Taking time and space – June 5th

It’s been a hell of a fortnight since our last meeting, with the terrorist attack in Manchester followed by the horror of the attack so much closer to home in London on Saturday. Justin Pybus, TM for the evening, led a fitting one minute silence to pay tribute to the victims killed and wounded. Taking time to stop, to pause, to breath, to reflect – a very welcome space for all.

“Where were you and what were you doing at 10.08pm last Saturday night?” was Elizabeth’s very pertinent Warm Up question. It connected us to those tragic events, and the responses gave illuminating insights into members’ lives. It was comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one tucked up in bed!

And thus began what was, as Stephen Taylor, General Evaluator, put it: “one of the most enjoyable evenings ever”. Justin had been working overtime before the meeting, liaising with the speakers and working out the Agenda and timings. He had the added challenge of fitting in 5 speeches – the most we’ve had in one meeting. As Stephen noted, Justin’s introductions and transitions between speakers showed how well he was listening to the speeches, as well as knowing each speaker’s objectives. Not bad Justin, for a first timer in the role of TM.

We had a wide variety of speeches – a C2 from Sumbal about building confidence, a C3 from Rohan on mindfulness, a C4 from Kevin Perkins about selflessness, a C10 from Bohwon and a very special non-Manual “Father of the Bride” speech from Paul Dowdeswell. Without exception, all speakers performed admirably, as noted by their respective Evaluators Gillian, Amanda, Ian, Costa and Adam, who “facilitated” Paul’s evaluation by crowd-sourcing feedback from the audience.

It was a pleasure and privilege to witness Paul’s speech. This was his dress rehearsal before the real deal which takes place on Saturday 17 June at his daughter Charlotte’s wedding, the main reason for Paul joining Toastmasters. It’s great that Paul’s not only staying on and continuing his Toastmaster journey after the nuptial event, he’s going to be our new Sergeant-At-Arms.

Taking the honours for Best Speaker was our elegant Dr. Bohwon Kim, with her C10 speech entitled “Unstoppable”. Professional, polished, poised, as well as humble, humorous and hilarious – Bohwon demonstrated so well the many lessons she’s gained on her Toastmaster journey through the CC manual. I particularly loved how she showed how much one is communicating BEFORE one even opens one’s mouth. Bohwon communicated with her eyes, her face, her body, her gestures, as well as her tone, pitch and pace. A whizz-kid with super Korean genes, Bohwon – who has a Ph.D. in Engineering (in French from Paris) – expressed her gratitude to ESC members for helping her build her confidence to speak in public, enabling her to secure her dream job at the top university in London – Imperial College. And her next goal? Ladies’ Captaincy at her golf club, just so that she can get that reserved car parking space! As Costa, who won Best Evaluator vote, noted: Bohwon is now a very “Competent” Communicator indeed.

Adam led a relevant and highly amusing Topics session. With the General Elections coming up on Thursday, the theme was “what would you say if you were canvassing to be the next Minister of….important stuff like….Public Good Manners, Fun and Laughter, French language for all UK citizens, or Standardised Haircuts (like in North Korea)?”.  Despite a tight timetable, six brave souls took to the podium and delivered some seemingly not dissimilar rhetoric aka politicians in real life. Congratulations to the Minister for Banning Domestic Pets, Katy Minson, for winning the Best Topics vote against some formidable candidates.

Dave Lane, acting SAA for the evening as well as Topics Evaluator, with his keen eyes and ears, was able to give commendations and recommendations to all our aspiring politicians.

Our final meeting for this Toastmaster year is on Monday 19 June, with Penny Williams as TM. See you all then,

ESC President

HOW TO! – Act as Grammarian

HOWTOWords are fascinating and we use them each and every day. The role of Grammarian is to listen to see how words and grammar are used in a speech, evaluation or topic and to pick out good use of phrasing, whether it brought pictures into the mind and also to comment on bad use of grammar.

The Grammarian should also listen for unusual words. We are advised to keep it simple and not complicate any speech with long words that may not be understood, but some unusual words may add to a speech.

The Grammarian really needs to listen well to enable them to report back to the members at the end of the meeting of how those performing provided interesting phrases and colourful words and where a presentation may have been improved by the use of different words or phrases.

Other items to watch out for are the continual use of ‘filler’ words, the dreaded ‘um’, ‘basically’, ‘actually’, ‘yknow’ etc. They can become very irritating and detract from the message the speaker is endeavouring to put across to the audience. Maybe some people do not notice these non essential words, however if you really listen they will become a blight to the message.

