Rain, Resolutions & Ribbons

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 12 Jan 2015


It was a wet night. Rain danced on the pavements. Different coloured umbrellas surged towards the light of St Luke’s Hall. Woolly-hatted folk jostled for prime position to sign up for the first MSC meeting of 2015. As Doreen Goring (VPM) continued to sun herself in Australia, a competent Lorraine manned the front desk, greeted everyone with a smile and welcomed not one, but FIVE new visitors to Maidenhead Speakers Club. Mary (General Evaluator) observed a well-prepared room, timers at the ready and a choice of three types of biscuit. We were in for a good night!

Club President Julie warmly welcomed everyone and shared one of her New Year Resolutions….. but we’ve been sworn to secrecy – club members only! A confident and well-organised Zahid (TME) outlined his programme for the evening – five Prepared Speeches, Evaluations and Table Topics. He promised an actioned-packed session – full of education, fun and learning, and we were not to be disappointed. This man demonstrated high leadership skills in true Toastmasters (TM) style!

Complete with juggling balls, Chris introduced herself to the club with her icebreaker speech ‘Me’ – a potted history of homemade flags, tartan airline uniforms, and hope for a better life balance! Marco followed on with ‘Seriously’. He intrigued us with his tale of alien visitors, and delivery of a special wristband for measuring sleep, activity and nutrition. We may have found our first candidate for the 2015 Tall Tales Contest – or could it actually all be true? Paul’s speech, ‘A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing’ highlighted the importance of using body language effectively when trying to build rapport … especially with monkeys! Next up was storyteller Richard with ‘The Three Sillies’ – beware of cows, old ladies and moons falling into ponds! Jacqui concluded the line of prepared speakers with a specialty speech – she eloquently presented the TM ‘Outstanding Award’ (for 30 years achievement as a club) to Julie, current club President. What an honour for us at Maidenhead Speakers Club.
Best Speaker ribbon was awarded to Chris.

EvaluatorsMohammed, Helen, Mell, Alan and John provided excellent feedback for speakers and all club members. Key tips included: the use of descriptive language, taking control of the stage, engaging the audience, and how to use video for more effective speech delivery.
Best Evaluator ribbon was awarded to Mell.

Table Topics Master Monica challenged the impromptu speaking skills of TMs Grant, Yohan, Steve, Brigitta respectively with New Year-themed questions and dilemmas.
Best Table Topics ribbon was awarded to Steve.

And the rain stopped and everyone left the first meeting of the New Year filled with tea, biscuits, and great tips for better speeches. Not to mention feeling entertained, inspired and perhaps even more knowledgeable than they did when they walked in! Until next time … Haste Ye Back.

Our next club night at MSC will be at 7:30 on 26th January, where our Toastmaster of the Evening will be Keith – see you all there!

And our Club International Speech & Evaluation Contest will be on Monday 23 February – with lots of excellent opportunities for our members to play a part in the biggest event in our club calendar!


Maidenhead Speakers À La Carte

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 24 Nov 2014


It was a chilly walk from the car on Monday evening, however, once I opened the door onto a Maidenhead Speakers Club meeting-in-preparation, the climate changed! Familiar faces, warm smiles and a reception desk ready to take your details and offer advice.

TME Lorraine had done her planning and chasing the cast for the evening was listed on the board, and the members were starting to take to their seats. The gavel struck the lectern a few minutes after 7.30, as S@A Paul (topped by a woolly hat) made us welcome and drew us into the evening in jovial style. The only stern moment was when there was a warning to turn off the mobile! A volunteer always appears at Toastmasters, and tonight it was Jacqui. Our incumbent President Julie was away this week, so Immediate Past President Jacqui stepped in performed the duties. Guests were given their moment of recognition and acknowledgement, before control passed to Lorraine – who made do without any serious introduction. Perhaps her reputation defies the need! All indications pointed to us being in safe hands as the mood was confidence and control – all brightened with a smile. This was no standard meeting either, but a three course meal. Starters were to be the Table Topics, prepared Speeches would provide the main, and Evaluation would finally fill us up.

