PR’s* Prattle from 19th April 2017

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 I always feel that April is the month of possibilities. The month when the earth begins to wake up and we see and feel the first signs of warmth. Well, maybe not warmth at the moment. However, we know it is on the way.

You may walk into a York Toastmaster’s meeting frozen in fear and trepidation, but the warmth of the greeting and the positive support soon helps you to thaw out.

‘April showers bring May flowers’

Most of us have heard the saying. This proverb has been traced back to about 1557. First attested in the United States in ‘Colonial American Poetry’ . We understand it to mean “Something good may happen as a result of unpleasant events.’

As Og Mandino says in the quote above, we must seek out the seed of opportunity. The earth’s seeds are growing because of the April showers not in spite of them. We can grow in confidence and skill because we attended a meeting and because we face our personal adversities each time we take on a new challenge whether that is a role or standing to speak.

President: Adam. Adam opened the evening with his usual warmth and energy. After the housekeeping information he said how much he had gained from his year and a half being a member. How, coming to a meeting offered us all an opportunity that isn’t present in our daily lives. A place to grow in confidence. As we change, the world sees us differently and we begin to see the world differently too. Small changes can make a big different in all spheres of our lives.

Toastmaster Lynn was the Toastmaster for the evening. I emphasised what Adam had said and pointed out that any organisation that had been growing for over 90 years and continues to grow, must be offering what people need – a safe and friendly place to grow in confidence and skill.

Timekeeper: Jackie was our timekeeper. This was the first time Jackie had taken on this role. Well done. She told us how important keeping to time was, as it is one thing you can never get back. The explanation of the coloured cards, which are used to alert speakers to the timing of their speaking slot, was very clearly explained.

Grammarian and Ah Counter Kay took on both of these roles at the last minute. Thank you Kay. Fortunately, our guest Pauline from another club, had come prepared with a word of the day which was ‘ Fortuitous’ Kay explained that she would be looking for the umms and ahhs and filler words that can make us sound nervous and also any wonderful phrases that we may interject throughout the meeting. With a keen ear Kay was able to count the number of times anyone managed to slot ‘fortuitous’ into their speech.

Speaker 1 Laura delivered her speech #3 entitled ‘ Fear of Falling’ This was the fear of falling from grace. Looking stupid or appearing dumb. It was a speech about feeling embarrassed and getting it wrong. This was a speech we could all relate to and Laura was able to reassure everyone that the fear didn’t have to stop us taking the next step.

Speaker 2:  Josh delivered his speech #3. ‘Roam to Rome’ I really liked the title. It immediately captured the audience’s curiosity. Josh told us that he had been challenged to visit 100 countries by the time he is 50. He went to Rome with his school friend David, who is an amazing photographer. David also has Down’s Syndrome and with his different perspective on life added to his photography skills he was able to see the world in different ways.  Josh described scrambling over roof tops and looking for the starlings murmurations.

Speaker 3: Pauline Pauline’s speech was from the advanced manual. The entertaining speaker  #2 and was titled, ‘What not to do with a dead dog’ If ever there was a title to catch the imagination, this was it. A wonderful, humorous speech. Excellently crafted. The theme of a neighbour’s dead dog and what to do with it doesn’t sound like the best material for entertainment however, we were led down a labyrinth of events, each one laced through with chuckles. Thank you Pauline. I hope you visit us again soon.

Evaluator 1: Helen evaluated Laura. Helen had a very effective way of asking the audience if Laura had met her objectives. This emphasised the good points that had been made. It also included the audience and helped remind them of the aims of the speech. Helen is always exuberant, full of energy and positivity. This enables her to give feedback on the developmental points in a way that Laura most definitely would not feel as though she was falling

Evaluator 2: James evaluated Josh. James began by detailing how different room settings can disturb speakers and take them away from their task. His smiling, friendly way of feeding back creates a very safe atmosphere. James has an excellent ear and eye for detail. Whilst feeding points back to Josh, he also demonstrated how the size of the room could be used to advantage.

Evaluator 3: Lynn I evaluated Pauline.

Table Topics Master Michael was the Table topics master. He explained that being able to speak for 1-2 minutes spontaneously, was very good practice for those moments in life where you are asked your opinion, or you are asked a question and are expected to answer immediately. Michael’s theme for the evening was “ When you were a child”. An excellent choice as everyone has had a childhood and can, therefore, relate to the question. A really fun time ranging from recreating Power Rangers to favourite subjects, the person who made an impact on your life, Super heroes and many more.

Table Topics Evaluation Kay took on yet another role and evaluated the Table topics. Kay too has a very good ear and her active listening was put to the test this evening. She was able to give every speaker a positive and a developmental point to help them improve their skills with impromptu speaking. Her sense of humour threaded through the incredibly useful information. We also enjoyed the twirls as she morphed from one evaluator into another. Everyone feels at ease listening and this makes it so much more comfortable to hear where you could improve.

General Evaluator: Gilli evaluated the whole evening.  She quoted Michael – ‘Evaluation is the powerhouse of Toastmasters’ Receiving feedback in a supportive, encouraging manner is one of the best ways to improve. Taking on roles is another. Gilli explained how listening makes you a better speaker. Observing others, you will often see habits you yourself have and hear ways of constructing a speech that are new to you. Gilli also explained that the more advanced you are as a speaker the more critical the feedback you will receive. This was really important for new people and visitors to hear. There is no criticism at Toastmasters only suggestions for improvement.

Best Speaker: Pauline

Best Table Topic: James

Best Evaluator: Kay

First Time: Cathie

Whilst I have been writing this, the weather has probably gone through several seasons – cloud, rain, hail, wind and sunshine. Well, that’s April for you. The sun was only a tiny part of the day however, that’s what attracted my attention, made me stop, lift my head from the computer screen and take a longer look.

What are you focussed on? Speaking can be scary. Speaking in front of others can be seen as very, very scary. However, coming along to a Toastmasters’ meeting will dispel that fear.

Turn from the adversity. Focus on the possibility of progress and the surety of support.

Focus on the fun and new friendships.

Remember that TM is there to support. It is there to have fun. You will never be judged. It is one of the safest, if not the safest place to practice and hone your speaking skills.

See you at the next meeting May 3rd.  Come along, invite your friends and have a great time.

*   PR – Vice President of Public Relations.