A Celebratory Night of Firsts!

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 22 June 2015


Following the customary introductions from Sergeant at Arms Paul and Club President Julie, our Toastmaster of the Evening Grant commenced proceedings with the theme of ‘firsts’,  in recognition of the number of people undertaking Toastmaster roles for the first time this evening – which included pretty-much everyone taking on a club role tonight!

Newby Table Topics Master Amira provided her fellow-Toastmasters with a range of questions on the theme of beauty and attractiveness. Her questions found the perfect balance between being straightforward enough to give speakers a fair chance to quickly think of a response, while also being imaginative enough to allow them to express their creative storytelling skills.

In response to the question ‘which is more important, physical attractiveness or intelligence’, Norman took a ‘middle of the road’ approach saying he was happy not to excel in either domain. Toastmasters who have observed Norman’s attention to detail and creative skills in solving practical construction and design problems – both within and outside the club – will appreciate the high level of intelligence he brings to these areas.

When asked to recount an occasion in which he had made a major effort to appear handsome, John began by describing the difference between his work and leisure attire – ably demonstrating the skilled strategy of using a sub-story to buy thinking time to develop a major story. John went on to describe making a magnificent effort for his wedding day by dressing in a kilt!

Visiting Toastmaster Sandi (from Epsom & Surbiton Speakers) used the question ‘is beauty is only skin deep’ to highlight the importance of inner qualities radiating from personality and personal character strengths.

Jacqui had no doubt how to answer her question ‘do women worry more about beauty than men’. Giving a beautifully animated description of her friend Bob visiting the local gym and performing only exercises in which he could see himself in front of the mirror, Jacqui humorously described the extent her male friends go to to enhance their attractiveness.

Last up was Kashmira who was asked what recommendations she would give to parents, the media and government in response to the findings that 87% of teenagers are unhappy with their body shape. Coming straight to the point, and delivering a very clear and coherent response, Kashmira described a recent TEDTalk in which the speaker observed that in a country that lacks democracy, one of the advantages was a lack of advertising resulting in higher levels of self-esteem in young people. A very persuasive response to a challenging question, which was particularly impressive as this was Kashmira’s first Table Topics speech.

Monica began the evening’s planned speeches with an educational talk ‘How to be a Distinguished Club’ explaining how individual success results in success for the club too. Her speech also covered the importance of club officer training, recruiting new members and submitting finances as ways of scoring points towards the Distinguished Presidents award, which Maidenhead have achieved for the last four years. As always, Monica’s speech was clear and well structured and presented, with a strong delivery.

Matthew’s speech, ‘To do or not to do’ highlighted the value of to-do lists. His speech emphasised three key themes: when to use lists; having a list is better than finishing it (as the CEO of Yahoo bears out, in a very appropriate quote); and lists as memory guides.

His evaluator Michael complimented Matthew on his overall improvement since an earlier evaluation. He loved Matthew’s vocal variety and the skilled use of the pause to gain emphasis and impact. Michael suggested varying speaking pace as a goal to work on for future speeches.

Next up was Jan with her icebreaker speech entitled ‘Use the Balloon’. In a very personal and courageous way, Jan described how fear (stemming from a horrendous car crash) had presented her with a tough challenge to overcome. Several attempts were unsuccessful for reasons beyond her control before eventually finding success through cognitive behavioural therapy. Indeed, Jan’s therapy was so successful that from being frightened to cross the road she eventually re-learnt to drive, and now enjoys challenging herself with off-road circuit driving. The powerful moral of her story is to reinterpret fear as excitement!

Her evaluator Richard beautifully captured the theme of her speech as a journey in confidence building. He began his evaluation with a quote about confidence, and reflected back to Jan the many positives that her speech contained including a clear structure, relaxed delivery and an important message.

Doreen‘s speech, ‘The Cart before the Horse’, demonstrated her full range of speaking skills. An attention grabbing opening, a Chinese accent, great vocal variety/animation, plenty of drama and a personal story, with a deep and meaningful psychological message. It is amazing how Doreen manages to squeeze so much into a 10 minute speaking slot! And the moral of the story? That our worth and value comes from within not through the approval of others – a message that Doreen has strongly integrated into her own life.

Her evaluator, Steve, gave a confident and clearly-structured appraisal in his customary natural and relaxed style. Steve it is an astute observer of the strengths and weaknesses of speeches, and is willing to share helpful feedback to encourage speakers to move onto the next level. His key challenge for Doreen this time was to dispense with notes.

Finally, the last speech of the evening was delivered by Nick. An advanced speech from the Persuasive Speaker manual ‘The Effective Salesman’, his speech was a showcase of a retail selling process, including a role-play designed to highlight selling skills in practise. Nick played the part of a wine shop retailer – ably supported by Steve, who had the lucky role of being the customer invited to taste one of the better wines from Nick ‘s collection, which he did seem to rather enjoy a bit too much!

