Never mind the width…

Maidenhead Speakers Club – Monday 19 May 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maidenhead Speakers … Never mind the width…!

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


Lights, Contest, Action!

Maidenhead Speakers Club  – Monday 30 September 2013


Top speeches. Top humour. Top evening! The Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests on 30 September were packed – several toastmasters deep! Which is always a good sign of a lively club where the members want to stretch themselves. Never mind “never mind the quality feel the width” – here we had both the quality and the width!

The main event was the humorous speeches, which proved not only humorous but surprisingly informative – albeit much of it being about things not to do!

Zahid Aziz was first up and explained what many of us already knew – that the search for true love rarely goes smoothly and it can sometimes be best to hand over to an expert – putting your feet up whilst leaving the arrangements to your mum!

Jacqui Hogan’s search was for something rather different – the perfect cinch – aka a corset! In a prop revelation unmatched since Bucks Fizz ripped off skirts for England (Eurovision 1981 – I was there – watching telly that is, not actually there) those of us who had never actually seen a corset before had all our questions answered, as well as some more we hadn’t even thought of.

Flying south was the theme of Steve Cann’s speech. With a speech structure something akin to The Gruffalo, Steve warned of the perils of that all-too enticing winter holiday in Lanzarote – unwanted beach salesmen, and in particular, the dreaded purveyor of the timeshare.  Well-dodged that bullet Steve!

Nick Bailey (a toastmaster renowned for his travels worldwide) shared his experiences of a Japanese spa bath with big feet, a small locker and only a small flannel protecting his dignity. But guided by his travellers code of honour to sample the local culture, the moral of the story was clear – or at least it was if you spoke Japanese: when in Rome – go feed the lions.

Yohan MacDonald last week gave an educational speech about how to start off a speech. Taking his own advice, Yohan enlisted the raw vocal power of Frankie Goes to Hollywood in his opener and asking WAR!? Are Women Always Right? Presenting evidence both for and against – the jury’s still out on that one!

The old man of Hoy, a near-death experience and a family crisis calmly averted by a seasoned explorer – all in a day’s growing up for a young Keith Clarke who won Third Prize with his tale of youthful derring do!

Next up was Chris Boden who explained the pitfalls of taking the plunge and living in the now: dancing like no one’s watching, singing like no one’s listening,  and loving like you’ve never been hurt. Wise words indeed. But maybe not ones to take too literally – as Chris’s arrest warrant, ASBO and restraining order testify. Could have been worse Chris  – they could have transported you to some awful antipodean colony!

Finally Sam Billington gave a fresh perspective on Toastmasters and Hogan’s School of Toastmastery.  Deploying skills with powerpoint that I still haven’t mastered, (you mean the presenter should look at the audience and not at their own slides? How does that work?) Sam cast a rye eye at how we do what we do at MSC. Very original. I’ll never feel bad about forgetting my Competent Leader manual behind again.

In the face of some very stiff competition, Sam came runner-up with his first contest entry, whilst Chris came first.

Chris Boden receives his certificate & trophy for winning the 2013 MSC Humorous Speech Contest.

Chris Boden receives his certificate & trophy for winning the 2013 MSC Humorous Speech Contest.

Sam Billington receives his certificate for finishing 2nd in the 2013 MSC Humorous Speech Contest.

Sam Billington receives his certificate for finishing 2nd in the 2013 MSC Humorous Speech Contest.

Keith Clarke receives his certificate for finishing 3rd in the 2013 MSC Humorous Speech Contest.

Keith Clarke receives his certificate for finishing 3rd in the 2013 MSC Humorous Speech Contest.

The second contest of the evening was the Table Topics Contest, to which contestants had to say how they would respond to Lou Reed’s lyric: “It’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you.” Zahid compared the lyrics to those of an Indian song – for him it would be a day with his wife and kids.

Sam Billington explained that he would take the opportunity to spend a day with Tim Minchin, the Aussie comedian with amazing hair (and stary scary eyes!) or, boarding school having made the heart grow fonder, his parents.

A perfect day for Nick Bailey brought to mind a time when he looked after his friend’s two year old daughter – despite her not speaking a word of English

Yohan MacDonald was conflicted! Weighing up the options of spending the day by himself singing… or spending it with his ten-month-old baby.