The first course was served by another man in a hat – Michael had his topics prepared and his speakers known only to him. The theme this week was proverbs, which had an attraction due to the ease of comprehension. Steve was the opener with his accustomed warm style and steady flow. A change in style was evident when John got to the front. With hand in pocket he sauntered through the delivery, introducing his own material. No sooner was he back in his seat than I am sure I heard cursing from the row behind. Maybe I was mistaken as by the time Monica reached the lectern, she had a contented grin. I particularly liked the way Monica inserted the phrase ‘I should be telling you this….’. The secret was here and gone, but Norman was being open and honest with ‘You’re Never too Old to Learn’ . In his ineffable way, he made it look as if he had rehearsed. The penultimate topic came from Suzette who had us on the edge of our seats… because she spoke in such a soft voice. Finally Joyce was telling us of a splendid book she had at home which was a distant relation to the topic of ‘A Bird in the Hand is Worth two I the Bush’.

Best Table Topics Speaker ribbon was awarded to Norman.

And so to the main course – three speeches from the CC Manual, and one from an Advanced Manual. Gabriella performed for the first time at the club and was well prepared – no sign of nerves and no notes were used, although I did spot a small piece of card in her hand. Never Give Up is a good motto for a Toastmaster! Sandra was next, and delivered her third speech on the subject of Super Drugs – which is her stock-in-trade. The third speaker was unexpectedly called up prior to the interval, and Doreen answered her own question – Where Does the Power Lie?’ The interval was filled with tea, biscuits and conversation – I was reminded of what a convivial club this is whether you visit or belong.! The fourth speaker was introduced, and Yohan laid out a touching story based upon Three Red Marbles, and he also picked up the ribbon for Best Speech.

The main course was done and all that was left was the final course to be served by the Evaluation team and General Evaluator Ian.  Cheryl gave a suitably sensitive evaluation to the Icebreaker speech, and reminded us all that the speech objectives should always be kept in mind. Grant provided a comprehensive critique, with a couple of good and well-observed recommendations. Eric had stepped in late to fill an Evaluator vacancy, and provided his wealth of Toastmasters experience in analysing Doreen’s speech. No sooner was one Elliott seated, than another was up… Helen finished the speech evaluations with a fine show, which included the technique of talking directly to the speaker – as well as sharing her points with the rest of us. Helen also picked up the ribbon for Best Evaluation.

Monica closed the feedback without a curse in her role as Grammarian. No one who used a filler or mangled their words escaped her record (although I felt she underscored my ‘ers’!). It was even colder when I left but I didn’t immediately notice, my mind was occupied with the thought……………………….Maidenhead is still such a great Club!

Our next club night at MSC will be at 7:30 on 8th December, where our Toastmaster of the Evening for our special annual Christmas meeting will be Mell. Let’s see as many of us there as possible for the last MSC meeting of 2014!

Remember, Remember the Tenth of November

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 10 Nov 2014


Tonight was another educational and entertaining evening at Maidenhead Speakers Club.

The evening started with an amusing introduction from our Sergeant at Arms Paul, who admitted to being drugged up – medically speaking of course! Our smiley Club President Julie warmly welcomed us and took good care of our guests too – we had seven first-time visitors tonight, so we must be doing something right! Julie then introduced our Toastmaster of the Evening Mary who, with lots of preparation beforehand, made it look so easy. She brought a selection of hats to vividly demonstrate our acronym, and encourage some audience participation!

Next up was the Table Topics session with Richard who encouraged us to ‘compare and contrast’ with his interesting questions.
The respondents were:
Monica – who couldn’t decide if she would rather be an 80-year-old billionaire or an 18 year old student;
Cheryl – who preferred camping in Italy rather than having a 5 star holiday in Bournemouth (even though she doesn’t particularly like camping).
Gavin – who saw the downside of ‘Jaws’ on a beach holiday, contrasting with frost bite whilst skiing!
Keith – who didn’t want to be a fighter pilot or a librarian but romanticised the virtues of reading a book. It was enough for him to win the Best Table Topic Speaker ribbon. Well done Keith – and welcome back.
Alan – who didn’t have much to say about whether he’d rather have been born talented or lucky, but he had a lot to say afterwards.
Tony – who advocated connections were important in both a successful career and a successful social life.
Steve – who preferred to be firmly planted on land rather than own a helicopter or a powerboat.
Doreen – who sat on the fence a lot before deciding she would prefer a brother over another sister.
Everyone gave an excellent impromptu speech and set the tone for a lively evening.