As highlighted by Nick’s evaluator Lorraine, Nick controlled the sales process in a relaxed manner using natural questions and seamless transitions. She recognised that Nick established good empathy and credibility throughout, & concluded that this was the best role-play she’d ever seen at TMs!

The awards for the evening went to Jacqui for Best Table Topic, Steve for Best Evaluator and Doreen for Best Speech.

TME Grant, undertaking the role for the first time as we’ve said, co-ordinated the evening with confidence and assurance throughout and ensured the evening was run to the high standards of organisation that MSC has come to expect.

General Evaluator Tony gave feedback on each evaluator’s speech, and noticed how they’d each been so positive in their evaluations, also giving excellent recommendations. He also commented on Sgt at Arms Paul & Club President Julie’s natural charm and authenticity – noting that Paul thinks on his feet well, & uses humour, and that Julie’s wonderful welcoming smile acts as a beacon to our members to inspire them to feel relaxed and do well.

Grammarian Mike also gave an entertaining report of tonight’s ums, ahs and uses of grammar, and the usage of tonight’s word of the day ‘Altruism’, and fellow first-timer Honor did an excellent job running the all-important Timer lights with efficiency.

Our next club night will be in a few short days – Monday 29th June. Our TME is scheduled to be Lorraine looking forward to seeing you all there!  

Maidenhead Expects…

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 8 June 2015


First time TME (Toastmaster of the Evening) Rajeev is a man who exudes gravitas, and he used this to full effect marshalling a full complement of speakers to deliver a well-run evening – and rousing the audience to show their appreciation of what proved to be a quality line up of speakers. He also invited us all to give Club President Julie a standing ovation for the wonderful job she’s done this past year – and of course we were all very happy to oblige!

Kicking off with an educational speaker, Mary outlined how to get the most out of the Toastmasters Programme with a well-structured speech and PowerPoint presentation, before we went into the first of the prepared speeches.

Honor gave a composed and engaging first speech ‘Sunglasses to Success’ – all about overcoming adversity at the time of the credit crunch, struggling to get a job (and apply her academic training), all whilst raising a family. And not just coming out on top but coming through in style.

In a speech that drew on the challenges she had faced, and drawing on her ‘Tree of Life’ the Thuja tree, Cheryl urged us to ditch the deadwood and feel good. Cheryl undoubtedly felt good as she went on to win the Ribbon for Best Speaker!

Tony gave another fine speech with a twist in the tale – well, the middle actually – reflecting on the experience and perspective of those with age on their side… in particular a notable nonagenarian by the name of Ellsworth, leading to open-heart surgery via a dog and a fence. (Late feedback Tony: Trimmed, just a little, it would make a strong competition speech in my opinion!)

Finally Eric gave a speech inspired by Victor Hugo, rich in descriptive language and set in medieval Paris. Eric was standing in for his wife Helen who had been scheduled to speak on the power of the voice, but who in a cruel twist of fate had lost it (her voice that is). You couldn’t make it up! Hats off to Eric for stepping up at such short notice and doing such a great job of telling the story.

After the break (and in a departure from usual practise) we had Table Topics in the middle of the meeting, with Clive our Table Topics Master proving a lively and convivial host, with a range of topics themed around summer. There was a good mix of styles between straightforward narratives, and a more reflective approach which gave the opportunity to explore the issues and ideas. For an impromptu talk on the thin line between triumph and disaster in the vegetable patch, Doreen won the Ribbon  for best Table Topics Speech.

Our A-Team of evaluators, Ian, Suzette, Yohan and Alan then came to the fore. They all mixed constructive feedback with a warm appreciation of the speakers’ strengths. Delivering her first evaluation, Suzette offered some good pointers to Cheryl, whilst Yohan gave a textbook evaluation of Tony, going on to win the Ribbon for Best Evaluation Speech.

Alan “I don’t play by no steenking rules” eschewed orthodoxy (Ed’s note: when did Alan take on the persona of a Mexican bandito?) whilst commending Eric’s effective delivery, and suggesting how he could add a punch to his conclusion. (Author: not sure – I just say what I saw).

General Evaluator John loftily opined that the benefits of evaluation go not just to the speaker, who gets honest feedback, but to the evaluator (Ed: he’s got a point). It sharpens your senses as you strive to take in all that is being said and how it is being delivered – and you then have to prepare and deliver a mini-speech in next-to-no-time quick!

Our Grammarian Mohammad gave a very concise rundown of the heroes and villains on account of the scores for ums and ahs, before handing back over to Mdm President once more to invite comments and close the evening.

Comments highlighted a plethora of speaking opportunities that members are involved with outside of Toastmasters, including one ex-member who recently made an appearance on Question Time (okay she was asking a question rather than appearing as a guest, but even so… shout out to Beshlie). Toastmaster Steve mentioned that he’d be taking part in the Vinyl Frontier at Norden Farm later this week – a competition that mixes Steve’s love of speaking and love of music. No pressure Steve… but we expect great things!

Our next club night will be Monday 22nd June, and our TME is scheduled to be Grant look forward to seeing you all there!    