As Grammarian you can pick up on these aspects of speech and give feedback on how these have detracted from the speech and give examples of how not to use them, i.e. use the pause instead.

Your report should not be overlong, give examples of good and not so good grammar, words that you particularly liked and also how the use of unnecessary ‘filler’ words need to be curbed.

From Speakeasy 151 – September 2011

Hints and Tips – Ask Your Mentor

Don’t be afraid to ask your Mentor for assistance or for anything that will help you benefit from your membership of ESC. Remember, Mentoring is a two- way process where the Mentor provides guidance and help to a newer member and they also benefit from reviewing the Communications and Leadership Manuals.

From Speakeasy 27 – June 2001

You ain’t seen nothing yet – May 22nd

Summer’s arrived early, so it was lovely to sit outside in the Wheatsheaf pub’s garden (on Kingston Road) enjoying a glass of wine with some fellow members after Monday’s meeting. And what a meeting that was!

After getting through the formalities of the AGM (see President’s Report for summary of the year), Toastmaster for the evening, Aishi Lim CC, steered us through another enlightening and entertaining evening of speeches and evaluations. Relatively new joiner, Katy Minson, who’s day job is head of Customer Experience at a healthcare provider, conducted what was for her, a truly value-for-money focus group exercise. She asked us to give a 15 second response to her question: “What would you put into your shopping bag as a treat?” For Katy, it was a carton of the highest quality organic eggs – she’s an early riser and loves gorgeous eggs for breakfast. Everyone spoke, with the most common “treat” being … chocolate, closely followed by “…I hate shopping, so….”

It was great to see and hear a wide range of speeches: from Paul van der Hagen’s C2 about why you should write a book and get published, to Gillian’s C6 on the wonders and delights of swarms of bees, and finishing with Dave Villa-Clarke’s inspirational, fantastically funny, highly charged and emotive C10 speech chronicling his Toastmaster’s journey. Congratulations to Dave for achieving this milestone and attaining his Competent Communicator (CC) award. Dave’s CC also goes towards helping ESC move one step closer to achieving its goals needed to maintain our President’s Distinguished Club status, which signifies the highest quality club which encourages and celebrates members’ achievements. Dave also took home the Best Speaker ribbon for the night; he wisely decided it was best to leave the Best Speaker trophy at the Club this time (you’d get the joke if you were there)!

First time evaluator Kevin Perkins and the more seasoned Justin Pybus delivered their thoughtful feedback on Paul’s and Gillian’s speeches respectively. Winner of the best evaluator ribbon went to Dave Lane on his feedback on Dave V-C’s C10.

What followed the break was something we hadn’t seen before … Our longest serving member, Mr Patrick Ebbs, as Topics Master, decided on an adventurous and somewhat awkward – at least, for those participating – Topics session.  Calling up two victims people up at a time, the “topic” was a randomly chosen sentence that would be the start of a story, which victim No.1 would begin with, and at some random time, Patrick would indicate for No. 2 to take over. And like any Topics session, Patrick encouraged the speakers to have an OBE – an opening, body and ending.

This was certainly a challenging format, and required speakers to listen well to their partner to build on the story. Well done to joint Topics winners Charlie & Paul Dowdeswell and Adam & Justin for stringing together enough for an ending, of sorts…. Patrick admitted that the idea for choosing this format was influenced by the Agenda, which showed two Topics Evaluators – Costa and Amanda. Now, we’ve had joint TE’s before, and it’s worked well as it reduces the stress and load on the TE, thus leading to more comprehensive feedback. Interestingly, for two evaluators to present as “one”, they do need to communicate effectively and agree their plan of who does what when. We had a few hiccups with this double act of Costa and Amanda, but then again, it wasn’t something any of us had seen before…

Charlie, as GE, conducted a comprehensive and compelling “no notes” evaluation of all the bits of the meeting that had not yet been evaluated. He loved Time-keeper Phoebus’ use of the words “optimal time” to describe the yellow or amber light and he noted that it was the first time he’d seen the Warm Up act use a prop (shopping bag – well done, Katy). He gave commendations and recommendations to each of the three speech evaluators, as well as commenting on TM Aishi for his astute managing of the time and transitions between speakers.

Enjoy the sunshine and see you at our penultimate meeting for this TM year on Monday 5 June when Justin Pybus will be TM.

ESC President

HOW TO! – Lectern – Yes or No

HOWTOIt seems Toastmasters place an inordinate amount of emphasis on how much a speaker moves around on the platform. We usually consider a lectern ‘off limits’ for any experienced speaker and expect them to move around, whether or not such movement contributes to the effectiveness of the speech.