There were four prepared speeches starting with Suzette speaking for the second time, this time on the subject of dealing with anger.
Matthew’s objective was to use correct word selection, and told us about his very recent Italian holiday. He brought his speech alive with some lovely word pictures.
Mohammad gave us some invaluable information (and warnings) about internet hackers in a speech entitled ‘The Thieves of the 21st Century ’.
Final speaker Clive won the Best Speech with a story about speed dating – using it as an important message for not telling a lie! In fact, he made the subject of communication very thought-provolking and amusing.
The Evaluators were John, Chris, Michael and Sandra, with Chris winning the Best Evaluator ribbon with a polished evaluation given without the aid of notes.

General Evaluator for the evening was Nick who gave his view on the highlights of the table topics speakers and the evaluators, explaining how he believed each speaker stood out. He also gave a few recommendations where appropriate, and gave a very comprehensive and helpful summing up of the evenings events.
Grammarian Steve took no prisoners in identifying all the verbal crutches and filler words to help us improve our speaking! He also highlighted a number of good uses of the English language which he had particularly enjoyed.
When asked by the President to comment, some guests stated they were overawed by the standard of speaking, but Julie re-assured them that it was the same for all of us when we first started, and walked into the room. All in all, our members gave a very good advert for a club tonight and gave everyone in the room something special to take home.

Our next club night at MSC will be at 7:30 on 24th November, where our Toastmaster of the Evening will be Lorraine – see you all there!

Maidenhead Speakers – & it’s about Time!

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 13 Oct 2014


On a cold & gloomy October night, Club President Julie immediately injected some warmth & sunshine (following Sgt @ Arms Paul’s energetic introduction) as she invited us all to ‘make our own sunshine’ right here this evening at Maidenhead Speakers. And we certainly did!

She welcomed guests Gabriella, Chris (who is just about to join us – welcome Chris) & Keith Clarke – known to many of us as a long-standing member of MSC, making a very welcome return visit. We also had Area Governor Tracy in attendance, & all received a warm welcome.

Toastmaster of the Evening Clive had stepped up to the role for the first time, & did a very efficient & professional job as he introduced the subject of ‘time’ as his theme of the evening.

He introduced Timer Juls, who chirpily quoted Churchill’s famous line: ‘A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject, & short enough to create interest.’ Very appropriate – thanks for the reminder Juls! He also introduced tonight’s Grammarian Richard, armed with his word of the day, ‘stupendous’. He gave us some surprising alleged findings from the University of Edinburgh, in that ‘women like to um, men like to er’… these findings were later found to be true, as reflected in tonight’s speakers! Thanks for that Richard.

Tonight’s Table Topics Master Cheryl was also making a successful debut in her role, & she built on Clive’s theme by setting appropriately ‘timely’ questions for the Table Topics speakers. Gavin was first up, answering ‘which activities make you lose track of time?’ He spoke of how he enjoys keeping fit by running, being completely ‘in the zone’ until he arrives back at his front door, & wonders where the time has gone. Next to speak was Lorraine, who was asked ‘what age would you like to be for one week?’ Lorraine decided to go back to two events in her early childhood – playing Joseph in her kindergarten nativity play (yes, Joseph!), & her first day at school, which (as with most of us I guess) she didn’t enjoy very much… but would still love to go back. Monica was asked ‘what century she’d like to travel back to, & why’. She first decided she’d like to go back to mediaeval times, & also the reign of Charlemagne, but then changed her mind & travelled back to the time of 18th century Enlightenment, & mused as to what social class she’d prefer to be in. Fourth speaker Chris was asked the enticing question ‘if you had seven days left on the Earth, what would you do to make the best use of your time?’ Chris made a clever spin on the question’s wording, deciding he’d like to be one of the lucky volunteers to take a one-way ticket to Mars to colonize the red planet! Along the way, the passengers could have their own version of Big Brother – to see how long it takes them to kill other! But he’d like to leave Earth with his reputation intact. Next up was Suzette, who was asked ‘how would you like to spend your free time now the days are getting shorter?’. She decided early on that she’d  like to hibernate by relaxing in bed in the warmth with a good book, plus something good on the telly too to keep her entertained on the long winter nights. Final speaker Zahid tackled the question ‘if you could meet anyone in your family history, whom would you meet & why?’. Zahid revealed that everyone he knows in his family is still alive – so he’d use the time-travelling opportunity instead to go back & ‘try out’ different eras, & big events in history. Apparently the Daily Mail recently revealed that we allegedly have the technology to build a real time machine!

Ribbon for Best Table Topic was awarded to Chris.