Superheroes of Maidenhead Speakers!

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 18 May 2015


Sergeant at Arms Paul opened the evening with a good reminder that “many hands make light work” – in relation to the setting-up of the evening.  There’s always lots to be done to set up the meeting to ensure a smooth-running and punctual evening is enjoyed by all.

Our Club President Julie greeted a packed house, which included several guests.  In her usual style, she gave a very warm, upbeat welcome to set the evening off to a good start.

John was Toastmaster of the Evening and managed the evening with his great sense of humour which he threaded in to all the personalised introductions to the speakers and the co-ordination of the evening events.

Michael was Table Topics Master, and ran this session smoothly with short, sharp, varied questions. Cheryl was our first speaker, and seemed to be blossoming with the topic of Chelsea Flower Show – sharing with us how much she would enjoy going to this event.  Tony was presented with a choice of either travelling into space or travelling anywhere in the world… to which he gave a very fluent account (with beautiful descriptive language) regarding his preferred choice – exploring our own wonderful earth.  Doreen was presented with the difficult task of choosing to be either an opera singer or ballet dancer.  We soon knew the answer, as we then enjoyed some delightful and delicate ballet moves by Doreen – who certainly kept the audience’s attention! Finally, Christelle revealed to us how her summer is shaping up, and relayed all the wonderful associations of summer time, and what it means to her.

Best Table Topic ribbon was awarded to Doreen.

Next was a full complement of 5 prepared speeches.

First up, doing her Icebreaker speech was Anna, who related the word ‘icebreaker’ to her experiences in an actual ice breaker boat in the Arctic Circle. She explained how watching the ice breaker boat drive through the toughest of icebergs helped her to drive through some of her own challenges, and left us feeling that anything is possible.

Mike was next with a speech entitled ‘And Our Next Guest Is …’ and then proceeded to do a ‘one-man show’ of interviewing himself!  His speech was highly entertaining as he switched from one side of the stage to the other – whilst concentrating on what role he was now performing.

Sandra gave a speech titled ‘Finding Mr Right’ and requested that the audience was a ‘singles’ group for the duration of her speech.  It was a compelling story by Sandra as she revealed a journey of finding Mr Right. The speech had it all – humour, sadness (with insights of wisdom), all whilst finishing the speech on a high.

Steve presented project 2 from the CC manual… & was doing this speech for the third time round! His speech titled ‘Service is Remembered After the Price is Forgotten’ relayed his experience of how a shop assistant delivered exceptional customer service during the festive period – an experience which Steve has never forgotten.

The final speaker was Mohammad, delivering a speech entitled ‘The Greatest Super Hero’. Mohammad made good use of his power point slides, with colourful images of the various super heroes and revelations from some audience members regarding their love of comics!

Best Speaker Ribbon was awarded to Sandra.

The evaluation section of the evening followed, led by Chris, and offered an array of insights from the evaluators.

Amira evaluated Anna and provided her with a detailed account of how she delivered her speech.  Amira engaged the audience by reflecting on some of the key points and provided Anna with some recommendations to consider for her next speech. Sandra evaluated Mike and articulated her points well and provided a clear, precise summary. Clive evaluated Sandra and Zahid evaluated Steve.  Both evaluators offered a thorough exploration of how the objectives had been met and yet, despite the high standard of the speeches that were delivered, were still able to provide further recommendations. The final evaluator Emilio (evaluating Mohammad) presented both a detailed and encouraging evaluation, revealing that  the objectives of the speech were all successfully met by Mohammad.

Best Evaluator Ribbon was awarded to Clive.

It was good to see new members becoming involved with the evening’s events.  Jan was Timer and did a great job keeping us on track, and Mukesh as Grammarian  announced the word of the evening ‘salubrious’. He highlighted the reliance of crutch words, reminding us all to become more mindful of these next time we deliver a speech.

All in all, it was a super night – ranging from the super singles’ scene to the super heroes of all time! Well done to TME John for stepping into the role at short notice, yet running the evening with both efficiency and calm.

Our next club night will be Monday 8th Junelook forward to seeing you all there!    

Leaders of the Future

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 27 Apr 2015


After the usual rousing start by our Sergeant at Arms Paul, he handed over to our Club President Julie – who was greeted by a full house of 40 members, plus several guests. She told those who had been unable to attend all about the recent Division Contest – the standard had been very high, and the inspiring winner of the Speech Contest was 19-year-old Lai Ling Ling (Canterbury Communicators – Area 37). Julie then welcomed to the stage our Area 21 Governor, Tracy Miranda. Tracy had the pleasing role of presenting the Advanced Communicator Silver Award to Monica.

Our Toastmaster of the Evening was Mohammad – and, with the coming election just around the corner at this time, he chose a theme of leadership, and what members would do if they were Prime Minister. This elicited a wide range of viewpoints – some quite political, others more whimsical.

