Hosted by a first-time Toastmaster

On Monday evening 20th July, we had another great online meeting hosted by our wonderful Toastmaster for this evening- Debra who gracefully facilitated the session.  This was the first time that Debra had been the Toastmaster for the evening. She would be introducing all the speakers to the virtual stage and keep the evening running.  She looked like she had done this many times before and took control of the event brilliantly.

On the agenda we had 3 prepared speeches
1) ‘Crushing it’ by Amy who advised aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners how to best use social media.
2) ‘Zooming around the world’ by Costa who discussed how Toastmaster has quickly moved online across the globe in the current times of crisis. He highlighted that this provides a wonderful opportunity to take part in Toastmaster meetings with other clubs in other countries (such as his native South Africa) and meet new people.
3) ‘What a difference a year makes’ by John who shared how he has been applying the lessons learned in Toastmasters in his day to day life.

Constructive feedback was provided to them individually by Gary, Kat and Efra. This was followed by a very entertaining Table Topics session run by Alex who asked the participants to persuade the audience to buy random objects from his household within 2 min timeframe. This was in the context of a stranded car in the Brazilian jungle.

We were delighted that 8 new guest joined us for the evening and we are very much looking forward to welcome Howard, Abir, Mary, Alice, Fergus, Daniele, Jemzy and Mahad in the future meetings.

Best speech award went to Costa, best evaluation went to Gary and best table topics went to our guest Fergus who did a fantastic job.
Congratulations to you all!

Our next meeting will take place on August 3rd and Toastmaster for the evening is our fantastic Penny. This will be a great evening!

Two Icebreakers and first-time evaluator!

Another great night of public speaking, learning and friendship.

Debra, as Sargent at Arms, opened the meeting with a great reference to Spring and the standard housekeeping notices. Great to see her delivering a confident start to the meeting.

Dave, our President gave a good opening statement with a challenge to be a leader, as well as a great speaker at Toastmasters.

The night was then put in the capable hands Amanda who took control and leads us through the whole meeting smoothly and clearly. She introduced her team for the evening. Costa overcame the ‘disappearance’ of the timer lights with some good improvisation to keep us all on time. Gillian took the role of videographer and although all speeches and evaluations are private links online. She reminded us that you can have this switch to the public for more people to see if you allow us. Elizabeth took the role of Ballot Counter and explained what that entails.

Amanda introduced four great speakers for the evening. Two being their first speeches and one a guest from another Club. Well done to all of them for great speeches, but especially for Yusra and Kat for their confident Icebreakers. Thank you to Roz, for coming from another club to join us. These were followed by the four evaluators, including Debra doing her first Evaluation, and well done it was too.

Debra then introduced our five new guests for the evening, and I think we had three returning guests? And we stopped for our break.

Amanda passed over to Gary to run the table topics and he produced a bag of items which speakers were going to have to imagine the item they chose was a birthday present! – This was interesting if not worrying about what Gary at home!

Talking about an object is quite a challenge but all the speakers adapted and delivered well thought through and entertaining replies in their allotted 1-2mins. As a rare treat, Gillian videoed the table topics and I found time earlier to send the clips to the guests together with the topics evaluation.

Matthijs then delivered that Topics evaluation with feedback and ideas for all the speakers. Not only with great content but in good time too.

Penny was then invited to the stage to deliver the General Evaluation and to evaluate everyone who had taken part but not yet been evaluated. I will include a private link to this for members in my follow-up email and see how many watch it. 😉

Too soon, as time seems to fly by for me, our President, Dave has to give his closing remarks. However, he also had the privilege to hand out 2 icebreaker ribbons to Kat and Yusra, best Speaker to Roz, joint best evaluator between himself and me and best table topics to first-time guest Simon.


We are all back again on 17th February, and those that want to take part in the Speech Competition on 3rd should contact Matt Tuff. If you need a Toastmaster fix in the meantime then there are plenty of other local clubs; Sutton, Surbiton, Reigate, Mole Valley, Purley, Croydon. Around 20% of our members are regular members at other clubs.

How Often Do I need to come to Toastmasters?

  • One of our guests this week asked me a question that has been posed many times, and so I thought I would post an answer here.

The simple answer is to come as little, or as often as you like. The more you come the quicker you will benefit.

The bigger question is how often do I need to come to learn and grow as a public speaker and here the answer is actually even more simple. The more often you come, the more quickly your public speaking skills will improve.

If you think of your Toastmasters journey has one of a succession of speeches over time, that help you learn and grow as a Toastmasters, then you are correct, but you are also missing out on so much that would make that journey more valuable and your skills grow more effectively. Every time you attend a Toastmasters meeting you are going to soak up the ideas, techniques and qualities in the room. The whole Toastmaster agenda is created to ensure that everyone who wants the opportunity will have a chance to speak.

If you are not delivering one of your prepared speeches, then there are plenty of other places where you can take a role and be part of the meeting. Once you have done a few speeches, you can then put your name forward for learning how to do evaluations. This is a whole extra skill and gives you the chance to learn how to create and present an analysis of another person’s speech in a supportive and educational way. Evaluating others is the fastest way to pick up ideas and techniques for your next speech. Even if you are not the presenting evaluator, every member has the chance to write down suggestions for the speaker on the evaluation slips.

There are other support roles at each meeting;

  • Timekeeper
  • Videographer
  • Ballot Counter

All these roles are supporting the meeting and give you a chance to explain the role, which means giving a short and succinct speech. Another skill to practice.

The next big role at Toastmaters is the warm-up. This is a chance to give an interesting, but not too challenging a question to the audience. Then, manage everybody’s participation. Which also makes this a good starting point for the next two big roles.

Running the table topics session is like running a mini-meeting within the main meeting. You need to introduce and explain table topics, bring on all the speakers and keep it running. This is a great challenge for speaking and leading.

