With special guest blogger Steve Cann:
A lively evening at Maidenhead Speakers started guest Sgt at Arms, Mell Sheppard, enthusiastically welcoming us and getting us all in good spirits with her Groucho Marx story. Then President Nick Bailey reminded members about some important areas of club policy and etiquette.
Our Toastmaster of the Evening was Julie Farrell – ever-confident and exuburant, she made a thoroughly efficient and professional job of co-ordinating the night. Surprisingly, she revealed that this was her first time as TME. She made us smile with news of her best-selling book-to-be (if only those feckless agents would stop rejecting it) and a hitherto unheard version of the HATS acronym, whereby the T stood for the half-time tea and biscuits!
Table Topics Master was Ben De Candole – giving us an important reminder about the purpose of TTs, and that practise really does make perfect. He also encouraged speakers who feel unsure that they can ‘talk around the subject’ – some of the speakers took this advice tonight!
Zahid Aziz, asked what advice he’d give to his 10-year-old self, told us that he’d probably switch his career path – working outside with rocks and geology, rather than at his desk clicking his mouse!
Alan Grayly was asked about a disastrous first date… he kept us all amused with talk of double-dates, and trying to remember what his date had spoken about the next morning. Good use of ‘power of three’ at the conclusion with ‘time, place & diary’.
John Callaghan had the taxing question of why he would be perfect for a new, highly-paid Toastmasters role. He chose to sidestep this question entirely, opting instead to answer Alan’s topic – informing us that the beauty of TTs is ‘you don’t have to answer the question’! He reminisced about his student days in 1987, and a young lady whom he had designs on and stalked… but surprised us at the conclusion by revealing that this lucky girl was now his wife!
Chris Boden was up next, with the rather delicate topic of alleged cover ups at the BBC, and a letter to ‘Ben’ll Fix it’… He revealed that Jimmy Savile’s fame (or infamy) had never reached the shores of his native Australia, so, when the news of the DJ’s scandal recently erupted, he didn’t get to have his childhood illusions shattered! He also urged us to question everything.
Anita Lee was put on the spot with: You’re an open-heart surgeon – what’s the worst thing that could happen?
As with John, she side-stepped this and opted to answer Zahid’s earlier topic, revealing that if she could be a 10-year-old again she would plan for her future, perhaps taking more steps to ensure an early retirement! And, in the process, create an alternative future of more play, less work.
Amanda Bouch won the ribbon for best TT Speaker – Who picked a coin then had to tell us what she was doing that year. She revealed that, 20 years ago, she was living in Mombasa and doing two jobs. She spoke of her satisfaction at this time of her work/life balance, and weekends off going on Jeep safaris to explore the natural world of Kenya.
Mary Fraser was our first speaker, giving a very helpful educational speech on how we can all help each other with effective use of the evaluation slips.
She encouraged us to organize our feedback with the phrase: Stop – look – listen – write it down. She also reminded us of the elements of an effective speech – tone of voice, volume, phrasing, structure, purpose, and if the speaker had engaged the audience. At the end, she mentioned that we can acknowledge them by simply saying ‘thank you for entertaining / inspiring me’ – something that every speaker appreciates.
Rod Lafargue was our first manual speaker of the evening, performing a very effective and charming icebreaker. He calmly took to the stage and told us all about his move to England a few years ago as a student (from his native France) to study in Sheffield. He amused us with tales of some of the challenges he experienced as he began to grasp the English language – everyday things such as getting a taxi driver to understand that he needed a ride to Victoria station!
Rob Howes was up next and unusually, opted to begin his speech from the back of the room, to deliver his opening lines. It grabbed everyone’s attention, and he moved to the front as he told us the story of his father’s move to Portugal, using a good, unhurried pace and lots of word pictures and descriptive language. Ingeniously too, he saved his single powerpoint slide for the final part of his speech, and inspired us all with his message of ‘achieving the dream’.
Clive Pugh was our final speaker, also winning the ribbon for best speech. He gave an interesting and entertaining speech all about first impressions… and that perhaps they really don’t count! He spoke of the dating game too, and his experiences as a job interviewer who didn’t judge candidates this way. He told us of the intriguing tactics employed when he worked at BA, whereby an unsuspecting job candidate would be taken to a restaurant for a chat – not realizing that this was the most important assessment of them, being observed in the quality of their interactions with restaurant staff and others around them.
Keith Clarke was scheduled to speak next, but sadly had to leave the meeting early due to feeling unwell – we hope you feel better soon Keith. This gap in the schedule was spontaneously filled by our timer of the evening, Norman Rhodes, who stepped up to give us some impromptu poetry – the first entitled ‘Ah-er-um’ (something we can all relate to!) and then an unusual piece of prose about rain. He also enchanted us with a short story on the subject of finding inner peace.
Beshlie Donaldson, Chris Webb and Monica Horten were our evaluators, and all performed very well, giving lots of useful feedback, encouragement and recommendations for our speakers. Monica, with her animated evaluation of Clive Pugh’s speech, won the ribbon for best evaluator.
Steve Cann was General Evalutor – as with Julie, this was his first time in the role. Due to the extra time in the schedule, he was happy to be able to evaluate all the Table Topics speakers, as well as the Evaluators. He also gave his overview of the entire evening, thanking everyone for their important contributions to another successful night. He also mentioned that today was ‘International Stammering Awareness Day’, and spoke briefly of how this issue has affected him.
Fatiha Lafkar, our Grammarian, finally took to the stage to give a very effective and thorough review of tonight’s speakers’ use (or misuse!) of language, and was pleased to report that three of our speakers had included her word of the day ‘Lithe’. Again, this was Fatiha’s first time in this role, and she did a first-class job.
Special thanks also to Joyce Rhodes for deputizing on the VPM Desk, giving everyone a warm welcome and making sure we’d all signed in!