Chris was our Table Topics Master, and continued with the theme of leadership, picking out the different qualities that we would like our leaders to possess. First up was Michel (with the quality of Resilience) –  giving a confident and engaging speech covering work issues, and ending with the greatest test of resilience being the need to keep his children calm in the evening! Grant was next up with humorous stories covering Focus and Distraction. Jan was giving her first table topic speech on the subject of Balance. She immediately got us on side with self-deprecating humour and personal stories leaving us with the reminder that ‘doing your best’ is all that matters. Tracy had the challenge of talking about Planning and the Unexpected – she told us she was a planner by nature, and her problem was allowing for spontaneity. She gave us the phrase ‘roll with the punches’, and that she was learning that with children there was no planning! Joyce had the quality of being a Visionary, and explored what it meant with humour, and a warm mention of meeting and marrying Norman, later in life. She ultimately decided that she wasn’t a visionary, and her motto was to ‘take things as they come’. Last up, we had Sharon with the theme of Openness – telling us how she was open in most situations but, as someone quite new to Toastmasters, she was still learning how to be open when giving a speech.

Next a full complement of 5 prepared speeches. First was Mukesh giving us his Ice Breaker. He took good command of the stage with an easy manner and strong eye contact, telling us about three aspects of freedom relating to his early life, the jungle and the corporate world. He concluded that the freedom of childhood was best, where he could easily live each day.

Next up we had Amira with an exploration of values – relating to where she used to work, and her life now. She started with a bag of props, and also employed the flip chart and a good strong storytelling style.

Gabriella gave us a speech around how technology (such as the tablet) is taking over our lives, and how it has become an unwanted pet! She left us with the thought that, at home, the old devices give us more control and probably do a better job.

Next, Rajeev set the scene with the title that ‘Autonomous Cars are the Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Using visual images, he demonstrated that they are a reality now – and their ease of us, no age restrictions, and requirement for a licence will change personal transport in the future beyond recognition!

Final prepared speaker Emilio gave us a different slant on the American Dream, explaining how the development of printing of money and the power of the bankers led to the assassination of Presidents… leaving us realising it’s not just modern day bankers who are sometimes viewed as the bad guys.

Next came arguably the most important part of the evening – the Evaluations! First up was Nabil evaluating Mukesh. For a less experienced evaluator, he showed good stage presence and confidence. He recapped the objectives and clearly identified commendations, and suggested good recommendations. Tony was next, evaluating Amira. He displayed plenty of enthusiasm and energy, demonstrating all his points well. He succinctly identified the required objectives with helpful recs, and a good summary. The next three evaluators were the very experienced TMs Mell evaluating Gabriella, Steve evaluating Rajeev, and Mary  evaluating Emilio. The standard of evaluation was excellent with each one giving a thorough exploration of how the objectives had been met, and suggesting a variety of recs including adding humour to increase audience engagement; being aware of sometimes standing too far forward (and restricting the view from the front row); having a back-up in case technology fails; and being aware of the speed of delivery, and slowing it down sometimes to allow for the information to be taken in by the audience. All the evaluators were encouraging and summarised their main points well.

Before coming to the ribbon winners of the evening, I must mention John who stepped in as Grammarian at very short notice, and Anna who was a very capable Timer.

Best Evaluator ribbon went to MellBest Table Topic Joyce, and Best Speech for the first timer Mukesh. Congratulations to the winners, and all those taking part.

Another thoroughly enjoyable, interesting and enlightening meeting – efficiently led by our TME Mohammad.

Our next club night at MSC will be at 7:30 on 11th May, which will also double-up as our club’s annual AGM (during the first half of the meeting). We need as many of you to attend as possible please to ensure the smooth election of our new committee. Our Toastmaster of the Evening will be Yohan – see you all there!

MSC Annual Club Dinner & Tall Tales Contest 2015

by Steve Cann

A wonderful night was had by all from MSC as members and special guests enjoyed a memorable evening of dining & tall tales – held amongst the backdrop of  the historic Norden Farm Centre for the Arts long barn restaurant in Maidenhead.

Club President Julie kicked off proceedings (with glass in hand) by proposing a toast to Maidenhead Speakers’ Club – very appropriate! And we were all very happy of course to oblige.

Club members and guests all seated in the Long Barn and waiting for the evening to begin!

Club members and guests all seated in the Long Barn and waiting for the evening to begin!

After polishing off our scrumptious 3-course dinner, we then moved on to the Tall Tales Competition – an annual fixture at the MSC Dinner. Our genial host for the contest was Keith, who started off by explaining exactly what a tall tale actually is (a short story speech with a twist) before holding aloft the coveted trophy… which he warned us came in 2 detachable parts!

First speaker Paul‘s story was cleverly inspired by the recent Hatton Garden Heist – although his robbery concerned a Faberge egg heist instead! Paul involved himself in the story as a member of the gang, who goes on to make his escape to the Highlands of Scotland to survive on… haggis!

Next speaker Chris described his rather unusual & somewhat bizarre schooldays – where he studied science, maths… & ancient runes! He recounted a cross-country competition – where the runners had to fight off crocodiles & venomous snakes along the way – and from which he emerged victorious by fighting off a lion, all for the prize of a voucher… for a free pizza!

