Mountain climbing, mathematics and social media

The meeting was opened by Roland, who said goodbye to our current venue and reminded members and guests that we will meet again on the 9th of January at 18:30 at our new venue at the Department for Transport, 33 Horseferry Road – just 6 minutes’ walk from our current meeting place.

Ana, the Toastmaster of the Day and an experienced master of ceremonies steered the meeting with a sure touch while keeping the atmosphere light and humorous.

Trang, our Table Topics Master, encouraged speakers to pick their topics from the last part of the previous speaker’s contribution. Robert told us that he is not all too concerned about privacy. While others might just mention their name and job title, he is happy to share stories about his work and his life. Ram emphasized that we should communicate more, because it helps us to stand together when bad things happen, like the latest spree of stabbings in London. Jannis elaborated on the weirdest link he has made on social media and Yongxin thought that people rather share too much on social media. Roland admitted that he is a Google search addict who loves to get lost in a flood of information.

In the prepared speeches session, Robert told the audience about his mountain climbing adventures. He brought part of his equipment, like shoes and a harness, and gave the audience a vivid impression of how it feels being up there. He also gave a climbing demonstration on the wooden panels behind the stage.

Yongxin described how mathematics has influenced her life. She started in the Chinese countryside, studied at a prestigious university and then moved to London. For her, mathematics is not just a way of calculating things, it is a way of seeing life. Her preferred topic, Brownian motion, gives us clues how order may rise from chaos.

Robert won the award as best table topics speaker and Yongxin was honoured for presenting her Icebreaker, the very first prepared speech in a Toastmaster’s career.

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Dazzling Variety Before Christmas

The meeting on 14 November was opened by the President, Roland, who welcomed members and guests and announced that Phoenix Speakers will move to another venue. Starting 9 Jan 2019, it will convene at the Department for Transport, 33 Horseferry Road. That will mean new, interesting guests and members from the department and much lower membership fees (£91 for a full year).

Shane, the Toastmaster of the Day, provided some background on the Toastmasters organisation and the personal experience of being a Toastmaster before guiding the meeting with style and flourish along its course.

During the Table Topics session, Trang introduced a new Table Topics format by using the end of the previous speech to make up the topic for the next speech. She did that fast and seemingly without effort, so that the session acquired a very dynamic character and covered a variety of topics. Scott, a guest, remembered being called up to the headmaster in his school days – that he worried about what would happen  – only to be told that he had been selected for an elite school. Roland remembered his early school days as having been member of various science fiction clubs that had formed among his friends at school and about igniting small rockets. Bryan talked about whom to take on a space ship trip. Damian, a guest and Shane’s son, talked about football and how he finds relaxation in sport. Shane, Damian’s father, talked about running and how he finds relaxation in sport. Alex, a guest, remembered her shy days in school in a confident presentation that showed that she had overcome that problem. Iannis, a guest, elaborated calmly on the many skills one can learn and Brad gave examples from his own live to show that one can turn failure into success.

In the prepared speech session, Brian talked about “Tailoring your communication”. People have different communication styles. Some are controllers who want to stay on top at any cost. They might even turn down your ideas only to use them later for their own purposes. That can be annoying. But it can also be used to “seed” them with ideas – which they will try to use to their own advantage – and do what you actually wanted them to do. That is communication at top level.

Brad presented a fact finding report on cholesterol. Right after a milestone birthday (we keep that number  confidential), he had a routine health check and got an immediate prescription of heavy medication. Naturally, he queried that and that led to his presentation on HDL (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and many other things. Even without the heavy medication prescribed, he seemed very much alive.

By general vote, Brad was chosen as the best table topics speaker and Ana was chosen as the best Evaluator.

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Halloween and Sleeplessness

The meeting was opened by Roland, the president, who introduced the new Phoenix Mentor scheme. Every Phoenix member who wants a mentor can now get a mentor. Five volunteer mentors are already available for the scheme.

Then things got scary. Mike, the Table Topics Master challenged members and guests with topics concerning Halloween, fear and horror. Roland described an old version of Dracula as his favourite horror movie. Trang remembered a film in which somebody got his head cut off under water. This put her clan off other horror movies and monsters. Ged described how he got a magic box in the mail. It moved! He took his Stanley knife and opened it very carefully, expecting something dangerous – only to find out that it was a little kitten. Emilio used his detective skills to discover whether a voice that pretended to be his friend really belonged to his friend – and found out it did not. Robert was haunted by a piano that played boogie-woogie fast. Really fast. Frightening fast. The fastest ever. And Nuala remembered suffering from fear of success, which was discovered or induced by her personal trainer.

In the prepared speeches session, Trang described her epic rivalry with hers sister. It started in early school times and escalated to fights for parents attention, school achievements, popularity among boys and academic success. However, as time went on, they discovered that they also love each other and miss each other.

Roland recommended switching the home language regularly to keep the mind fit and the life interesting. He remembered his language lessons in school rather as a chore, but got fun out of living in various countries and switching his home language according to the needs of his family.

Lucia found that masks do not work. No, she does not want to hide, she just wants to sleep and the morning light wakes her up. But masks are too uncomfortable. And it is hard to get the right blinds for blissful darkness. Her solution: A long sock drawn over the eyes. That works well, but causes occasional problems in relationships, which she described with Italian flourish.

Ged got was chosen as the best speaker, Shane was the best evaluator and Lucia was first among the speakers.




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  • Where

    We meet at the Department for Transport at Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 4DR. Nearby underground stations are Pimlico, St. James's Park and Victoria. See map.

    Our next open meeting is on Wednesday 9th January 2019. Assemble in reception of Great Minister House at 18.15 for a start at 18:30. We look forward to you joining us.
    Guests are very welcome to turn up - no booking required.