We now moved on to the first of this evening’s four prepared speeches. First up was Doreen, with her speech entitled ‘The Dreaded Question’. She spoke of her childhood in Ireland with her sisters, & the visits of their stern Auntie, whom they cheekily referred to as the Queen! She would inevitably ask them the ‘dreaded question’: What are you going to be when you grow up? And Doreen could never give her a clear answer. Eventually she told her she was going to be a PE teacher – only to hear her Auntie was going off to live in Timbuktu! But Doreen believed in herself & went off to find work in the Isle of Man. And she’d say ‘yes’ to any good job offers – as she decided that saying ‘yes’ to opportunities was much more fun ultimately than making plans.

Second speaker was Ravi with his speech ‘Childhood Stories – the Impact on my Life’. He spoke of his childhood too, & how his uncle told him stories. These were Indian folk tales that always had a good moral, & the message of good triumphing over evil. These stories stayed with him & had a positive effect on his life, & he remembered them in times of trouble. He also spoke of how they made him realize one should always do good in the world, for a peaceful & fulfilling life.

Third speaker was Steve with ‘Say Chi’. Steve spoke about the principles of Feng Shui, & how he first discovered it & applied it to his life… with some effective (& not-so-effective) results. But at least his mum was pleased it finally made him tidy his room! He later decided that energy such as ‘chi’ is simply a word made up in language, & that Feng Shui is simply just a made-up concept too. He decided to look at the world in a more scientific way from now on… but hang on to his auspiciously-placed pot plant for now, just in case!

Fourth & final speaker was Tony with his endearing speech ‘Little Esther’. He invited us into the world of 5-year-old Esther, who produces a beautiful drawing on her first day at school. She takes it home for her mum’s reaction – but could her mum have reacted differently? Tony presented two different scenarios, & got the audience involved as he asked us for feedback on the outcomes of both. He then jumped ahead in time, where we find Esther in her 30s with her own children… but has her mum’s reaction all those years ago effected Esther’s own parenting skills?

Best Speaker Ribbon was awarded to Steve.

General Evaluator Joyce presided over tonight’s evaluation team of  Grant, Rajeev, Nick & Matthew respectively, all of whom gave excellent evaluations (Rajeev himself being a debutant tonight too with his first-ever time doing the role. There were plenty of creative tips for tonight’s speakers, & some well-earned commendations too.

Best Evaluator Ribbon went to Matthew for his evaluation of Tony’s speech. Matthew had remarked that he really felt he had been in the room with Esther & her mum during Tony’s speech.

Club President Julie returned to close tonight’s meeting, & commended TME Clive for his energy, enthusiasm & organization. She invited Area Governor Tracy Miranda to say a few words too – Tracy remarked that she’d loved the meeting, how nicely she was welcomed, & the various people who had set the tone: Sergeant at Arms Paul, Table Topics Master Cheryl, Toastmaster of the Evening Clive & President Julie. We enjoyed having Tracy as our special guest too.

Our next club night at MSC will be at 7:30 on 27th October – see you all there!

Area 21 Humorous Speech & Table Topics Contest 2014

Burnham Park Hall – Saturday 27 September 2014


Saturday 27th September saw the second round of this exciting contest take place at Burnham Park Hall, with the four speakers in each Contest would battling it out for the opportunity to represent Area 21 in the Division Finals next month. Maidenhead Speakers has a great record in this competition, helped no doubt by the wonderful support received each year from Club members. The theme of the contest this year was magic. After running through protocol and the agenda for the morning, Contest Chair Mell introduced the warm-up act, Ian. Ian is a member of the Magic Circle and entertained us with a number of tricks, using various members of the audience to great effect. The Humorous Speech Contest delivered its usual amusing and compelling blend of fun. Speeches by Simon from Windsor Speakers (who spoke on the differences and similarities between Toastmasters and Marriage), and Stewart from Chiltern Speakers (who gave us an extraordinary clinical tale entitled “The Diabetic Nurse”). Dual Member Steve (representing Wokingham Speakers for the contest) spoke of his “Blind Date” challenges, and final speaker (our very own Richard) presented his unique account of “The Holiday” – albeit a thrifty one! After a short break, we returned to once again be entertained by Ian, who was in his element by this stage! This was then followed by the Table Topics Contest. The topic was: “A little magic can take you a long way”. The four contestants each came to the front to present their thoughts. We were treated to performances from David from Windsor Speakers, Phil from Chiltern Speakers, Marce  from Wokingham Speakers, and of course Chris from Maidenhead Speakers. After a brief interlude of congratulating each speaker and awarding the certificates of participation, the scores were in! The winner of the Humorous Speech Contest was Steve, and in second place Richard. The winner of the Table Topics Contest was Chris, followed in second place by David. The magic of Maidenhead Speakers therefore continues as we celebrate another successful year!