Third speaker was last year’s winner Eric, speaking of the discovery of an alleged journal from the year 53BC all about Julius Caesar fighting the Scots. He spoke of the rather familiar-sounding (to MSC members anyway!) Scots tribes of Elliotts, Frasers & McLeods who ventured north to rob the distilleries. But Caesar sent master-spy Luda-Chris to restore order – and the prisoners were thrown to the Nessies! But those who escaped were pardoned – which is why Scotland always wins swimming gold at the Olympics…!

Next up was Nick, who had an unusual explanation for the growing number of Red Kites in our skies… apparently, if you look very closely, they’re all wearing red caps containing hidden cameras – as part of Thames Valley Police’s 1.7m aerial surveillance technology initiative! This ingenious plan was allegedly ‘hatched’ due to the severe lack of CCTV in the countryside. You have been warned… and the next step might be arming these feathered fiends with tazers!

Final speaker was Monica, whose speech was equally full of espionage, intrigue & the problems of national security, as she recounted a colourful & action-packed James Bond-style story to us. She also got one of the biggest laughs of the evening from the audience, as she concluded her speech with the clever punchline, ‘The Spy who Bugged Me’!

With the Contest now complete & votes being counted, Keith used this time to relay a personal anecdote (or was it another tall tale perhaps!?) about his time in the building trade, presenting plans to a boardroom of people. Once the presentation was complete, he snapped his briefcase shut – without realizing he’d accidentally shut his tie in it! About to leave (& grabbing the briefcase from the table in a flourish) unfortunately had the undesired effect of making his head bang down unceremoniously on said table – but, he did manage to maintain his dignity and laugh it off. So his mantra from that day on is: whatever befalls you, just carry on!

The winner of the Tall Tales Contest was Paul – well done Paul!

Club President Julie Farrell awards Paul Aherne the trophy as Best Tall Tales Speaker 2015

Club President Julie awards Paul the trophy as Best Tall Tales Speaker 2015

Following the trophy presentation, Julie thanked Keith for doing such an excellent job of hosting the Tall Tales Contest, Gerard for operating those all-important Timing lights, and all our contestants and everyone for coming & making the evening such as success.

She also gave a special mention to Doreen for all her hard work behind the scenes in organizing the dinner so effectively, and presented her with a bouquet of flowers as a big thank you from all of us.

Julie alongside event organizer Doreen Gowing, & victorious Tall Taler Paul

Julie alongside event organizer Doreen, & victorious Tall Taler Paul

That concluded what turned out to be a most enjoyable & successful 2015 Dinner – looking forward to seeing you all at our next regular club night (at our usual venue of St Luke’s Hall) on April 27th!


Extraordinary Meeting!

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 30 Mar 2015


This week’s meeting was extra-ordinary – extra because it was the third meeting in March, but by no means ordinary as were treated to speeches from a renowned international speaker, a member on the edge of completing her CC manual, and a surprise double act!

Sgt at Arms Paul kicked off the meeting in his usual cheery manner, and handed over to our Club President Julie, who gave us a warm welcome with her trademark smile, that always lights up the room. She reminded us that the club’s Annual Dinner is on Saturday 18 April, and encouraged those not already in possession of tickets to see Membership Secretary Doreen before the end. She then handed over to Toastmaster for the Evening John who promised a soupcon of surprises – and didn’t disappoint. He ran through the protocols for the evening, introducing Timer Mukesh and Grammarian Marcus – who had selected “Ambivalent” as the word of the evening.

Sandra then opened the Table Topics session with a wide range of inspirational quotes for members to reply to:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can” – Mike spoke of the need to be adaptable and delved into the depths of his knowledge while working abroad, often on the fly.

“The worst mistake anyone can make is being too afraid to make one” – John said joining TM’s had been a huge mistake – until he presented a speech at the last meeting, and now feels more positive and confident talking about a topic without preparation.

“Never stop doing your best, just because, someone doesn’t give you credit” – Joyce told of how her husband, fellow TM Norman, always does his best at work – with little or not credit in return.

“Sometimes, you just need a break, in a beautiful place, alone, to figure something out” – Eric said he likes company as a rule and would take his wife (fellow TM Helen) with him if he went to a desert island.

“Every day may not be good. But there is something good in every day “ – Matthew said that in general life is good and work is good… the only downside being the commute on the tube, playing sardines with everyone else!

Paul quipped that “Fake it till you make it” was the story of his life. He said that at TMs, people share their experiences with you and definitely help you fake it till you make it.

My personal favourite was Suzette, who was given “Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow’”. Suzette said that she may not have anything inspirational to say, but “to stand here and feel a bit confident to deliver this speech – that is a bright light.”

Ribbon for Best Table Topic was awarded to Joyce.