Chris Boden yearned to spend his perfect day with some criminal lowlife – if only to make him realize that the rest of his life was in fact – by comparison – a perfect day!

Keith Clarke explained that his perfect day involves a street party, a chef’s hat and a street party-size dish of paella.

Like Yohan, John Callaghan was torn, but pretty quickly came down in favour of a day filled with peace, quiet, a pint and some quality reading material.

Steve Cann cut through the “dark waters of table topics closing in around me” (excellent turn of phrase – where’s the grammarian when you need them!?) to select David Bowie as his companion for a perfect day. Okay he might be half-human/half-alien but as a cool bohemian who must be seventy, who better?

Finally, Jacqui Hogan told us about how she and Lou Reed almost shared a perfect day but was alas usurped by Mendelssohn – that’s weddings for you! I don’t know about you, but I always cry at weddings. And parties. At least at weddings you get to wear a hat!

Third place went to Jacqui Hogan, second to John Callaghan and first to Chris Boden.

Chris Boden receives his certificate & trophy for winning the 2013 MSC Table Topics Contest.

Chris Boden receives his certificate & trophy for winning the 2013 MSC Table Topics Contest.

John Callaghan receives his certificate for finishing 2nd in the 2013 MSC Table Topics Contest.

John Callaghan receives his certificate for finishing 2nd in the 2013 MSC Table Topics Contest.

Jacqui Hogan receives her certificate for finishing 3rd in the 2013 MSC Table Topics Contest.

Jacqui Hogan receives her certificate for finishing 3rd in the 2013 MSC Table Topics Contest.

So much for the contests – however this match report wouldn’t be complete without a few words on the dramatic behind-the-scenes action of the last few days. Maidenhead Speakers are indebted to their VP.Ed., Julie Farrell, who took over at the drop of a hat as Contest Chair when Beshlie Donaldson had an unscheduled short stay-cation in Wexham Park, so she could part company with her appendix in an amicable but abrupt manner (hope you’re feeling better Beshlie). As a testament to the arrangements put in place by Beshlie, and the unflappability of Julie, together with her Chief Judge, Lorraine Hamilton, the evening ran smoothly despite a packed programme and with some warm-up/time filling/toastmastery stuff that made sure everyone had at least twenty seconds in the spotlight, and everyone was kept engaged during the intro and count-y bits. Top stuff!

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.

Our next regular club night at Maidenhead Speakers will be on October 14th – see you all there!

A Prodigal Tale

For various reasons it’s been a while since I have attended a meeting of Maidenhead Speakers Club. Some things change. Some stay the same!

Okay the changes were mostly restricted to some new format T M badges.

Stays the same pretty much covered everything else. Not that that’s a bad thing – far from it! It included a great range of speakers across all the roles, a sprinkling of guests/new/would-be members and an enthusiastic and engaged audience.

Julie Farell was introduced as our TME and ran through the rules of the game with her usual vivacity, and a twist on the tried and tested HATS nemonic, suggesting that maybe we should consider the H as standing for Hug, although accepting that for some this could give rise to feelings of awkwardness! A few people looked up for it though!

Eschewing a word of the day – or was that just absent-mindedness – Grammarian Steve Catchick introduced himself as being from the school of tough (grammatical) love. A self forged reputation he was to live up to later on.

Introduced as our Educational Speaker, Jacqui Hogan ran through Ten top tips for table topics (try saying that after the annual club dinner) which covered the dos and more dos of navigating your way through this sometimes challenging arena. Want to know more? Check out the attachment

Proving that knowing and doing aren’t necessarily the same thing, our intrepid toastmasters were called up for Table Topics by TT-meister Alan Grayly who asked participants to elucidate well known idioms, starting with Belshie Donaldson who was invited to explain how you can sometimes miss the wood for the trees. Slightly running out of steam part way, Belshie nonetheless did a credible job and more than covered the distance to the green light.

Steve Catchick reflected on the bittersweet adrenaline buzz/panic that comes with biting off more than you can chew, whilst David MacLeod was at pains to explain that there is indeed such a thing as a free lunch and that his role as mentor was living proof. Lock up your biscuit tin!

With a tantalisingly implausible story about the perils of stowing thrones in grass houses – I’ll leave you to work out what idiom that was based on – Norman Rhodes enthralled with a regal tale from the house of Queen Victoria and her travels to distant lands.