Congratulations to Chris and Steve who progress through to the Division Contest next month – but I would like to save the final word for Richard, who was quite simply brilliant (thanks to Doreen for the pic below).


Richard & Chris celebrating their successes!

Our next regular club night at Maidenhead Speakers will be next Monday, September 29th – see you all there!

Club Humorous Speech & Table Topics Contest 2014

Maidenhead Speakers Club  – Monday 23 September 2014


St Luke’s Community Hall last night was the stage for the 2014 MSC Club Humorous Speech & Table Topics Contest, & a fun-filled evening was had by all!

Paul made an excellent debut as Contest Chair, instantly gaining some laughs from the audience by telling us he had planned to turn up in a nice suit… but the one he was wearing would have to suffice instead! But, modest as ever, it has to be said that Paul was very smartly turned-out & did a very professional job. He had further fun with the audience when he produced a letter of rejection from the Red Arrows regarding the idea he’d pitched to them of a proposed ‘fly-through’ to be staged tonight at St Luke’s Hall – they politely informed him is wasn’t really the right ‘gig’ for them…!

Following a lively warm-up session (where each audience member took turns to explain what they hoped their best character traits might be) we were straight into the Humorous Speech Contest. Mohammad was up first with his speech ‘World Peace’, explaining his plans for a peaceful & more harmonious world with no more wars, & everyone speaking English – although he wasn’t sure the French would be particularly impressed with this proposal! Oh yes – he’d rule the world too as our leader, but only want 50% of our income in taxes. Sounds fair enough Mohammad!! Next up was Richard with his speech entitled ‘The Holiday’. But this was no ordinary holiday… Richard told the unlikely story of eccentric character Walter, a man with an Anne Robinson obsession who travels with his wife to seek some sun abroad – leaving the house in his pyjamas & his suitcase full of pork scratchings & ginger beer! After a relaxing dip in the hotel swimming pool, he manages to scare off the dreaded Time Share sales people (by asking them too many questions) before heading home to buy a bargain-priced two-for-the-price-of-one heart transplant in Thailand off the Internet for he & his wife – even though their tickers are fine! Wonderfully silly stuff. Final Contest speaker was Lorraine with her speech ‘Global Citizen’. She humorously addressed the problem of today’s ‘global society’ & the many pitfalls it presents. Lorraine mused over the age-old problem of us Brits not wanting to learn foreign languages, & how our European counterparts seem to amaze us with their multi-lingual skills. She told us she has tried to learn French, but a food order at a restaurant in Paris didn’t go quite according to plan when she tried to put her French linguistics into practise…

Lorraine scooped the award for Best Humorous Speech.

Lorraine Hamilton is presented with her certificate & trophies (from Area Governor Tracy Miranda & Chief Judge Jacqui Hogan) for winning the 2014 Club Humorous Speech Contest

Lorraine is presented with her certificate & trophies from Area Governor Tracy (right), & Chief Judge Jacqui (centre), for winning the 2014 Club Humorous Speech Contest

Following the break, it was time for the Table Topics Contest. Contest Chair Paul posed the question to each contestant: “Nietzsche said: ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. Can you remember a time when you pushed yourself to your limits, & did it indeed make you stronger?”

Mohammad was back as the first speaker, & told us all about his crazy sense of humour, & how he does things he feels most people just wouldn’t do. He also told us of his failed attempts to impress women too with his handbrake turns… now, who wouldn’t be impressed?!

Tony was next, recalling the second TMs speech he ever did. His first speech had gone very well, but with his second speech he froze – standing on stage in silence for a full (& very long I’m sure) 3 & a half minutes as he tried to remember his words & compose himself. But he recovered, & came away stronger & more determined than ever,

Steve was our third speaker. He spoke about his time as an athlete at school, trying to emulate the pace-setters, & how this inspired him to do better. He also spoke of the time he was standing on the edge of a cliff, about to do a tandem paraglide… but as he leapt, he banged his foot on the rock & caused himself a painful injury! But since then, he has excelled in personal development & public speaking, & grown as a person – not forgetting to stay humble!

