Dear Toasties,

How’s January treating you? Managing our own and others’ expectations, energy, and engagement is… a lot… isn’t i

If you were able to make it yesterday, you’ll know that in the pre-meeting chat we had a cathartic collective little grumble, spoke about meditation, and did a mini breathing exercise to calm us down from deadline-induced adrenaline, and then energised ourselves for the meeting ahead. By the end of the evening we were more upbeat than when we began – which really matters at the moment.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and under-energised, and you don’t have the inclination to speak at all, you’re still so very welcome to turn up anyway. More than ‘anyway’ – especially. Your presence is what matters: share the collective good feelings, learn by observing, and when you’re ready to, perhaps in the next meeting, perhaps the one after, then speak. And perhaps sooner than you might have expected, you’ll find yourself, little by little, on a roll again.

We know how good that feels, don’t we, (and why would we deny ourselves feeling good?!), so if you’d like a little encouragement for your next speech, or a little guidance about pathways, then let us know and we’ll join you in the getting the ball rolling again.

Summary & learning points
The toastmaster deftly leading our meeting was Laura, and helping making the meeting possible we had- Robina as our timer, who upped our signals game with [drumroll] *teddies*. The bar is raised ever higher… It was also her first time taking the role – so well done!
– Esmé as our grammarian, who chose to innovate and invert the role, giving us the word we should not use: Good. This got us all scrambling for more creative and evocative alternatives. Her choice to adapt the conventions to suit her objectives is an excellent prompt for all of us to see where we can (apparently) break the rules in service of our goals. Thanks for leading by example, Esmé.
– Georgina as our SAA with clear, crisp, and bang-on-time Zoom mastering.
Thank you all.

We had Armelle and Kiran as our speakers, both with excellent, thought-inducing, action-prompting speeches. Armelle spoke about the structures of action and perception regarding violence against women in politics. Then Kiran presented compelling arguments to consider moving towards a plant based diet.

Providing them with constructive feedback were Lynn (who won best evaluation of the evening – well done!) and Jo. Key points for us all to take away included:

– owning the pacing and the pauses of our delivery – let your words land with the audience, and give them a chance to sink in.
– be clear about your call to action – now that we know, what do you want us to do?
– let your audience fill in the gaps where there is shared knowledge. I’ll expand: whilst talking about environmental impact, Kiran said ‘In the words of a Swedish school girl…’. We all knew who she meant without her having to tell us directly. Evoking collective understanding creates a sense of ‘us’, what ‘we’ know, and is a very effective way to generate the feeling of ‘ah, we’re on the same page’.

Helping us develop our impromptu speaking skills, and generating much escapism, was Katie who got us thinking about travel (do you remember that…? To somewhere other than Tescos… I know…!)
Sam took the question about what she ‘had’ done and turned it into what she’d like to experience.
Kate expressed the collective longing for traveling anywhere. a.n.y.w.h.e.r.e.
Liza decried the inevitable table topics injury of having an excellent answer to the previous question whilst scrambling for something for the question we’ve actually been asked (which she succeeded in doing, making us feel glad for the kindness of strangers on London buses).
andJenny had us all reeling with stories from a safari and a narrow escape from a pack of lions. Her emotional investment has us focusedand resulted in her winning the contest. Congrats Jenny!

All participants were evaluated by Carrie who noted the benefits of clear hand gestures, having the confidence to pause rather than use filler words, repeating the question you’ve been asked in order to give yourself thinking time, and feeling free to speculate about the topic if you don’t have a concrete example to give.

And if you’d like to increase connection with your audience, you might find my opening thought for the meeting helpful:
How to speak someone’s language

What do you notice about these six sentences:

  • I see what you mean, I like the look of it.
  • I hear what you’re saying, it sounds good.
  • I feel like you’ve got a grip on this situation.
  • The conversation left a bad taste in my mouth.
  • The idea stank of pretension.
  • and
  • Your reasoning’s valid, it makes sense.

Got it? I’m sure you have.

We’re embodied, we know the world through our senses, and we tend to have a preference for one or two senses over the others. This affects what we consider to be convincing and important. And it comes out in our language.

This is known as our representational system.

(As an aside, if you’ve ever tried to buy a sofa with someone, you’ll have one person who is all about the look, the cut, the colour. And then you’ll have the other person, sensible, rational, in touch with the things that really matter, who only cares about how it feels when you sit on it. I obviously don’t have a preference…)

From the example sentences you’ll notice:

  • visual
  • auditory
  • kinesthetic / touch & feelings
  • gustatory
  • olfactory
  • reasoning – “it makes sense” (or if you’re familiar with NLP you’ll know this is audio digital).

Now, why does this matter for us as speakers and leaders? Because isn’t it lovely when it feels like someone’s speaking our language? When we really feel seen and heard and understood? Like we’re on the same page?

When we’re speaking one to one, if we can hone in on what the other person’s preference is and adjust our language accordingly, we can create more rapport.

When we’re speaking to a group, if we can hit on each representational system then we have a better chance of connecting with more of our audience, getting their buy in, and being more influential with our calls to action.

Moreover, it’s simply an inclusive and respectful thing to do, to meet someone where they are.

So, see if you can figure out your own, and notice that of others. It will make you more powerful speaker.

I hope you’ve found this info helpful. Have a super fortnight.

Best wishes


Eve Parmiter

President, City Women Speakers

Toastmasters International