Dear Toasties and very welcome guests,
Lovely to see you yesterday. Thank you for making it such an engaged and engaging meeting – as ever.

Actions & Opportunities
1. In this club we have a wealth of knowledge, insight, expertise, experience – it is a tremendous group to be a part of. So it’s always *interesting* to hear each other’s speeches. So please do sign up for meetings, roles, and speeches on easySPEAK. This isn’t just about ‘doing speeches & completing levels’. This isn’t about ticking boxes. This is about leveling up together. So  👏 let’s go!  👏

2. It’s renewals season coming up and Rowena our treasurer will be getting in touch shortly with reminders and the step by steps for confirming our renewals. We as a club won an award of £50 recently from Toastmasters International for, well, just being awesome, so we’re going to use it to try to keep the fee from increasing. More details to follow.

Meeting successes & learning points

The toastmaster leading our meeting was Jo, deftly supported by

– Liza as our timer, who keep the props standards *high* with the choice of books and their covers. In particular, I think we can all agree that we can Win Friends and Influence People by not running over our times.
– Armelle as our grammarian and pause-master, who chose CONSTRAINT as the word of the day, asking us to imagine it not as a negative, rather as boundaries within which to focus our creativity. When providing feedback to us she abided by this spirit with concise reflections on speakers’ use of positive and encouraging language, whilst being concise and convincing, noting how overall this constructed a friendly space. Taking one example and providing a short rationale for each, she clearly delivered on the grammarian role.
– Dena as our SAA, with a clear strong start to the meeting and smooth running of the tech throughout.

We had a new addition to our agenda – a warm up round – where everyone shares a short answer to a simple question, so that we all speak at least once, and no-one languishes in the corner of (yet another) zoom room. Katie led the way as we all shared our favourite pudding. Apart from kicking off hunger (“What would you like? Pancakes, mixed tropical fruit, apple crumble, kheer, affogato…?” “Yes“), it kicked off a discussion about what constitutes pudding. Shoutout to our guests Renee and Caitlin for bringing attention to the cross cultural complications of ‘dessert’.

We had Kate as our speaker, getting us to think about our leadership styles and what we have had to do to adapt as we work remotely and need to manage our team’s work and wellbeing. 

Providing constructive feedback was Esmé, noting
1. what aspects Kate had asked her in advance to pay attention to
2. the clarity of hand gestures, the structure of the speech, the even pacing of the delivery3. the engaging use of stories – ours and other’s – to illustrate the technical points and help us as an audience rememberand4. if we’re going to ask a rhetorical question then give the audience a chance to consider their answer – hold the space, the pause, a little longer.

Helping us develop out off the cuff speaking skills was Sadiqa – doing the role for the first time and doing so very smoothly – well done. Serendipitously, in line with Liza’s props choices, she asked us to consider books and their covers. In response:
Amina talked about the eye catching neon pink of Queenie, noting the semiotics of images
Jenny threw an interesting spanner in the works as she considered the effects of Kindle on a lack of covers, and then the experience of visiting in real life the places evoked in stories
andRobina shared the effects of the stories on real life actions ( – surely she and I can not be the only ones to have tried to go through the back of wardrobes in search of Narnia…?!) – winning the contest as she did so. Congratulations Robina.

All participants were evaluated by Katie who noted
– the super use of a phrase by Amina – “my eyes lit upon my book”- Jenny’s use of evocative stories- the power of clean clear endings
– she rightly celebrated Robina for doing TTs even thought she doesn’t like it! Yup… that’s the way!

Finally, my intro for the evening was about the utility of pauses as a metaphor
One of the challenges with speaking fluently, confidently, and real-ly is what to do when we stumble, can’t think of a word, or the next point we want to make: what to do with the silence?

I’d like to invite us to do something different with our silence – our pauses. because the pause is a metaphor.

Just as we can feel the apparent expectations and judgements of our audience, we all have people who are expecting things – who are asking things of us. And we might have a knee jerk response, an impetus to fill the silence – to fulfil the request – with a “yes I’ll do that”, “sure that’s ok”, “no worries I’ll fit it in somehow”. Perhaps because we have a want to please others, support others, to prove ourselves capable, to find security in being needed… And yet sometimes “yes sure I’ll do it no problem”, is not the best answer. I’m sure we’ve all had to learn this, and I’m sure I’m sure some of us (hi) have had to learn it more than once.

So some of us, in our speaking, have to deliberately not fill the silence, with our standard filler words: yes umm ermm ahh y’know like right well… to let some discomfort arise with there not being an immediate acquiescence.

Therefore see the pauses in speaking, as a metaphorical space to practice owning your own space, time, energy.

Take the pause as an opportunity for you to consider your response, and for the other person to consider what they have just asked of you, and what they have already received from you.

Hold your ground. Feel the tension. Breathe. Let the other person hold their own sense of waiting, of wanting, of anticipation – for the next line in your story, the next word in your speech. Let it add to your impact… take your space. It makes us a more compelling speakers. The pause – and their attention – is yours.

Have a super fortnight.
Best wishes


Eve Parmiter

President, City Women Speakers

Toastmasters International