Nick was next, & he also picked up on theme of self-development. He spoke of his 5-day challenge to invite 10 girls out for coffee, & to see if he got a ‘yes’ from any… but decided ultimately that it didn’t matter if they were interested or not! He also amazed us with his experiences of fire-walking – literally walking over hot coals to emerge victorious on the other side.

Final speaker was Chris, the second speaker of the evening to enter both contests. Chris told us of his love of all things philosophical, & that Nietzsche was one of his favourites. He shared a Nietzsche quote of his own with us, before using the unusual illustration of having one’s leg cut off in a threshing machine as a way of seeing the world in a clearer & more understanding way! He modestly told us that public speaking success hasn’t gone to his head, & he’s still the same person he ever was… but at least he has some trophies to show for it!

Chris prophetically added to his trophy count, winning the award for Best Table Topic. Runners up were Steve & Nick.

Chris Boden receiving his award for 2014 Club Table Topics Contest winner from Area Governor Tracy Miranda, & Chief Judge Jacqui Hogan

Chris receiving his award for 2014 Club Table Topics Contest winner – with Area Governor Tracy, & Chief Judge Jacqui

Steve Catchick presented with his runner's-up certificate for the Table Topics Contest

Steve presented with his runner’s-up certificate

Nick Bailey claims third place for the Club Table Topics Contest

And Nick with his certificate for placing third.

As evidenced from the photos, or special guest was Area Governor Tracy, ably-assisted in the prize-giving with Chief Judge Jacqui – who herself did an excellent job of organizing our contest judges & counters. Tracy also took to the stage to say to congratulate us all for a successful contest, & to tell us about the imminent Area Contest this coming Saturday.

Finally, Club President Julie Farrell closed the evening and thanked everyone for their contributions – inviting feedback from our guests, who certainly picked a good night to see some excellent speeches. She also produced the 2013-2014 President’s Distinguished Club ribbon from Toastmasters International, earned by the hard work of our members fulfilling the criteria tonce again to credit our club with this award.

MSC Club President Julie Farrell proudly shows off the club's latest achievement from TMI - the President's Distinguished Club Award 2013-14

MSC Club President Julie proudly shows off the club’s latest achievement from TMI – the President’s Distinguished Club Award 2013-14

The next meeting is of course the Area Speech Contest on Saturday at Burnham Park Hall – good luck to our winners today who will be representing the club, joined by winners of the other 4 clubs in our Area. Proceedings begin at 9:30am, and our Contest Chair will be Mell – tickets are still available.

Our next regular club night at Maidenhead Speakers will be next Monday, September 29th – see you all there!

‘Impeccable’ Night at MSC


Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 8 Sept 2014


Club President Julie opened the meeting and warmly welcomed everyone. She welcomed back club member Chris, back from his success at competing at the International Speech Contest in Kuala Lumpur. Maidenhead Speakers’ Club is very proud of Chris and his TM achievements to date.

TME John got the meeting off to a good start with his usual good humour and eloquent introduction of speakers, and produced a full and well-planned evening.

Table Topics Master Nick chose the topic of ‘Change’ for the session this evening, and posed some thought-provoking and newsworthy questions for impromptu speaking – changing laws, changing seasons, changing time, changing Scottish votes from YES to NO (or was it NO to YES?). Unfazed, imaginative and creative club members who took up the table topics challenge this evening included Paul, Eric, Juls, Steve, Tony and Norman. A persuasive speech from Steve Cann on laws he would change if he could won him the ribbon for Best Table Topic. One of his proposals was to ban ‘celebrities’ – especially those who weren’t known by him!

The prepared speeches, as always, informed and entertained us. This evening we travelled from Jamaica to Britain via Suzette’s icebreaker speech and Grant shared his recent fascinating read ‘The Long Ride Home’ about shamans, a father and his autistic son. Rajeev welcomed us into the digital world, and Mohammed told us how to make a wish come true. Best Speaker ribbon was awarded to Grant.

The educational spot was an excellent speech from Jacqui on the merits of completing the Competent Leadership manual. She enjoyed this manual so much that she repeated the process not once, not twice but three times!