Speaking without using a lectern can be very effective, bringing the speaker closer to the audience, however it can also be distracting. The purpose of gestures, expressions and body language is to reinforce the vocal language and should only be used if they heighten or intensify the message.

Some of the greatest speeches ever made were delivered from lecterns, John F Kennedy’s inaugural address is one. Avoiding the lectern proves to the audience that the speaker has memorised the speech and does not need to refer to notes – is that important?

Is our primary goal memorisation or is it effective delivery?

Using a lectern is a skill to be learnt and one that will aid everyone when asked to give presentations as the majority of speakers at seminars etc. use a lectern.

From Speakeasy 18 – September 2000
(An extraction from an article in the May 2000 Toastmasters Magazine)

Hints and Tips – Red Light Fever

When giving your speech do you find the red light comes on too early and that you still have a lot more that you could say? You need to go back to your preparation and once you have the speech ready, practice and time yourself several times, you may be amazed that you run over time.

Prepare yourself for cutting out parts of your speech – only you will know you have had to do this – and have your ending clear in your mind so that when you see the red light come on, you can move smoothly to your conclusion. Remember, time keeping is a very important aspect of ESC meetings.

From Speakeasy 16 – June 2000

Are We There Yet? – May 8th

“We got there in the end,” said Costa, General Evaluator, in his feedback to Toastmaster for the evening, Kevin Perkins on his handling of Monday’s meeting. This was Kevin’s first time as TM and aside from his computer problems and difficulty in getting roles confirmed, he faced the challenge of juggling some last-minute changes to the neatly printed Agenda already in everyone’s hands. With hindsight and humour, and some gentle guidance, we can all learn from Kevin’s little lapses and slipups. “Confirm, confirm, confirm,” Costa said, reminding us all the imperative to confirm our roles with the TM as soon as possible. I’m confident that Kevin’s next outing as TM will be much smoother.

It was an evening of many firsts, as Costa noted. Two lovely C1 Ice Breaker speeches from Phoebus Apostolidis and Sumbul Tsang – both displaying well developed speaking skills as noted by their evaluators, Patrick and myself. We learnt what a romantic Phoebus is, falling in love at first sight with his wife. Currently training to be a hypnotherapist and working as a web developer, Phoebus’ inspirational message was for us to embrace the things that scare us – he did and it’s changed his life for the better. Sumbul also gave a polished speech and an insight into herself and her values of authenticity, love & connection, growth & progress. Her opening scene described how she and “the one” were standing in Trafalgar Square debating the existence or non-existence of God. As she said, her “bossy” nature won over her now husband. With baby number two on the way, we hope Sumbul can continue to enlighten us when she delivers her C2, hopefully before her due date.

Charlie Warshawski stepped up to Kevin’s last minute call for a replacement speaker. With significant help from his son Asher, they delivered an engaging and educational speech about endangered animals. Asher also produced a super handout which he distributed to the audience. Evaluator Penny Williams highlighted their team effort, winning her the Best Evaluator vote.

Paul Dowdeswell had the role of Topics Master for the first time, on the theme of likes and dislikes. Well done to all 8 Topics speakers, with Ian Upton and Rohan Nallanickan winning the Best Topics’ vote. We learnt all about the rubbish that could go into Room 101 from Ian, and how Rohan could like Fish & Chips, with a dash or two or three of tabasco sauce to give it some flavour. Topics Evaluator for the first time was Justin Pybus, who gave confident and commanding feedback for all speakers.

Newest member Timur Ganiev with Best Evaluator winner Penny Williams

So, yes, not only did we get there in the end, it was another fun and stimulating evening, including our five guests. A very warm welcome to our two newest members, Katy Minson and Timur Ganiev, and thanks to Gillian for getting everyone’s voices warmed up at the start, by asking “what you love about Spring”.

Our VP Education, Peter Parker, gave a 10 minute Educational slot on Motivation – reminding everyone of the many benefits of being a Toastmaster member and how “the more you give, the more you get” from being involved. With the Toastmaster year end fast approaching on 30 June, a new Committee will be elected at our AGM which will be held on Monday 22 May, when we have our next meeting with Aishi Lim as TM.

If you’re interested in learning more about the goings on behind the scenes, developing your leadership skills and being part of the team, consider standing for one of the Committee roles – for more information, see pages 76-78 in your Competent Communicators’ manual and/or speak to a current Committee member.