Once you are confident to the roles of table topics and warm-up you can put your name forward to be Toastmaster. It is then your responsibility to organise all the speakers, evaluators and role and then manage the whole meeting. This role is usually one of the last you will take on and probably not be asked more than once or twice a year.  It is hard work, but very rewarding when you do it.

The other two major roles are the table topics evaluator and general evaluator. Again these are roles you will not be asked to take up till you are a confident evaluator, but when you have the chance they are again very rewarding.

Of course, Epsom speakers is just one of thousands of Toastmaster clubs around the world and is this part of south London, there are many clubs slightly further, but within reach.  I estimate that around 20% of Epsom Toastmasters currently visit or are members of another local club. This gives them twice or more Toastmaster meetings in their year. I myself are pretty regular at

  • Epsom Speakers (my home blub)
  • Reigate THetoric (a new club)
  • Tandridge Communicators (just started and not yet chartered)
  • Sutton Speakeasy (infrequently recently;-(

That means I have around 1.5- 2 meetings a week. Instead of the once a fortnight. My experience of Toastmasters and my public speaking skills are therefore growing at a faster rate and my 18 months of membership is more like 3-4 years of experience.

So the question has to be, what do you want to learn at Toastmasters? There is so much more on offer than just the chance to overcome the nerves of public speaking.

  • The more often you can come, the more quickly you will learn.
  • There is no pressure to take on extra roles, you take them when you are ready for your next challenge. However, the more involved you become the more skills you will pick up.
  • Just being at a meeting will give you the experience and understanding better the reading any book or training video. There are plenty of ways to be involved, even if that is just the warmup and table topics.
  • Gain a different perspective by visiting another club. You don’t have to go there regularly, but I promise you will be warmly welcomed. You may even be asked if you want a guest role.
  • We have not even touched on the committee roles that organise and manage the club for the members.

Contact me, or another member of the committee if you want to discuss some aspect of the Toastmasters which you want to know more about.


Epsom Speakers 20th Jan 2020

It might have been cold in Ewell last night, but there was a warm welcome for all at Epsom Speakers.

We welcomed three new guests to our meeting; Jack, Debra and Brian. We also had our District Director Florian Bay and our area director, Vaneshan.

Debra started the meeting as our Sargent at arms, only the third time but she takes control well.

After winning a holiday, our President Dave was somewhere warmer, but Mark Peacock stood in for a warm welcome to us all.

For this meeting we were put in the hands of Gillian Prior as our Toastmaster. She was helped by her team for the evening;

  • Kat Romananska had the stopwatch, lights and ‘squeaking pig’ to keep us all within the time during the evening. 
  • John took control of the video camera to record the speakers and evaluators.
  • Patrick Ebbs took the responsibility for collecting and counting the ballots

Gary Argent gave us a great warm-up challenge and I am please to say this video has been made public.

When everyone had completed their warmups. Our Toastmaster introduced our 4 speakers.

  • Fatai Dabiri
  • Matt Tuff
  • Julia Belling
  • Charlie Warshawski

These were followed by the four evaluators.

  • Mark Peacock
  • Amanda Zwarts
  • Costa Nicolaou
  • Penny Williams

We are also able to release the speech by Charlie and his evaluation from Penny

After the guests were introduced, we had our break with tea, coffee and biscuits.

The second half is handed over to the table topics master. This gives the opportunity for stage time to those not already taken speaking roles, with an emphasis on encouraging our visitors to give a go. You need only speak for 1min up to 2min 30seconds, but, as I always warm people, that first 1 min seems to take forever!

It was great to see so many guests having a go and then all the participants were evaluated by our Topics Evaluator, John.

This then left the General Evaluation to cover everyone who had not yet been evaluated and we were pleased that our District Director, Florian Bay, agreed to do this for us, and to release this as a public speech.

Mark Returned to the stage as stand-in President to award the Ribbons and close the meeting.

Welcome 2020

What a great start to 2020.

Debra opened the evening as Sargent at Arms. She did an amazing job to welcome everyone and it was hard to believe this was only her second time in the role. She introduced Dave.

Our President Dave gave a great introduction with some notices, including the upcoming COT (Club officer training) which any current or prospective committee member will find useful and interesting.

The next person to the stage was out Toastmaster for the evening, Dan. He introduced his team for the evening;   Paul on the stopwatch, who explained the lights. Debra again, now videographer who told us how all speakers get a private link to their video for watching afterwards. Costa our brief ballot counter who counted.

Gillian had us all taking part in the warm-up and then Dan introduced the three speakers; John, Amanda and Matthijs. They were evaluated by Dave, James and Matt.

The biggest surprise for the night being that Matthijs’ speech was to deal with an unruly group when doing a presentation. It is not normal procedure to interrupt speakers, but this time it was required and our Toastmasters showed what a disruptive group they can be when given permission. (Did anyone work out where Costa has booked a holiday)

Debra closed out the first half by introducing our guests for the evening; Vanessa, Robin and JP.

The second half was passed to our Topics master Gary, who allowed people into a world of amazing ideas for the future; including who would you have for dinner and how would you suggest somebody visited London.  Great to see new visitors joining in and breaking the ice of their first time on stage. 

Charlie then wowed us with an eight-person evaluation of topics without a script. Although if you looked on his chair we had written out notes, but did not need them for his deliver!

Penny has the task, as the general evaluator to reprise the whole evening and this gave me a chance to check my notes of the evening matched hers!

Our President Dave closed off the meeting but not before handing our the ribbons for the evening.

  • Matthijs won the best speaker for surviving his heckled speech.
  • James had the best evaluation
  • Guest, Vanessa was voted the best table topics speech.

Thank you for everyone who came and all made some contribution to the night.