General Evaluator was Mary and her competent team included evaluators Chris, Helen, Michael, Clive and Marco, as Grammarian. All evaluators provided good learning points with strong commendations and recommendations – the power of pause, effective voice modulation, tips for audience engagement and the importance of a strong speech structure. Marco demonstrated an impeccable job as Grammarian, listening for uums, ahhs and interesting phrases. He also reported how often speakers used ‘impeccable’ – his chosen word of the day. Thank you to Tony for stepping in at short notice as Timer.

Best Evaluator ribbon was awarded to Clive.

Before the meeting concluded, Club President Julie invited Chris to provide club members with a short impromptu speech on his experience at International level with Toastmasters, and closed the meeting by reminding all members about the forthcoming Humorous Speech & Evaluation Contests at MSC taking place on Monday 22 September.

Contest Chair is Paul

Chief Judge is Jacqui

More offers of help for judges and counters are required. Hope to see you all at MSC next Monday at 7:30 for this very important date in our calendar!

What I Did on my Holidays

What I Did on My Holidays

A special blog by Chris about the 2014 Toastmasters International Convention in Kuala Lumpur, & his participation as one of the finalists

The Toastmasters International Convention. You may be wondering what it’s all about. A few weeks ago I joined around 3000 other dedicated and intrepid toastmasters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the 2014 Convention. This was the first time the event has been held outside of North America and with the burgeoning popularity of Toastmasters in Asia, I was one of almost 1500 people who had never been to a conference before.

So what happens at one of these? This is the organisation’s annual event that features elections of international board members, the annual business meeting (just like our AGM but with a few more people and a bigger budget), educational workshops from professional speakers and leaders and of course the semi-finals and final of the International Speech Contest. A few of my highlights:

Because I was a tad distracted early on I only saw two of the workshops – World Champion Mark Brown talking about influence, and World Finalist Rory Vaden with his signature ‘Take the Stairs’ message about doing what you need to do (even when you don’t want to do it). Both are full-time professional speakers and both were incredible. My wife saw Doug Kruger and said he was amazing. We were also treated to an opening keynote speech by Scottish born author and speaker Robin Sieger. It’s rare to have so many speakers of this calibre in one place and they all had something to offer.

Also with something to offer were the 91 contestants in the International Speech Contest, including yours truly. The competition was a memorable experience and I learnt a lot both from watching it and being in it. The result was disappointing, there’s no two ways about it. I want to come away from any contest with a trophy. But there were so many good speakers it’s hard to feel bad when I know I did the best I could. If you haven’t seen the winning speech from Danajaya Hettiarachchi get a copy by hook or crook, it’s a classic. It is an educational experience to watch so many top class speeches and I’ve come away a much better speaker than I left. As an added bonus it’s a hell of a good feeling to have people coming up to me for the rest of the conference, shaking my hand, telling me they loved my speech and even asking to have their picture taken with me. Which brings me to …

The people. Contrary to my expectations it wasn’t full of Toastmasters-obsessed tragics. Just loads of people who love what we do here and are looking to deepen their experience and learn more. I got to meet beginners, lifers, leaders, world finalists and world champions. Geographically it gave the opportunity for people all across Asia and the South Pacific (and yes, loads of Australians!), which is the fastest-growing area for TM worldwide. It was really good to meet so many people from across the globe with diverse backgrounds and a common interest. And there was a Polish vodka party. Just saying.

This was my first International Conference but it won’t be my last. The venue for the next two has been announced – Las Vegas 2015 and Washington 2016. Clear your diaries now.

Fun, Energetic & Inspiring


Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 11 Aug 2014


This week’s Maidenhead Speakers Club meeting was fun, energetic, and inspiring – as always!

TME Jacqui Hogan stepped in at the last minute, and did a great job of running the evening. Jacqui has been a member for over twelve years and has seen her confidence increase in every area of her life since joining. She loves public speaking, but mostly she enjoys seeing other members grow and succeed at things they said they couldn’t do.

Table Topics Master Michael Williams treated us to his version of Question Time, where the ‘even number’ speakers had to rebut the previous speakers’ points. We had lofty debate subjects such as ‘are dogs better than cats’ and ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg’? It was a good fun session, and Michael powerfully took control – which is commendable as this was his first time as TTM.  Michael reminded us about the importance of listening at Toastmasters as well as speaking. Well done to Michael for seizing the chance to be TTM and for successfully trying something new.

All six speakers took up the challenge and delivered confident and fun speeches! They were Nick Bailey, Juls Abernethy, Paul Aherne, Helen Elliot and Richard Davies – the latter winning the Best Table Topics ribbon. He gave a confident and fun topic, using lovely eye contact, an open posture, and his usual wonderful humour.

