New Year in July


With Guest Blogger, Ben de Candole

This was the first meeting of the new Toastmasters’ year, so we had an all-new committee including President (Jacqui Hogan), Sergeant at Arms (Paul Aherne standing-in for Doreen Gowing) and Membership Secretary Lorraine Hamilton.

When I arrived at the meeting at 7:15, it was a full of efficient busy people setting things up. The Sergeant at Arms (Paul Aherne) gave an excellent topical introduction all about the hot weather we’ve been having; he then introduced our new President Jacqui Hogan. Jacqui gave us a wonderful anecdote about her father by way of introduction to her theme of the evening which was ‘Being Inspired’. She also read out a lovely poem which got a round of applause from the audience.

Toastmaster of the Evening Nick Bailey gave us a great topical introduction about Andy Murray and a groan-worthy joke! This was great start to his toast and got the audience engaged. Nick also turned a mistake into a good opportunity to introduce Grammarian Clive Pugh – his key strength seems to be that whenever he makes a slip-up, he turns it round into a little joke and can always get a laugh from the audience.

Nick then introduced the Table Topics Master Mary Fraser, who gave an interesting variety of questions which were pitched at just the right level – not too easy, not too hard. They were quite personal which I liked because it gave us an opportunity to get to know the person a bit. Mary also asked the question first and then named the speaker – I feel this is the most effective way to do it.

The first TT speaker was Yohan McDonald answering, ‘If you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do?’ Yohan replied, ‘I’ve been waiting years for someone to ask me that question!’, before going on to ponder on what he may do to make his final day enjoyable.

Our second speaker was Sam Billington who gave a very eloquent table topic for a new member who is only 18 years old. He stopped it on a high note which is the right way to do it.

Our third speaker was Julie Farrell who was asked, ‘What would you change about yourself if you if you could?’ She replied, ‘Nothing because I’m perfect!’ I think she was joking …

Our fourth speaker was new member Rob Crowe who spoke very well as a new TM on the topic ‘what would you do if you could travel back in time’. Well done Rob with taking up the challenge, and we look forward to hearing more from you.

Our fifth speaker Richard Davies was asked,  ‘What would you do if you lost your bus money and could not get home?’ Among Richard’s suggestions were stealing some money for the bus or even hitch-hike home, although he voiced concerns about axe murderers(!) which got a good laugh from the audience.

Our sixth speaker Sandra Davison was asked, ‘What would you do if you were in the middle of nowhere and found a suitcase containing £1m? She gave us a great anecdote about finding money hidden in a wardrobe when she was a little girl, and told us she didn’t like spending money which wasn’t hers, even as a child. She was obviously cut out for a career as an accountant! She won the ribbon for best TT.

Our seventh and final speaker was Alan Grayling who was asked, ‘What’s the one thing you would give up?’ Alan gave us an entertaining topic which got plenty of laughs – he ended on a high-note too with a joke.

Our first prepared speech was from John Callaghan (all four were advanced speeches except for John – this being the final speech from his Competent Communicator manual). He gave a very open and personal talk about his struggle with nerves during public speaking, but had overcome this initial lack of confidence to become an accomplished Toastmaster. This engaging speech had plenty of humorous touches too, and he used natural eye-contact with the audience coupled with plenty of vocal variety.

Second speaker Karen Szulakowska started topically by mentioning the Wimbledon achievements, and then went on to give an inspiring speech about present moment living. She later including a lovely anecdote about a fledgling she nearly ran over in her car (and ended up rescuing), and also asked the audience to vote for their favourite of the three short stories she’d covered in her speech.

Our third speaker was Amanda Bouch who spoke all about the new club she has successfully started in Wokingham. This was an engaging speech full of passion and great gestures: when she mentioned taking a ‘first step’ she actually took an exaggerated step on-stage; and when she was emphasizing a tiny bit of progress, she actually measured it with her forefinger and thumb. Amanda made an interesting point about not everything being fun, but reflected that if overall you’re having fun, then it’s worth it! I think this is true of many things in life. Amanda went on to win the ribbon for best speaker.

Our final speaker was Eric Elliott who gave us a humorous speech about shoemakers in Egypt, culminating in a great punch line about why chickens shouldn’t cross the road… what a great build-up! Eric had struggled in (despite not feeling great) and still managed to deliver a magnificent performance.

We had four great evaluations; unfortunately Steve Cann‘s evaluation overran so could not be included in the voting. The winner of the Evaluation competition was Beshlie Donaldson. General Evaluator Ben de Candole gave an entertaining and humorous evaluation of the evening, and Grammarian Clive Pugh gave us a thorough report, including usage of word of the day ‘magnificent’.

The 30-strong audience were receptive and responsive throughout; all-in-all a very enjoyable, entertaining and magnificent evening!

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