Toastmasters in action – in spite of football semi-finals

Roland, the president of the club, recalled his time at the Wembley Arena listening to Boris Johnson’s speech about Brexit – an example of the power of motivating speeches – although not everybody will like the effect it had. Roland later probed the ethical boundaries of genetic engineering in a speech entitled “Making a designer baby”.

Trang, the toastmaster of the day, brought energy to the meeting and also served as speech evaluator.

Caroline, the table topic master, came up with a series of postcards which the audience were to describe. What an interesting way to run an impromptu speaking session! It allowed speakers to freely express their opinions, their thoughts and feelings toward the topic. Yungchin, a guest, expressed her love for travel. To her, a quotation from Saint Augustine captured her view: The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.

Roland talked about the world seen with or without glasses – and filled with birds, Easter eggs, butterflies, and cupcakes. George, a Toastmaster from Switzerland, changed his view completely from the time he lived next to a forest in Germany to the time he spent living in cities. Richard, another guest, told the time when he was in a songwriting society in his youth. Basically, about making a new acquaintance, he advised the audience to stick with somebody at their ages and to not give out their phone numbers to somebody whom they don’t know. To Valerie, a first-time guest from Germany, who spent some months farming in Japan, love is a gamble.

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Imagination, Freewill and Change is as good as the rest

Trang, the President of the club, rarely talks about it but she made an exception this evening. To her, football is all about preparation, talent development and teamwork. It’s similar to being at a toastmaster club. For preparation, members put lots of effort in practicing speeches, then do functionaries in between and at the end of meetings, they go to the bar for dieting. For finding their talents, initially people come to toastmasters to improve their presentation skills and their confidence. However, other the time, they develop their own unique styles and keep coming back to the club to master it. In addition, a meeting wouldn’t happen if there were only one person. At Phoenix speakers, members learn by practicing their speeches as well as helping each other out by providing constructive feedback.

Mike, the Toastmaster of the meeting, obviously chose Sport as the theme of the evening.

During the 1st half of the meeting, Rupert, first time Table Topic Master, asked the audience a series of funny or thought-provoking questions. If Grant was stranded on an island, he wished to be with Stephen Fry who would give plenty of anecdotes about British QI. If Robert’s house was on fire, and he could only bring one thing with him, he would not know what to choose as he considered himself forgetful. Anna, a guest, would like her friends to remember her as a generous person who built a successful business after she’s died. The best table topic award, however, went to Jorge, who answered the question: Who would you like to be in five-year time. He would like to be alive, it was so simple, so profound.

In the 2nd half of the meeting, Jeremy opened with a fascinating speech titled Free will. He challenged the common perception in the audience on the idea of free will: Is it really true? He then went on to explore the rationale behind our decisions, why people do what they do, the people they meet and the environment they are in. He concluded that it was an illusion which people felt very uncomfortable with. Josh, ended the evening with his Ice Breaker titled: Change is as good as the rest. He told his life stories in terms of the places and the journey he’s made. Currently living in London, he was originally from Liverpool then grew up in Cork. He concluded the speech with a wonderful quotation from Terry Pratchett:

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Finally, the GE of the evening, SuiChin delivered a superb evaluation for the club and all the functionaries without any note. What a way to close the meeting!

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Persistence turns failure into victory!

Roland, the acting president this evening, told the meeting about the “method of loci”, a way to memorize a speech. That method was first described by Cicero, a famous Roman speaker, and statesman. The speaker must associate speech elements with a symbol, e.g. a sword for a battle or a pan for cooking. Then he arranges the symbols in the correct order in a familiar area, like on his favorite walk. Thereafter, the speaker just has to walk through his mental landscape, discover the symbols he placed there and tell his story.

Grant was the table topics master and provided a varied and exciting collection of topics like: “If you could travel back in history and change a single thing, what would it be?”, “What is the biggest lie of which you wish it were true?” and “What do you think about people who do extremely dangerous sports?”.

Mike evaluated the table topics session and Shane, our toastmaster, injected lots of energy into the meeting.

In the second half, Abdullah, a guest from Kings Cross Speakers, delivered his speech “Failure = Success”. After completing his engineering degree in the UK, there was only one company in Saudi Arabia that could possibly have employed a specialist like him – but didn’t. He was not discouraged, managed to get into a Ph.D. programme and now pursues a much more fulfilling carrier.

Shane described the panic he felt when he ran out of oxygen during a swimming event in brown muddy water in a lake near Blenheim Castle. He thought of Churchills saying: “When you are going through hell, keep going” – and managed to keep going and finish the race.

Hugh from London City Speakers provided a detailed and thoughtful general evaluation of the meeting.

Awards were received by Mike as best table topics speaker, Abdulla as best speaker and Grant as best speech evaluator.

See you all at the next meeting.

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  • Where

    We meet in The Chapel at the Grange Wellington Hotel, 71 Vincent Square, SW1P 2PA (centrally located between Victoria, Pimlico and St. James's Park tube stations). See map.



    Enter from Vincent Square through the large wrought iron gate. Cross the courtyard, and ascend the steps. Once inside, if the room is not signposted, ask at reception for the Phoenix Speakers meeting room.

    Guests are very welcome to turn up - no booking required.
  • When

    We meet every second and fourth Wednesday. Meetings start promptly at 7pm, why not arrive a few minutes early and get a drink!

    Next meeting Wed 22nd Aug