John had some well-researched intros for our speakers based on the theme ‘It is never too late’. VP Education Monica, with her Educational speech ‘Commitment’, reminded us that when we join TMs we make a ‘special commitment’ to the club. The Club is only as strong as it members, and we all contribute to its success. We are all here to learn and that although not everyone is a gold medal winner, everybody can do their best. TMs guarantees to improve our public speaking and leadership skills.

This was followed by an impromptu speech by Norman, who unveiled the Toastmasters Promise – this will be displayed at all future meetings.

Next up was Emilio with his speech entitled ‘My Studies in Moscow’. Born in Bulgaria, Emilio studied classical guitar with the best professors available. However, it was his love of table tennis (and his attention to detail of the finer intricacies of the game) that proved invaluable in taking his guitar playing to another level.

Doreen followed with her speech ‘The Power of the Detached’. She put her storytelling skills to great use by first recounting a story of her experience on the receiving end of road rage. She noted how the aggressive man in question was very ‘attached’ to how she drove but, while he raged, she remained detached and at peace. Detachment is a Buddhist principle aimed at ending our suffering by ‘doing our best and allowing the rest’ – letting go of our ‘attachment’ to the way things may turn out. She ended with a quote from Sir Winston Churchill: “Success is about failing time and time again, and never letting go of enthusiasm”.

The speeches section concluded with ‘The Winner is…’  – a parody awards ceremony for the International Shopper of the Year. Keith, as master of ceremonies sporting a dapper waistcoat, announced the award with his trademark humour, and presented it to winner Jacqui. In her acceptance speech,she told us how her love of shopping began at the tender age of 7, when she told she would own 100 pairs of shoes (after being told she couldn’t have the red leather shoes with gold buckle and dainty strap that she had coveted for her 8th birthday). She ended by saying “Retailers – without you I wouldn’t be the super shopper I am today!”.

Ribbon for the Best Speaker was awarded to Doreen.

General Evaluator for the evening was Cheryl, who outlined the aim of evaluations, and reminded members that the tone and content of an evaluation can have great impact on the speaker. She said good evaluators strive to find a balance by: Giving evaluations that are helpful, positive and constructive, and that encourage, motivate and genuinely help the receiver. She also reminded members of the ‘evaluation sandwich’ – Commend, Recommend, Commend, and then invited her team Chris, Tony and Lorraine to give their evaluations. She concluded the section with her report of the evening.

Cheryl said all evaluators, from those relatively new to the role such as Chris, to a ‘seasoned pro’ such as Lorraine (who was given the tough job of evaluating the ‘double act’) had presented accomplished evaluations. She made the following recommendations: Chris to move closer to the audience, make use of the lectern for her notes and direct her comments directly to her speaker; Tony to avoid over-use of hand gestures, reserving them to illustrate a point as he did with the “ups and downs of life”; and Lorraine to avoid holding her glasses while speaking if she doesn’t need them.

The Best Evaluation Ribbon was awarded to Lorraine.

Grammarian Marcus highlighted the use of good language, humour and gave the count for each speaker’s use of crutch words and fillers.

Our next club night at MSC will be at 7.30pm on Monday 20th April – just after the Annual Dinner on Saturday April 18th. See you all there!

A Five-Star Evening of Speeches

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 23 Mar 2015


This week’s meeting had a new members’ feel – what with one icebreaker (the first speech every new member completes from their manual), two second speeches, and a first evaluation.

Following his amazing performance as the warm-up speaker at the Area Contest last weekend, Sgt at Arms Paul opened the meeting in his customary cheery style. Paul must have a soft spot for our President as he introduced her as ‘the delightful Julie‘! She proceeded to welcome us all, taking good care as always to make a special effort to welcome any guests.

We were also in good hands as our Toastmaster for the Evening was Clive. He made the organizing look so easy and effortless, despite some inevitable late changes. He also had some well thought-out intros for our speakers based around his theme of travel, setting us up for a 5-star evening of speeches!

The travel theme was continued by Doreen in her Table Topics session – her excellent questions were well-crafted by the participants who had the usual 2-3 minutes to make an entertaining speech from the subject given:
Sharon (another first speech) told us how she would love to travel in a horse and buggy – all sounds a bit romantic for me!
Norman explained his rack and pinion rail journey;
Marco considered a trip to Mars;
Keith preferred a felucca on the Nile to a cruise ship;
Sandra told us how her fiancé was too competitive on a bicycle – next time she is going to share a tandem!
Tony waxed lyrical about his preferred mode of travel in the Grand Canyon;
And John responded to “Beam me up Scotty”.
Best Table Topics Ribbon (from a lively and very high standard of speeches) was awarded to Sandra.

