What four letter word, beginning with F, comes to your mind when you think about speaking in public?
Yes, FEAR. Yet everyone managed to talk about “What fear have you faced and learnt from?”, for no more than the allocated 20 seconds as part of the Warm Up session, led by Phoebus – quite possibly due to his infectious smile and the inspiration gained from hearing each other’s experiences. A common theme was the fear of standing up and speaking in public. And, in facing that fear, the confidence that grows, especially in a supportive environment like Toastmasters.
TM for the evening was Costa, fresh from his travels to South Africa. In his usual relaxed style, he navigated us through the Agenda. Paul Dowdeswell gave an entertaining C6 speech on “Bananas” and how not to eat one; while Peter Parker’s Advanced Speech, “Not in My Name”, was an impassioned plea trying to persuade us that the EU was a racist, undemocratic and nationalistic set-up. Evaluating Peter’s speech was Patrick, who commended Peter on his powerfully emotive and passionate stance, and recommended he could improve by offering a more balanced view by addressing the benefits of the EU, thus allowing the audience to appreciate a less one-sided position, and thus hopefully endearing us more to Peter’s position.
Penny delivered an Educational session about the use of story-telling in speeches, taking us through the common structure behind most of the best stories ever told: 1. the Set Up (who, where, what’s going on); 2. the Struggle (something goes wrong, the problem); and then 3. the Solution.
A more sophisticated story structure is that of the Hero’s Journey, as identified by author Joseph Campbell, whom Penny quoted from: “The cave you fear to enter lies the treasure you seek”. In other words, you’ll find the treasure you want when you face your fears.
When Dave Goodman, as Topics Master, introduced this session, any residual fear was replaced with incredulity and hilarity. He invited two people up at once, with one speaking about a topic whilst the other person had to act out what was being said. Topics ranged from how to keep warm and advanced circus skills, to modern driving etiquette and wrestling wild animals. Somehow, through much raucous laughter, Dave Lane and myself managed to distil some commendations and recommendations to our six brave Topics speakers. Well done to guest Alex Goodman for winning Best Topics’ speaker – Alex definitely is a chip off his father’s block!
Our General Evaluator was our previous long-serving member, June McCullough, who found time away from her garden and many pursuits to return for an evening to our Club. Fortunately, June noticed very few um’s or ah’s (sigh of relief), and was delighted to see so many new faces, but was a little disappointed that many members were absent. Thanks to June for returning – it’s always good to see past members back for a visit.