Clive Pugh gave us a story from the take-no-prisoners world of Barber shop choirs, worthy of a docu-drama-soap, and demonstrated award winning (well a ribbon anyway) use of the stage whilst explaining the relationship between eggs and omelets (it’s messy).

Sticking with the eggs theme, Joyce told us that joining them and beating them aren’t necessarily incompatible!? For good measure she threw in a recipe for a perfect spongecake!

New member Abi broke his TT’s duck with meditations on necessity and invention, tying in neatly with what motivated him to join Toastmasters in the first place.

Mary Fraser was first up of the prepared speakers with a coquettishly named speech titled Lets Play! In fact this was about about the value of play in children’s development from the advanced manual. Mary showed that simple visual aids don’t need to be flashy to be effective and that for ease of use the humble flip chart is hard to beat. With a potentially too-wide brief Mary focused on three key take-home points and delivered these in a memorable and engaging way going on to win best speech of the evening.

Doreen Gowing chose a challenging topic with Contented before I’m demented and won plaudits for her natural story telling ability and effective use of language in a speech that started out with Doreen sharing the stage with an imaginary friend and included awesome alliteration such as a family of furry ferrets flitting about.

Evaluator Mell Shepherd found a lot to like including good use of pauses, contrasting this with Doreen’s hitherto tendency slightly to gabble. It’s probably an irish thing explained Mell helpfully!

Our final speaker was Nick Bailey who recounted tales of strangeness and deadly wild creatures from the southern tip of Africa where Nick works from time to time as a tour guide. This provided him with material which, as evaluator Lorraine Hamilton remarked, brought out a relaxed style to which Nick is well suited.

In a pithy evaluation of Table Topics that earned a well deserved ribbon for best evaluation, Chris Boden found something to commend in all the speakers, including Steve Cann who waffled along nicely, and Joyce Rhodes who was advised to come forward on stage and share the love. For a moment I thought someone might get that hug after all!

Great fun!

Summing up the evening Richard Davies commended TME Julie Farrell for a well run evening fresh from organising the Annual Club dinner on Saturday. Aside from those filling the regular roles Richard also singled out the audience who make Toastmasters the  unique and visceral experience that it is!

Last word went to Grammarian Steve Catchick who, as well as picking out good examples of language, left no verbal crutches unstoned. Speaking personally I was surprised at the number of uhs with which I managed to pepper my evaluation of Mary Fraser’s talk, (a near personal best/worst of 18! Well I did say it was a while since my last outing) especially as I was pretty much unaware of – well any of them really! Just goes to show the value of Toastmasters – if you want to improve there’s no substitute for clear eyed and constructive feedback.

Maidenhead Speakers Club – it’s great to be back!

John Callaghan 30 April 2013

TM – Top Ten Tips for Terrific Table Topics copy

Maidenhead Speakers save the day

A big thank you to Maidenhead Speakers and their friends. The last outing of the KC Comedy Club in High Wycombe threw up an unexpected challenge. Because of various circumstances four out of five of the stand ups booked didn’t turn up. This would normally spell disaster and throw any gig into complete panic and disarray. But as they say the show must go on….and it did with guests from the audience stepping up and doing impromptu spots. The Toastmaster training and an I can do that attitude took over.
Special thanks to:
Justin McCarthy who told us about music and how to talk to teenagers.
Richard Davies made us laugh about being British.
Yohan McDonald explained why you have to pay compliments and put the toilet seat down.
Chris Bowden advised about choosing an airline to fly long distance.
Nick Bailey told us how he managed to get mugged in the most pleasant way, thee nights on the trot.
Keith Clarke warned about the pitfalls of shopping for boots.
A new game of Joke Tag was developed on the spot. The owner of the club, John Walters got up and told a joke, which reminded another guest about another one, and on it went. Perhaphs we should try that at a meeting sometime?
The brave stand up that did arrive, Alan Donegan (also a Toastmaster and winner of a previous D71 Humerous speach contest) entertained us with what not to get caught doing in a car park.
If you want to find out more about these stories why not come to the next night on 16 August. Don’t forget to have a joke or two up your sleeve just incase you are called upon and want to enjoy the fun. Oh yes and the free buffet was excellent.

Toastmaster visits the Inner Wheel Club: take me to your spokes-person!