Marcus started the prepared speeches by introducing himself to the club with his Ice Breaker ‘Breaking the Ice’. He explained how he often over-analyses and over-thinks things, whilst conversely his girlfriend seems to be able to make an immediate and instantaneous decision.
John spoke about walking in the Lake District, and how he challenges himself. It was a beautifully crafted speech, and finished with the question “how are we challenging ourselves?”
Gabriella comes from Sweden, yet her mother gave her a European christian name. She’d always wanted an easier, shorter name until it was abbreviated to Gabbi – and now she’s happy.
Matthew built his speech around humour, and a number of jokes his father told him when he was younger that he still remembers to this day. I think his father has a different sense of humour though to me!
Paul returned to the stage to remind us in a humorous way that it was Roger Bannister’s birthday on Monday, and it was in Oxford in 1954 that the seemingly impossible happened when the first sub-four minute mile was achieved. That record only stood for 46 days until it was broken – Paul then contrasted this achievement with his own personal breakthroughs, including what it is to be a Toastmaster.
Best Speaker Ribbon was awarded to Paul.

Nick was General Evaluator for the evening, and evaluated tonight’s evaluators in the following way:
Brigitta gave a comprehensive first evaluation. She had excellent eye contact and stood away from the lectern as she delivered a very confident speech.
Emilio showed good hand gestures to illustrate this points in his evaluation – but I remarked that sometimes these may not have been very visible from behind the lectern.
Steve started to talk about himself, realised this and brought himself back. Among other recommendations and commendations, he highlighted the speaker’s noisy shoes!
Mell asked a question of the audience – always a good device to use. Among her recs and commendations, she suggested the speaker’s gestures were a little contrived, and could be practised.
Chris kindly found the time to congratulate Paul on his great speech at the Area contest before launching into his evaluation. One interesting suggestion he made was to practise reading children’s stories, which he found had helped to enhance and emphasize his own vocal variety.
Best Evaluation Ribbon was awarded to Chris.

Grammarian Michel highlighted the usage of good humour tonight, and gave the count for the speakers’ individual use of crutch words.

At the end of the evening everyone was invited to submit their menu and make their payments for the MSC Annual Dinner, coming up on Saturday 18th April. More Tall Tale participants are welcome!

Our next club night at MSC will be in just a couple of days, Monday 30th March – see you all there!

Club International Speech & Evaluation Contest 2015 in full, with pics

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.

He's done it again! Double-winner tonight Chris receives his trophy & certificate for winning the Evaluation Contest from Club President Julie.

He’s done it again! Double-winner tonight Chris receives his trophy & certificate for winning the Evaluation Contest from Club President Julie.

Yohan receiving his certificate for finishing as runner-up in the Club Speech Contest.

Yohan receiving his certificate for finishing as runner-up in the Club Speech Contest.

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.

He's done it again! Double-winner tonight Chris receives his trophy & certificate for winning the Evaluation Contest from Club President Julie.

He’s done it again! Double-winner tonight Chris receives his trophy & certificate for winning the Evaluation Contest from Club President Julie.

Admirable runner-up for the second time tonight, Yohan McDonald receives his certificate for the Evaluation Contest from Julie.

Admirable runner-up for the second time tonight, Yohan McDonald receives his certificate for the Evaluation  Contest from Julie.

Well done to all the speakers who participated, & especially the excellent work of Chief Judge John. A mention too to those who were judges, Timers & Counters, & who all contributed to such a successful night & contest. We hope to see as many of you as possible to support Chris as he represents our Club in both competitions at the Area Contest at Burnham Park Hall on Saturday March 21st.
Our next regular club night in Maidenhead will be even sooner – next Monday, March 9th.

Time is Precious…

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 9 Feb 2015


There was a sense of purposefulness at MSC on Monday evening, since the meeting was all about TIMING. After a humorous welcome by the Sgt@Arms Paul (who gave plenty of advance notice to other members that in a few months club roles, including his, would be up for grabs), Club President Julie warmly welcomed members and tonight’s three welcome guests. Then, it was onto the main business of the night, expertly chaired by Toastmaster of the Evening Matthew. His theme was ‘time’, and he cleverly wove speakers birth months into his theme throughout the evening. Turning the usual agenda sequence on its head, he started also with prepared speeches. While some members are not fans of leaving Table Topics till the end, this allows the TME to have very good control over time and allow more topics speakers to participate if the rest of the meeting has not overrun.

Two fascinating and unusual Ice Breakers by Amira, who took us to the sands of Agadir, in Morocco, and Michel, who took us to Paris, hunting rodents, were followed by an advanced speech by Chris. He had the room in stitches with his particular take on Groundhog Day. After the short break, we were treated to another advanced speech by Steve, who spoke on ‘Creating the Best Club climate’, which highlighted the TMs Promise and reminded us again about the importance of Club Roles, and how we all contribute to our club.

For a second consecutive meeting, the Best Speaker Ribbon went to an Ice Breaker – well done Amira.

Ian took to the floor next to show us how a Table Topics Session should be conducted. Sitting near the stage so he did not waste time walking to and from his seat, he quickly introduced the session and invited six members to speak on various topics around the Time theme of the evening.

Yohan won the Best Table Topics Speaker Ribbon.

Next, General Elevator Gerard introduced the evaluation team and the prepared speeches were evaluated, with the usual high standard MSC has come to expect. There was the luxury of a Topics Evaluator as well, so all speakers had some feedback from Lorraine, who performed this role that we were able to accommodate into tonight’s schedule.

