.
Additionally, however, Lisa had made erstwhile contact with a number of the people taking on roles and inveigled them to provide personal stories about their own security blankets or cuddly toys that they possessed as a child.
Lisa would then introduce each one with a little insight into their childhood pecadillos, before they came up to the lectern.
Consequently, we found out about thumb suckers who cured their habit by playing cat’s cradle, the violence that can be bestowed by a small boy and his toy cat and we even had an actual toy sheep brought in to show.
Not only did this put an additional gloss on some of the more formal procedures in place, it also helped us all to get to know these people a little better and enabled us to connect with them at a deeper level.
As for the meeting itself, we had two speakers tonight, both of whom had completed the initial 10 speeches contained in the first manual we tackle, officially designating them Competent Communicators.
Derek Lucian delivered us an advanced speech from the Entertaining Speaker Manual, and entertain us he did. Entitled “Three Little Words”, Derek went on to reveal that the three words in question were “Pull. My. Finger”. And yes, described precisely how that old trick works and the consequences. With mimes and sound effects! Somehow, he managed to keep it decent and family friendly, which was an art in itself.
He then shared with us his confusion when a doctor appeared to be using this method to check for trapped nerve in his neck and how everything was finally resolved when he went to visit a bizarre alternative therapist. But not in the way that you might think.
Up against Derek we had Jean Stewart. This speech was a bonus one, stored at the back of the first manual to keep you going until the advanced ones arrive and is on the theme of the Entertaining Speaker. Similar to Derek, but a slight shift in focus on the individual over the actual content.
“The End of a Promising Career” allowed us to find out a little bit more about Jean and her drinking habits at boring social events. A few too many drinks and a lack of attention to the actual words coming out of her mouth, and the career of her recently acquired husband was brought to a crashing halt.
A speech perfectly suited for Jean and delivered with fantastic humour and pacing, it was with no disrespect to Derek that she walked away with the Best Speaker ribbon for the evening.
To round off the first half we had the formal handover to the new committee. Gail Powell, last year’s President, kicked things off by passing on the ribbon of power to Andrew Miller, the incumbent for 2014/2015. The other members of the committee then came up, receiving their pins and giving a brief view on what they want to bring to the role this year.
The ambitions this year include to making meetings easier to run and ensure that members get the most out of their membership. This means increasing the size of the club, bringing in helpful procedures and processes to make it easier to organise meetings and take on roles and step up the education and mentoring elements of the club.
For the record, the new committee are:
President – Andrew Miller
VP of Education – Shelagh Jones
VP for Membership – Sean Gordon
VP for PR – Jean Stewart (returning)
Webmaster – Fred Roberts (returning)
Treasurer – Andrew Miller (returning)
Sgt at Arms – Lisa Johnson
Secretary – Richard Bluck (returning)
This section was concluded with a formal thanking of Gail for her work in the previous year followed by the traditional presentation of a bunch of flowers. Gail supplied the equally traditional “shocked” expression it is customary to adopt in these circumstances.
In the second half, following the evaluations of the speeches, we enjoyed a round of impromptu speaking turns with Table Topics. Richard Bluck picked up the theme of Security Blankets and tasked each contestant to consider the security blankets that might be adopted by various celebrities. These ranged from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Angela Merkel.
In the President’s wrap up, the award for best Table Topic went to himself (greedy git) and best evaluator went to the Table Topics Evaluator, Frederika Roberts. A special “First Timer” ribbon went to Jay, visiting from the Sheffield club. These ribbons are normally reserved for people who have never been to Toastmasters before, but as visits between clubs should be encouraged, it was deemed appropriate to issue one in this case.
In his closing comments, Andrew announced the dates of the Humorous Speech and Table Topics competition. The Club Competition will replace our normal Monday meeting on 8 September. Doncaster will also be hosting the next round, the Area Competition, on 21st September.
We will need both competitors and people to assist in the organising of these two events. No experience is actually needed, either for competing or assisting. Early volunteers would be appreciated.
Guests will be more than welcome to come along as well.
General Evaluator’s Report | 23rd June 2014 | By Alison Kitchman
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.
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.
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.