Toastmaster visits the Inner Wheel Club: take me to your spokes-person!

Mell Shepherd in her role as Social Secretary recently gave a talk to the the Inner Wheel Club of Burnham about Toastmasters, and gave an entertaining demonstration speech – a practice run of her speech contest entry – that was very well received. After Mell’s visit Helen Read of the Inner Wheel Club wrote the following.

Thank you Mell from Maidenhead Speakers for visiting our club recently and contributing to a thoroughly successful evening.  Like many clubs, our membership is dwindling a bit.  Inner Wheel was originally a club for the wives of Rotarians; today the membership is more open although it is still strongly linked to Rotary.  We raise money for charity and carry out

charitable acts but friendship is also an important part of our ethos.  We knew that there were many people eligible to join the club in the local area so we hit on the idea of inviting them all to one of our meetings to demonstrate that we were all friendly people and to encourage them to join.

So we needed to find an entertaining and thought provoking speaker to inspire our visitors and help make the evening a fun event for all – no pressure then…

Mell rose to the occasion admirably.  After a preamble about what the Maidenhead speakers are and how she got involved with them she ‘practiced’ a future competition entry on us.  Everyone was very impressed with both her delivery and the content – amusing, but also food for thought.  After her presentation she answered questions, which included one from a lady wanting some advice about giving a speech at her son’s wedding!  We were very impressed with the work that Maidenhead Speakers does and we wished them well, and we wished good luck to Mell in the competition too!

As a postscript – Helen asked how did it go at the competition? Answer of course: Mell won the club contest and went as far as the area contest. Good effort Mell.

Maidenhead Speakers members perform at the KC Comedy Club


Last night, Thursday 17 May, saw the first gig for the KC Comedy Club at Magnolia Park, a private club in High Wycombe. Several members of MSC were there to enjoy the proceedings. Keith Clarke (MSC member) opened the evening to a lively crowd of over 70 comedy enthusiasts looking for a good entertaining night out. They were not disappointed.


After the introductions there was an ‘improv’ section which was a bit like a high energy table topics with no time limit. The audience were in awe of the participants, especially MSC’s Mell Sheppard who gave an impassioned plea to see the error of your ways for those who have been lured into the clutches of FACEBOOK! Chris Boden entertained us with stories about the 2012 Olympics and how the Australians will be winning all of the medals!


Several of the other guests were members of various other Toastmaster clubs from London and the South East.


At the break which allowed everybody to ensure that their glasses were topped up the owner of the club kindly laid on a free cheese and fruit buffet which everybody tucked into. After glasses were replenished and plates cleared the main part of the evening got underway; with five speakers giving their stand up routines which varied from 5 – 20 minutes each. Quick fire presentations covered:


1.      Being a working mother,


2.      Working in the dubious end of media,


3.      Cultural differences for Indians living in the UK and learning English in Indian restaurants,


4.      Coping with feeding the family,


5.      A misspent youth growing up in the East End of London.


There was something for everyone, the atmosphere was excellent. There were tears of laughter, and people went away with a smile on their face. Personally I am still giggling at remembered jokes and one liners almost 24 hours later.


The evening was heralded a success and the club have invited us to make this a regular event. Two MSC members have already volunteered to do an inprov slot at the next meeting. You will have to come along to find out who.


What a brilliant night, I laughed so much I had a bit of a tenna lady moment’ Jane W.


‘The quality was superb, please, please come and do that again’ Kris C


We will be back at the Magnolia club in June, watch this space for information.


Have you got a stand up routine or are brave enough to do an improv slot? Take your Toastmasters experience to the next level or just come along and have a great night out.


Contact Keith on 07738 540287











Shirley and the Slug – The Inside Story!

Shirley and the Slug

I’m going through a real grungy stage with my speeches at the moment,  a bit like a teenager trying to figure out her own style , it won’t be long before I start wearing DMs, heavy makeup and get my eyebrow pierced!  What an improvement I hear you say!!

But that is the beauty of Toastmasters, it allows you to experiment in front of a supportive audience, different techniques and ideas and my speech at Monday Night’s session, “Shirley and the Slug” was testament to that.