We have such a high standard of speakers at our club, and it really showed on Monday! With the prepared speeches up next, we were treated to speeches about living an inspirational life from Tony, the history of the guitar from Emilio (& an impromptu live performance too of his playing dexterity!), how to manage conflict from Karen, and a journey into making wishes come true by Mohammad. The wide range of subjects and the knowledge imparted make an evening at MSC enlightening and entertaining, even if you’re simply watching!

Karen was voted Best Speaker.

The evaluators were up next after the teabreak, and again, we were reminded of how experienced our members are when it comes to evaluation. All four evaluators – Eric, Steve Catchick, Clive, and Zahid all gave strong, confident, and helpful evaluations. Steve Catchick was awarded the ribbon for Best Evaluator.

Steve Cann gave his Grammarian report and let us know how many crutch words had been used, as well as mentioning how many people had used his word of the day ‘persiflage’ and good use of language.

It was a fun and inspiring evening as always! It just remains to say well done to Chris Boden for making it to the semi-finals of the International Speech Contest, held in Kuala Lumpur during last week. As we know, Chris didn’t go on to make the finals, but it’s a dazzling achievement to get so close and I’m sure we all feel proud for him. Well done Chris!

Our next club night at MSC will be at 7:30 on 8th September – see you all there!


Mid-summer MSC

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 28 Jul 2014


Another great night at the Club. As always, a good turnout, with guests including the New Division Governor Bob Nisbet and Justin McCarthy, a former member of MSC.

Club President Julie Farrell reminded us about the Toastmaster Promise – something we should all review regularly. ‘To prepare for and fulfil meeting assignments’ and ‘To attend club meetings regularly’ are particularly important. The full list has now been added to the Club website on the ‘Join us’ page.

TME Lorraine Hamilton maintained the warmth and enthusiasm infused by Julie and introducced us to the evening, promising not one, not two, not three but FOUR prepared speeches! She made humorous references to the Commonwealth Games, which soon had the audience fully relaxed.

Table Topics Master Matthew Woolacott put an innovative spin on Table Topics by using different pictures to initiate each topic, that he’d printed off before the meeting. Tony Searby set the bar high by a confident and entertaining 2 minutes about two Roman soldiers in his topic picture. Six other speakers followed, with John Callaghan winning the Best Table Topics Ribbon with a rib-cracking interpretation of his particular picture.

Prepared speeches followed. Juls Abernathy delivered her IceBreaker, but soon convinced the audience that she was a natural born public speaker. Spurning notes, she gave us a confident and funny insight into her life. Cheryl Brickell followed on with a Number 2 speech from the CC Manual, grabbing our attention by opening with a song and movingly speaking about the power of the touch. She too bravely decided to not use notes, but learnt it was prudent to have a fallback. Nick Bailey, speaking from the Humourous Speaking Manual told us about his ‘5 minutes of terror’, recalling the time when he performed stand-up comedy to an audience of 70. Throwing in puns and anecdotes, he set the mood for a mellow extra-long break. Final speaker Clive Pugh spoke from the Storytelling Manual, and delivered an extremely animated version of Little Red Riding Hood, which included wolf sound effects. His rendition was such a howling success that he won the Best Speaker Ribbon!

The evaluation sesson followed, led by General Evaluator Gerard. Steve Cann, Michael Williams, Doreen Gowing and Richard Davies delivered four polished evaluations using the Commend, Recommend, Commend format, with Richard winning the Best Evaluator Ribbon.

Gerard then provided feedback to the Topics Speakers and Evaluators. His recommendation for the evening was that the Sgt @ Arms could remind attendees to sign in and turn off their mobiles at the 2 minute warning (a plasticised sheet taped to the lectern could provide a reminder). This sheet could include a ‘room set-up checklist’ including opening windows, putting up banners etc.

Grammarian Alan Grayly provided valuable feedback on ums/ahs and had also noted good (and not so good) use of language. Throughout the evening, Grant Oliver expertly kept time and Sgt @ Arms Paul Aherne efficiently kept order and provided much welcome refreshments at the break.

Well done to TME Lorraine for getting in 7 topics, 4 speeches, a 20 minute break AND finishing well on time. It can be done!

All too soon it was back to Julie to hand out ribbons, solicit guest comments and remind us to attend the next meeting on 11th August. Be there…!