ESC President

HOW TO! – Listen

HOWTODo you find your mind wandering during a club evening, or for that matter during any conversation or business meeting you are involved with? It can happen so easily with the least thing causing a distraction. What you need to do is completely FOCUS on the speaker and what they are saying. This can work in any situation and in our club environment we need to give respect to everyone who stands up front whether Toastmaster, Warm Up, those giving a speech, evaluation, topic, or General Evaluation.

If you do not listen to the Toastmaster, the Warm Up or Topics, how are you going to take part and respond? With the speakers, listen to their introduction and from the moment they start to speak focus on every aspect of what they are saying, how they deliver their speech and any message they are conveying. Write down a few points you gained from the speech and then you can speak to that person after to have a short discussion on what you gained from their tale. How would you have evaluated the speech? Listen to the evaluators and see if any points you put together were covered by the evaluator and listen to how they evaluated.

When you leave at the end of the evening, review it to yourself and you will be surprised at how this will help you to develop your own style of delivery.

From Speakeasy 154 – December 2011

A not so normal, normal Club meeting – April 24th

“Where has the time gone?” I hear myself asking as I write this. With the Easter break followed closely with May Day holiday, it seems ages since our last meeting. That was on Monday 24 April, when we had held a “normal” Club meeting not at our normal Bourne Hall venue, but at Reed’s School in Cobham, giving the 40 members of Reed’s Toastmasters a taste of a typical ESC meeting.

Toastmaster for the evening was our Vice President Education, Peter Parker, who used every opportunity to practice and polish his humorous speaking. He was joined by resident comedian Kevin Perkins’ who used his Warm Up session to ask: “What makes you happy?” – a super question to get the meeting off to a rousing positive start. We were then wowed by two prepared speeches given by Reed’s speakers James Cobb and Richard Reay, both citing personal stories to illustrate their messages: the enduring wonder of classical music, and taking time to appreciate what you have now. They were followed by Dr. Aishi Lim, with a curious speech entitled “Your favourite parking space is gone” (all about idiots and smoking, apparently…) and Charlie Warshawski, dressed in an expensive Val d’Isere ski jacket. Charlie used several props and sound devices to illustrate the highs and not so highs of taking his family of four kids on their first ever ski trip.

Well done to Richard Reay for winning the Best Speech vote – a fine demonstration of the power of speaking from the heart, exposing your vulnerabilities and connecting with the audience. Points all noted by Dave Goodman who evaluated Richard’s speech, thus securing Dave the Best Evaluator vote against stiff competition from fellow Evaluators Adam Jones, Morgan Davies and Lauren Smith.

“Making the best of bad situations” was the theme of Sonia Pritchard’s Table Topics session. It was marvellous to see how well the Reed’s students handled impromptu speaking. Congratulations to Brandon How for his well-crafted speech on the virtues of skipping school to attend a music festival, winning him the Best Topics vote.

General evaluator Penny Williams noted how impressed she was to see the stunning progress made by all the Reed’s Toastmasters over the past 8 months.

ESC has been sponsoring the Youth Leadership programme at Reeds for over 15 years, thanks to past member June McCullough who responded to an initial request from Reed’s teachers Val and Derek Wakefield. The baton has now been passed to teachers Sasha Gibbins and Terry Ha, with Patrick Ebbs taking the ESC lead as Youth Leadership co-ordinator. ESC also run this programme at Glyn School in Epsom.

Reed’s Toastmasters club members celebrate a successful year of public speaking.


Celebration time

Patrick and myself were honoured to be invited to the Reed’s Toastmasters’ final meeting on Friday 28 April. Unlike any of our ESC “normal” meetings, this was an elaborate black tie event for the student members and their parents, with the “normal” Reed’s three course cordon bleu dinner with fine wine…. All 40 of the Reed’s Toastmasters spoke, either introducing a speaker, making a speech or undertaking an evaluation. It was a truly fabulous evening, not just because of the great food and company, but the absolute abundance of confident and compassionate speaking by all the students. Congratulations to all and good luck in the forthcoming A level exams.


Derek Wakefield, Patrick Ebbs and Terry Ha.

Hints and Tips – Take a Breath

Whether you are going to stand up to give a speech, evaluation or topic, take a couple of deep breaths before you rise from your seat and a couple more as you walk to the stage. Make sure the stage is set how you want it so that you will be comfortable in front of the audience, pause, then begin. Speak calmly and watch your pitch, pace and pause so that you don’t speak too quickly or too slowly.

From Speakeasy 100 – June 2007