by Steve Cann
Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 23 Feb 2015
Last Monday saw the staging of the 2015 International Club Speech & Evaluation Contest &, on another well-attended night, everyone present was in for an evening of high-quality speeches, not to mention some fun group activities! Club President Julie welcomed new member Honor to the club, before introducing our Contest Chair, Jacqui.
Jacqui made the task of Contest Chair look easy & effortless, as she efficiently managed those important contest protocols, as well as keeping us entertained throughout the evening. By way of a warm-up, one half of the audience were asked the intriguing question ‘What would you do if a member of your family won the Lottery?‘. We received a whole range of answers from our fair-minded audience, from those who would be happy to share in the person’s success, to others who would be happy to help them spend it! (the other half of the the audience got their chance to answer the question later in the second section of the evening).
Mohammad was the first contest speaker, with his speech entitled ‘Wealth’ – following on by a happy coincidence from our warm-up game. He explored the notion of whether or not wealth really does make one truly happy, & reflected that we in the west are virtual millionaires compared to more than half the world. He concluded that there are other far more important things in life than money to bring us ultimate happiness.
Richard was next with ‘The Cautious Man’. He explored the theme of poetry, & spoke about three events when poetry had inspired him in his life. His speech led him to to talk about wealthy publishing tycoon Felix Dennis, who had loved the poem ‘The Cautious Man’. Richard loved the message in the poem too, & quoted his own father’s inspirational words: ‘Always try something new, what is it you’re going to do’.
Tony was next with ‘The Dream’ – & told of the story of a boy from a poor family in America, who had been given a bad grade at school for writing a story about the wonderful things he would do with his life if his dreams came true. His teacher wasn’t impressed, & told him to rewrite it, as his dreams weren’t achievable – but the boy simply handed in the same essay again. He would keep his dream alive, whatever other people said – & be the author of his own destiny.
Yohan asked ‘What’s in your Baggage?’ for his speech &, with the use of a holdall as a prop, spoke honestly of 3 very personal events through his life when his ambitions had somehow been thwarted, & reflected that our own personal baggage from past need not hold us back. His 5-month-old daughter reminded him that the only time we ever have is the present, & to put your baggage away – only spending time doing the things that serve you well.
Zahid told us very positively ‘You Can Do It!’, & talked vividly about his own childhood as an 8-year-old boy with no shoes living in the Himalayas – taking to the stage barefoot to illustrate his point. He relocated to a school Maidenhead &, unable to speak English, overcame the challenges he faced by immersing himself in the books of the school library, encouraged by the words of his English teacher that ‘if you try, you can do it’. He’s never forgotten these words that have enabled him to always aspire to reach the next level.
Our final contest speaker tonight was Chris, who of course last year progressed from this very competition in Maidenhead to eventually qualify for the dizzy heights of the finals in Kuala Lumpur – an incredible achievement. He inspired us all once again with another personal story of overcoming fear, & literally finding strength & courage over adversity.
The winner (from a very high standard of speeches) was Chris, who once again progresses to represent our Club at the Area Finals next month. Yohan finished runner-up, & Zahid third.
With the Speech Contest now over, our attention turned to the Evaluation Contest. Guest Speaker Ruth, who is VPED over at our neighbouring club Windsor Speakers, spoke passionately about ‘Learning for a Better Life’ with the aid of lots of interesting props. She took her inspiration from 14-year-old Malawian boy William Kamkwamba who, living in poverty & famine aged 14, built a windmill to power his family’s home – going on as an adult to write the best-selling book ‘The Boy who Harnessed the Wind’. Ruth’s own ambitions to learn statistics drove her on to use many resources to achieve her goal, & she championed the wonderful ‘For Dummies’ books as one of the many resources we can all use to empower us & make learning more fun.
Chris was first up this time, & praised Ruth for her strong voice, pace & eye contact with the audience. He recommended that a ‘call to action’ at the speech’s conclusion would have reinforced her message even more.
Lorraine loved Ruth’s use of humour, & of using the books as a visual aid. She encouraged Ruth to keep things simple, as there were so many strands to her speech.
Yohan liked how Ruth delivered a question at the start to draw us in, but suggested she could have stepped forward to do this, & then stepped back as she went into her ‘story-telling space’. He also liked her humour, & noted that when an audience are happy & smiling, they often take a speech’s central message much deeper.
Mohammad found Ruth’s speech engaging & entertaining, & remarked on her good use of body language. He felt she used the stage with purpose, but could perhaps have put in even more ‘energy’ into how she told her speech.
Finally, Mohammad’s brother Zahid was back, & loved the use of books as a prop too, though felt they were a little ‘crowded’ on the table & Ruth could have moved this nearer to her speaking space. He felt the speech had the power to pull the audience in & inspire, & thought the touches of humour kept us listening & involved.
The winner of the Evaluation Contest was Chris – consolidating an impressive night of Toastmastery by reigning supreme in both contests! Once again, Yohan was runner-up, with Lorraine finishing third.