We had an excellent turnout for our educational and insightful meeting last Wednesday, with great participation from all members and guests. We particularly welcomed Dani as our newest club member as well as first time visitor Nuria and David Longley, our area education ambassador who was also our general evaluator for the evening.

Zhenzhen welcomed us all in her capacity as SAA, reminding us that Chinese New Year is approaching and wishing us all a happy year of the Rooster, after the rather mischievous year of the Monkey which certainly lived up to its reputation in 2016.  I then took over as both President and Toastmaster, continuing the special occasion theme by introducing the audience to Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, whose birthday was today, 25th January in 1759; I described a typical Burns night celebration, which has many parallels with a Toastmasters contest in that there are traditionally several humorous and story-telling speeches, as well as verse-speaking, singing and dancing opportunities (should we introduce some of those one evening?!) and of course the famous dinner featuring the haggis.  Katri stepped in as our Grammarian for the evening with ‘Poetic’ as her word of the day, and Dani performed the role of time-keeper very efficiently and enthusiastically!

We kicked off the first half of the evening with Sayara’s fourth speech from the advanced Public Relations manual which focuses on Speaking under Fire; she picked the contentious subject of why we need to have board quotas to encourage diversity, and presented us with many arguments and statistics in favour of having quotas, reaching back 100 years to the days of the women’s suffragettes, recalling fascinating facts about the progress of that movement and more generally, the emancipation of women since then.  Although many of the audience were in favour of her arguments, we generated a fair number of fiery questions for Sayara in the Q&A session, which she fielded very competently.

Next up, we had David’s presentation on the revolutionary new Toastmasters Pathways learning experience.  We heard that the education system needed to be revitalised for the 21st century to allow a more flexible approach to each individual’s learning programme, bringing us into the world of digital communication in an on-line / virtual learning environment; this will make mutual support and mentoring easier as well as more important at all stages, particularly during the ‘base camp’ projects.  It will allow for more personal ownership of our progress as we will be responsible for our own on-line records.  Although we won’t be able to carry forward our communication achievements, we will be able to convert our leadership achievements to equivalent projects under the new system.  David explained that the Pathways programme is still undergoing Beta testing, and that the pilot project should be undertaken in 3 districts over the next 3-4 months; rollout in our re gion is currently estimated to happen in September this year and there will be a 2 year transition period during which both education programmes will run in parallel.  This will allow enough time for members who are keen to complete certain stages under the existing system to finish them, whilst allowing newer members to get going on the new programme as quickly as possible.  David fielded a lively Q&A session which threw up a number of original questions on meeting content and process that he will raise at Regional level, so we look forward to further clarification on these issues in due course.

JT provided a useful and constructive evaluation of Sayara’s presentation before we took a short break.

In the second half, Maria took on the role of Table Topics master for the first time, picking not one but three themes for her thought-provoking questions: Emotional Intelligence, Food and the Universe.

On EI, Zhenzhen was asked what makes her angry and why, what she does when she is angry and whether she has any regrets – a complex series of questions that she addressed simply to start with and then illustrated by relating a story about her frustrated attempts to get a travel visa.  Tears were the answer, as even strict consulate officials are sometimes sympathetic, but people rarely respond favourably to a temper tantrum.

Again on EI, Angie was asked what happens when she gets very excited and whether she has regrets afterwards – that was a tough one for her to answer as she told us that everything excites her – even if someone just gives her a banana!  She then told us the story of her biggest excitement and regret which happened last year when her (then) Irish boyfriend invited her out to a St Patrick’s night celebration in Trafalgar Square; being tired she didn’t get excited about it or dress up, and she made him dress down too… imagine her surprise when she was whisked off in a taxi half way through the evening to a luxury hotel where her (now) husband proposed to her!

Alexia was picked for the third question, and was asked to comment on why unhealthy food is tastier than healthy options; initially we were impressed by her resistance to temptation when she walks past McDonalds on her way home from work every day, but she later confessed to succumbing occasionally on Fridays or weekends when she’s tired.

Lastly Nuria came to the stage to tell us what she would do to curb the effects of climate change on the universe if she had an unlimited budget.  We heard suggestions of building new worlds on Mars or the moon, thinking of new ways to get to the moon (a hypothetical bridge), but most importantly using the money to redesign our approach to training children to respect the planet.

During the vote counting, we heard Katri and Dani’s reports as well as a number of helpful General Evaluator comments from David.  Zhenzhen was voted our best table topics speaker but we didn’t vote on speakers or evaluators, given the structure of the meeting.

Our next Club Committee meeting is scheduled after our meeting on 8 February, so please let me or one of the committee know if there is any issue you would like to raise with us before then.

We will hold our International Speech and Evaluation contest on 22 February, with the winners going forward to the Area contest on 9 March.  We do need volunteers to help organise and participate in this contest, so please step up and let me or Brana know if you will be there, and in which capacity.  Our most pressing need is for a Contest Chair – this is not a complex role but of course the earlier you start with the organisation, the easier it is…! I will help any volunteers, and have begun putting things in place, but it would be wonderful if one of our members would assist me, particularly as it will enable them to complete one of their Competent Leader projects! Other roles available (apart from contestants) are judges, counters, timers, and assistant Sergeant at Arms.  Please do volunteer, or I shall have to start picking people myself!

See you on 8th February, and please sign up for roles as early as possible, to save time at the start of the meeting, and don’t forget to read the notices below!

Best wishes


Lots of choice of interesting and useful dates for your diaries, particularly with our on 22 February contest in mind; most of these and more can be found on http://www.thelondonspeaker.com/

Sat 4 Feb2.30pm Area 61 Club Officer Training, Edgware. Register here

Mon 6 Feb 6.45pm Workshop “Overcoming fear of public speaking and nailing your elevator pitch”. Bloomsbury Speakers. Register here

Tues 7 Feb 6.15pm Area 31 &5 9 Club Officer Training. Advance Register (essential) here

Tues 7 Feb 6.30pm Contest Planning -Essential Tools for Contest Success – Free workshop with Andy O’Sullivan Register here

Tues 7 Feb 6.45pm Workshop. The Presentation Lifecycle at City of London Toastmasters

Tues 14 Feb 6.30pm  Discover the Essential Tools for Judging and Competing. Register for free workshop here

Wed 15 Feb Area 6.30pm C2 and C33 Club Officer Training. Reg free here

Tues 28 Feb 6. 30pm Exceptional Evaluations Workshop -Freddie Daniells, Holborn Speakers. Register for free here

Tues 28 Feb 7pm Evaluation workshop with Lynne Cantor. Register for free here (Woodford Green Speakers Club)

Thurs 23 Feb Storytelling workshop in London Victorians with Max Dickins, comedian and author https://storytellingwithmax.eventbrite.com

Thur 9 March evening: Area 56 Contest, St Botolph-without-Aldgate, Aldgate High Street, EC3N 1AB

Wed 15 Mar Area 52 Contests (more info to follow)

Sat 8 April Division L Contest at LBS

6-7 May District 91 Conference Southampton
Please click here for details of our next club meeting

Ailsa Darroch