A Prodigal Tale


For various reasons it’s been a while since I have attended a meeting of Maidenhead Speakers Club. Some things change. Some stay the same!

Okay the changes were mostly restricted to some new format T M badges.

Stays the same pretty much covered everything else. Not that that’s a bad thing – far from it! It included a great range of speakers across all the roles, a sprinkling of guests/new/would-be members and an enthusiastic and engaged audience.

Julie Farell was introduced as our TME and ran through the rules of the game with her usual vivacity, and a twist on the tried and tested HATS nemonic, suggesting that maybe we should consider the H as standing for Hug, although accepting that for some this could give rise to feelings of awkwardness! A few people looked up for it though!

Eschewing a word of the day – or was that just absent-mindedness – Grammarian Steve Catchick introduced himself as being from the school of tough (grammatical) love. A self forged reputation he was to live up to later on.

Introduced as our Educational Speaker, Jacqui Hogan ran through Ten top tips for table topics (try saying that after the annual club dinner) which covered the dos and more dos of navigating your way through this sometimes challenging arena. Want to know more? Check out the attachment

Proving that knowing and doing aren’t necessarily the same thing, our intrepid toastmasters were called up for Table Topics by TT-meister Alan Grayly who asked participants to elucidate well known idioms, starting with Belshie Donaldson who was invited to explain how you can sometimes miss the wood for the trees. Slightly running out of steam part way, Belshie nonetheless did a credible job and more than covered the distance to the green light.

Steve Catchick reflected on the bittersweet adrenaline buzz/panic that comes with biting off more than you can chew, whilst David MacLeod was at pains to explain that there is indeed such a thing as a free lunch and that his role as mentor was living proof. Lock up your biscuit tin!

With a tantalisingly implausible story about the perils of stowing thrones in grass houses – I’ll leave you to work out what idiom that was based on – Norman Rhodes enthralled with a regal tale from the house of Queen Victoria and her travels to distant lands.

Clive Pugh gave us a story from the take-no-prisoners world of Barber shop choirs, worthy of a docu-drama-soap, and demonstrated award winning (well a ribbon anyway) use of the stage whilst explaining the relationship between eggs and omelets (it’s messy).

Sticking with the eggs theme, Joyce told us that joining them and beating them aren’t necessarily incompatible!? For good measure she threw in a recipe for a perfect spongecake!

New member Abi broke his TT’s duck with meditations on necessity and invention, tying in neatly with what motivated him to join Toastmasters in the first place.

Mary Fraser was first up of the prepared speakers with a coquettishly named speech titled Lets Play! In fact this was about about the value of play in children’s development from the advanced manual. Mary showed that simple visual aids don’t need to be flashy to be effective and that for ease of use the humble flip chart is hard to beat. With a potentially too-wide brief Mary focused on three key take-home points and delivered these in a memorable and engaging way going on to win best speech of the evening.

Doreen Gowing chose a challenging topic with Contented before I’m demented and won plaudits for her natural story telling ability and effective use of language in a speech that started out with Doreen sharing the stage with an imaginary friend and included awesome alliteration such as a family of furry ferrets flitting about.

Evaluator Mell Shepherd found a lot to like including good use of pauses, contrasting this with Doreen’s hitherto tendency slightly to gabble. It’s probably an irish thing explained Mell helpfully!

Our final speaker was Nick Bailey who recounted tales of strangeness and deadly wild creatures from the southern tip of Africa where Nick works from time to time as a tour guide. This provided him with material which, as evaluator Lorraine Hamilton remarked, brought out a relaxed style to which Nick is well suited.

In a pithy evaluation of Table Topics that earned a well deserved ribbon for best evaluation, Chris Boden found something to commend in all the speakers, including Steve Cann who waffled along nicely, and Joyce Rhodes who was advised to come forward on stage and share the love. For a moment I thought someone might get that hug after all!

Great fun!

Summing up the evening Richard Davies commended TME Julie Farrell for a well run evening fresh from organising the Annual Club dinner on Saturday. Aside from those filling the regular roles Richard also singled out the audience who make Toastmasters the  unique and visceral experience that it is!

Last word went to Grammarian Steve Catchick who, as well as picking out good examples of language, left no verbal crutches unstoned. Speaking personally I was surprised at the number of uhs with which I managed to pepper my evaluation of Mary Fraser’s talk, (a near personal best/worst of 18! Well I did say it was a while since my last outing) especially as I was pretty much unaware of – well any of them really! Just goes to show the value of Toastmasters – if you want to improve there’s no substitute for clear eyed and constructive feedback.

Maidenhead Speakers Club – it’s great to be back!

John Callaghan 30 April 2013

TM – Top Ten Tips for Terrific Table Topics copy

4 responses to “A Prodigal Tale

  1. It’s great to have you back! 🙂

  2. Great write-up of the evening John, & good to see you. Thanks for helping me out with the washing-up afterwards too – can you come every week please?! 😉

  3. Jacqui Hogan

    Good job John!

  4. Welcome back John. Enjoyed reading your blog post. Disappointed that I had to leave early on Monday night and pleasantly surprised to learn that I’d won the ribbon for best speaker!

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