Having spent the last 3 months talking about Immortal Jellyfish, I started to worry that I had some sort of animal obsession. Would I ever do another speech again without referring to an animal? Is this the cornerstone of my success? Will I get up at the World Championships one day and have nothing to talk about except  farmyard animals and furry pets?! I hope not!

Getting down to business, I decided in the first instance that I wanted to story tell and try telling a speech backwards. Why? Effective Storytelling is vital if you want to become a good speaker and it’s all about practise. Telling the story backwards? I refer you back to my opening sentence.

My assignment was Speech 8 in the Competent Communicator manual “Get comfortable with Visual Aids” and to help me on my journey, I brought along a homemade Dali-esque clock to indicate the different timelines in my story.

The speech was actually a true story. When I was at Uni, I decided to buy a hamster (Shirley) which was a challenging time for some of my housemates. One day, after a big night out, my housemate Paul informed me that my hamster had eaten a slug the night before and was dying. I rushed her  to the vets, only to open the lid of the shoebox in front of the receptionist to see her charging around, looking better than ever. Embarrassing!  I then realised as I was heading home that I’d locked myself out and had to jump over the next door neighbours’ wall and gain access to the house as I raced against the clock to get to Uni. When I returned, I decided to clean out the hamster’s cage but as I was lifting Shirley back in, she bit me so hard, blood literally splattered on the white wall and I can honestly say that bite was delivered with heartfelt meaning and venom – I had been a bad owner.

I was delighted to get back on the Maidenhead stage and if the RSPCA don’t come knocking in the next few days, I will be back on the 14th June with my final speech of the CC manual – what a couple of years it’s been!

Big shout out to my partner in crime, Julie Farrell for a fantastic ( oh no, we’re not allowed to say that anymore ) a, err… tremendous …evaluation – good work all round and a great night.

E=MC2 (and S2I=ACB)!

It was obvious my speech title should be E=MC2. The Toastmaster announced the title and at that moment, before the introductory applause, I heard a murmur and stirring from the audience. Was it trepidation or anticipation? I wasn’t sure.

I opened by reassuring the audience that by the end of the evening they would have a better understanding of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – they didn’t seem too sceptical and they didn’t laugh; my speech had started well!

Thinking back, when I opened the manual and came to this speech I wondered where I would start. It was the last speech in my ‘Speaking to Inform’ manual, which would assure me of achieving my ‘Advanced Communicator Bronze’ award. The subject was ‘The Abstract Concept’ a subject that many speakers have pondered over for ages before me I am sure. The manual directed me to create a speech explaining a theory, principle, philosophy or social issue – what should I do? In the examples, the only one that jumped out off the page was Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I have always been interested in science and I did study physics so could I pull this off? It was a massive challenge but I decided to give it my best shot.

The initial research was easy. I just dumped information from the internet and consulted a book I had, but much of it was complicated and not that useable. To explain a complicated and abstract theory using examples of boats on rivers or moving railway carriages as my research had done didn’t cut it for me. I wanted to bring it to life and involve my audience somehow.  So I wrapped the theory in little stories using club members as part of the examples.

I thought that our Sgt@Arms, Julie, being on the International Space Station travelling at 18,000 mph would be something that the audience would remember, especially Julie. I described Thomas playing with mirrors on an aircraft whilst on holiday and our club president,Mary, looking into the aircraft from the ground seeing something entirely different, from her point of view. The audience seemed more engaged that I had hoped – my plan was working.

I finished off with Captain Kirk’s well-known instruction – ‘Beam me up Scottie’ and reminded the audience that in a way Einstein gave us Star Trek!

My final call to action was to save on the face cream. Why try to look younger when you could jump into a spacecraft, travel at ultra-high speeds and actually become younger (at least compared to the rest of us)?

This was my most challenging speech to date, yet it has become the most enjoyable one to present. It took some effort, and at times as I drafted it I wasn’t happy with the content, until I found a magic formula and it came together – after which I was gratified to receive a lot of positive feedback.  Maybe it won’t be long before the next speech: anyone for a helping of Schrodinger’s Cat!?

(PS: S2I=ACB: Speaking to Inform = Advanced Communicator Bronze!)

Nick Bailey


Maidenhead Toastmasters Meeting: Monday 14th May 2012. Energy and Entertainment!

