Never mind the width…

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 19 May 2014


Never Mind the Width… Feel the Quality! From the outset, Doreen Gowing our “unsung hero” and Sgt@ Arms opened in lyrical fashion – obviously trying to catch the grammarian’s eye early on.

Following the AGM and the appointment of the new committee, President Jacqui Hogan passed over to Mell Sheppard who got down to Business as Toastmaster for the Evening in a brisk fashion before introducing Helen Elliot with Table Topics. Helen offered speakers a wide canvas, picking topics inspired by the Competent Leader manual:

Chris Boden was first up with an impromptu speech about talking to persuade, his prescription: be a “Persuasion Ninja”. Strike up a connection with your audience, but be just a little bit sneaky and avoid the folly of a direct approach. Wise words – great delivery.

Gerard Pillai beat around the bush with an entertaining tale of one man and a rhinoceros (thank you spellcheck!) chasing each other. Till finally he got to the point!

Tony Searby gave an animated table topic and scored with best fact of the day about the President of Bolivia who plays for Reading Utd (well the Bolivian equivalent anyway!) Who knew? Strange but true. At least I think it’s true…

Michael Williams was initially a little unsure how to approach the topic on use of body language but had obviously been paying attention in Table Topics bootcamp as he first bought himself time repeating the question before confessing that the Competent Leader manual and he were virtual strangers – concluding that it was time they became better acquainted. Ironically throughout, Michael’s natural body language and expressive gestures were as strong as ever.

David MacLeod spoke on the relative merits of inspiration and perspiration – allegedly they’re closely related and indispensable to the art and science of project management.

Marco Davi gave a preview of his icebreaker, sounding like a seasoned professional already as he explained why he had joined and his interest in developing his storytelling skills.

Finally Mary Fraser gave a barnstorming performance – which went on to win best table topic – on the theme of persuading with power, rousing members to consider the opportunity posed by VP Ed: with confidence, competence and know how on tap there’s all the support you could need to make a success of the role, and a great chance to get to know the members of the club.

It’s no exaggeration to say that many of these table topics would have stood scrutiny as a prepared speech.

With a truncated schedule comprising just two main speakers, we were nonetheless in for a treat as two accomplished speakers, Fatiha Lafkar and Yohan McDonald both gave the final speeches in their Competent Communicator manual – their mission to inspire.

With immense and seemingly effortless vocal variety – at one point she was almost whispering and the audience were hanging on her every word – Fatiha told us about her journey in public speaking and how she has faced down her demons; a story which was which was only emphasized by what an impressive speaker she is. Her evaluator, Cheryl Brickell had her work cut out to offer recommendations but mined a narrow vein to offer some positive recommendations.

Nick Bailey gave a text book evaluation of Yohan – linking his comments explicitly to the speech objectives throughout. Yohan’s speech implicitly asked the difference between the experiences life throws at us and a car crash. Answer: they’re different! One’s to be avoided and the other embraced. Drawing on some pretty powerful personal experiences, Yohan asked his audience if there’s something they feel they should have said or done? GOOD!! He roared! You have permission to feel uncomfortable… Challenge yourself!

I was left feeling rather glad that with only two speeches there was no vote as I would have struggled to pick a winner from two very powerful speeches.

The evening reminded me why I keep coming to Toastmasters – sure I want to be a better speaker, but more than that, for me it’s a chance to get to know a bunch of interesting and inspiring people who genuinely open up.

Maidenhead Speakers … Never mind the width…!

The next meeting will be on Monday 9th June at 19:30. See you all there!


One thought on “Never mind the width…

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