Mary walked away with the Best Evaluator Ribbon for her insightful evaluation of Michel‘s Ice Breaker.

Gerard provided the evaluators with feedback on their evaluations and then, rather than focus on meeting specifics, reviewed three general items. The first was the TME role. This being quite a demanding (and often stressful) role, since over 15 ‘players’ were involved, Gerard stressed how much it is vital that the rest of us support the TME. He spoke of the importance of responding promptly to emails/voicemails from the TME during the lead-up to every meeting, and finding a replacement well in time if you can’t  fulfill a role (unless of course, it is a last minute emergency).

Gerard also spoke of the importance of preparing your speech in advance, to ensure the TME’s job is made a lot easier. Next he mentioned Timing – with only 120 minutes of usable time in a meeting (and over 50 MSC current members), it is the responsibility of all those who have a role not to monopolize the stage, as stage-time is precious. Tonight’s TME Matt had allocated times for everyone (including Sgt@Arms and President) and this is an  excellent practise that needs to be continued.

Gerard also mentioned Topics, and the importance of a Topics Master choosing subjects that did not require lengthy explanations. Considering a Topics Speaker has only 2 minutes to complete their speech, a TTM spending more than 30 seconds describing a topic can be rather excessive, since it means fewer members get an opportunity to do an actual Table Topic on the night. Wise words indeed!

Brigitta, the Grammarian for the evening, focused on fillers and crutch words – this feedback definitely being more useful than feedback about good language and big words.

The GE concluded by commending Matt on a ‘benchmark’ evening, especially when this was his debut. By rigidly controlling time, he hosted a meeting that had 4 speeches including a 12 minute Advanced Speech, 6 Topics, a Topics Evaluator and a longer Grammarian slot, and ensured the meeting only overran by 3 minutes. Great job Matt!

Our next club night at MSC will be at 7:30 on Monday 23 February – which will of course be our long-awaited Club International Speech & Evaluation Contest. Make sure you don’t miss this biggest event in our club calendar, and get involved in any way you can. See you all there for what promises to be another excellent Contest!


It was Buzzing!

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 26 Jan 2015


Our second meeting of 2015 and it was buzzing! The meeting room was full of energy for another well-attended meeting of Maidenhead Speakers’ Club – it was almost standing room only!  Sgt at Arms Paul Aherne kicked off proceedings with his humorous, easy manner & handed over to our President.

President Julie gave her warm greeting and welcomed everyone, including the many guest in the audience. Julie also reminded us of the importance of every member fulfilling roles within the club, and the importance of working through the CL Manual – well said Julie!  A slick hand-over to our Toastmaster for the Evening Keith followed, who was very smooth, very suave and very sophisticated, and sporting a beautiful red rose in his lapel.

Having stepped us through the protocols for the evening, Keith handed to floor to Eric to open the Table Topics session on the theme of “Water”.  First speaker Michel told us about a lovely waterfall he visited in a dream – this was his first table topic, and it was delivered extremely confidently. Next, Steve spoke about an experience some years earlier in the US when he was drenched on a water ride in a theme park! Tony had one of the more difficult topics, but dealt with it with his usual aplomb. His subject was seaports, and he spoke of a trip to the Isle of Wight in which he painted vivid word pictures.  Mary gave us an alternative angle from the point of view of a non-swimmer (on the theme of ‘swimming’), and finally Monica rounded off the session by sharing a story about dedication to the cause of the environment – it was an excellent example of talking around the subject given by the Table Topics master.

Ribbon for Best Table Topic was awarded to Steve.

We were treated to 5 thrilling prepared speeches, spanning the whole range of experience from Icebreaker to Advanced speech.  The speech subjects were wide and varied too, covering everything from the Soil in Transylvania, India Day parades, the effects of stress on the body, and mistaken identity! My personal highlight was seeing Doreen deliver her speech dressed as a Koala Bear – something nobody who was present this evening will forget I’m sure!

Best Speaker Ribbon was awarded to Brigitta.

As we moved to the evaluation section of the evening, our members delivered once again, and there were some excellent evaluations for our prepared speakers. General Evaluator for the evening Lorraine stressed the importance of giving constructive feedback to members, with the emphasis on “constructive”.

Chris was voted the Best Evaluator of the evening for her accomplished evaluation of Brigitta’s Icebreaker speech.

It was certainly an evening of firsts: Michel’s first  table topic, Chris’s first evaluation and Brigitta’s first prepared speech.  Congratulations once again to Chris and Brigitta, and also to Michel, who just missed out to Steve for best Table Topic. And not to mention of course the first time I have personally seen a speech given by a Toastmaster dressed as a Koala!

Our next club night at MSC will be at 7:30 on 9th February – just two short days away – where our Toastmaster of the Evening will be Matthew.

And our Club International Speech & Evaluation Contest will be following two weeks later on Monday 23 February – with lots of excellent opportunities for our members to play a part in the biggest event in our club calendar. See you all there!