After a few last minute changes and despite a number of blank slots still to be filled when the doors opened at 7.00pm – with encouragement from Jacqui Hogan as Toastmaster of the Evening and Helen Elliot as General Evaluator, all the roles were covered by 7.30pm in time for a prompt start.

The energy was high in the room as everyone set about tasks.  No less than four guests arrived to share the evening and contemplate the possibility of joining the group. I had a feeling Rob D. was won over by the end of the evening.  We look forward to what the future holds.

What I remember the evening for the most was its energy and entertainment.  As a new member and with no allocated task for the evening I mentally prepared myself for the possibility of being picked upon for a Table Topic 2 minute speech.  What a self fulfilling prophecy that turned out to be!  But it’s great to feel you are in a room of supportive listeners who are there to help and so with that in mind I took to the floor. Aside from no less than 8 “ahs” recorded by Eric (for my learning) all went well – it was great to be an active member.  Picking up 1st prize helped too!

Then the speeches: Richard Davies told a wonderful story with great imagery of a train journey he undertook: I can still smell the curry and chips! I felt I was on the train with him and enjoying every moment of it. In fact I have decided to take the Caledonian Sleeper to Edinburgh in September in the hope of an adventure. Thanks Richard for the inspiration.

Zahid Aziz instilled in us the benefits of crystallising our lives into action and overcoming the crippling habit of procrastination (which many of us could identify with; myself included).  He was living proof of what is possible when we first acknowledge that we are procrastinating, then create a plan of action and finally – and most importantly – take action; for in front of us stood a slim fit Zahid, having lost around a stone over the last 12 months.  Thank you Zahid – it was easier to jump out of bed this morning and go to the gym after your inspiring speech!

Mell Shepherd’s imagination had us all in suspense as we were drawn into the story with a twist of Shirley and the drama that ensued when she ate a slug.  Mel’s enthusiasm and expressive style was full of energy and entertainment as she told the story demonstrating that while a good speech should have a beginning, a body and a conclusion, they don’t necessarily have to be in that order.

Having listened to Nick Bailey’s speech E=MC squared for the first time in my life I have a clear picture of the impact of the theory of Relativity.  Pity Nick had not been my physics teacher, as he had failed to get the message across so well.  I am still looking forward to the day “Beam me up Scotty”  becomes a reality.

However, it was Thomas White’s speech on “Your eyes are for life” which is potentially life changing.  I have joined an Eyeball Fit Club to strengthen my eye muscles through exercises which will have me glasses free for life.  I am writing this without my glasses.  Not only was it informative Thomas had us all in stitches as we followed his instructions and did the exercises.

Thomas was indeed a very deserving winner for the evening.

Steve Catchick rounded off with a summary of high quality of entertainment at the National Toastmasters Conference held in Wexford, Ireland and encouraged us all to save for the next event in Cork. I can only imagine that the crack there will be mighty!

The meeting ended on time with the award and the concluding comments from President Mary Fraser.  Fellow Toastmasters – thank you all for making it such an enlightening evening.

Doreen Gowing


Oh Hell! Its the annual Maidenhead Speakers Club dinner…

Maidenhead Speakers Tall Tales Contest announced – Oh Hell! 

Experienced Toastmaster Ian Rees took the trophy at the Maidenhead Speakers Tall Tales contest held at the Bird in Hand at Knowl Hill on Saturday 28 April; the occasion coincided with the annual club dinner which was well attended by around 50 Maidenhead Speakers and guests

Ian did well to win over stiff competition as a plethora of tales from the other contestants unfolded: of tricky highwaymen on Exmoor, a desperate revenge by a desperate woman who had been wronged, the little known origins of the cat in the hat, advice from a professional beggar, and running out of fuel around Maidenhead … in the dark…1000 feet in the air! Were any of these stories completely true? Possibly not but they provided for splendid after dinner entertainment.

Ian’s winning tale centred on his intention to establish a new magazine aimed at those in their middle and maturing years: a cross between OK and Hello magazine: “Oh Hell

Summing up he finished with a jingle he had composed to promote his new publication:

If your life is starting to crumble but you’re not ready for kiss and tell then go down the newsagent and ask for your copy of Oh Hell!

Presenting the award, Maidenhead Speakers Club President Mary Fraser, commented  “It was a very strong field at this year’s contest and Ian was clearly the winner. Judging by the audience reaction there should be plenty of subscribers for Oh Hell!