Our MeagaMeeting on 23 January included members from three Toastmaster clubs: Victorians, the Cardinals and Phoenix Speakers. MegaMeetings are an opportunity to visit neighbouring clubs or to be visited, to meet some new people and to get inspired. Every toastmasters club is different and we celebrated that by having some speeches, evaluations and roles like the time keeper and harkmaster handled by members of other clubs.

Brad was our dynamic Toastmaster of the Day who made sure that the various parts of the meeting were seamlessly joined. Caroline, a former Phoenix who was just visiting, got hoodwinked into the role of grammarian, so “hoodwinked” became the word of the day. To add variety, we had two table topics sessions with two different table topics masters and two different styles

First table topics master was Robert, whose topic were inspired by transport. Carolina was asked to reinvent the wheel but skilfully turned the topic into a complaint about failing here driving test for driving too slowly. Ariel insisted that there will be no “bus of the future”, as nobody at the department for transport finds buses sexy. Michelle was asked who should fund the railways and suggested that it would be best to close them down and just scrap them. Trang was fascinated by the depth of some underground stations and declared the tube as her favourite British transport system.

The second table topics session simulated a parliamentary discussion. It was chaired by Shane who took on some habits of John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, and insisted on “order”. On the floor of the mock parliament, Nuala, Caroline, Ga Lok and Zack fought valiantly against Aaron, Alex, Roland and Robert. Nonsense ruled. Vegetarian meals in schools were pitted against more burgers, the high-speed railway was just about stopped and a motion to dissolve Britain was proposed.

In the prepared speeches section, Trang described how she had experienced conflict with her family and how she had coped with it. She made the audience feel the discomfort of having their private space invaded by asking them to stand very closely in groups of three.

Ga Lok gave a “Toast to the Lassies” based on a poem by Robert Burnes, a Scottish poet who liked strong and outgoing women and managed to sire 12 children. Ga Lok handled the explicitly sexual terms in the poem by spelling them – which showed playful willingness to conform to taboos – and naturally drew more attention than the simple words would have done.

Roland looked for evidence that having fun by getting drunk was what motivated our forefathers to give up hunting and gathering, settle down and cultivate grain. He finished by quoting Benjamin Franklin: “Beer is living proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy”.

Ana evaluated the table topics sessions  and Bryan, Carolina and Nuala evaluated the speakers. Ariel, the harkmaster, dished out sweeties to all people who could show that they had listened well. Best table topics speaker of the evening award went to Michelle, Carolina was elected as the best evaluator and Ga Lok took the award as best speaker of the evening.

Members of Phoenix Speakers and its sister clubs as well as guests continued socialising in the White Horse pub across the road.

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Phoenix Rising

The 9th of January was a big day for us Phoenix Speakers: We moved to our new venue at the Department of Transport – familiarised ourselves with the new security procedures – arranged our meeting in an unfamiliar room – attracted several new guests from the Department of Transport and from outside the Department – used the new Open Meeting format that starts with prepared speeches and ends with table topics – had a brilliant evening – and ended up with two new members.

The meeting was opened by Roland, who provided the guests with an introduction to Toastmasters life, focusing particularly on the benefits provided by being part of the Toastmasters International organisation, while Shane sparkled as Toastmaster of the Day, ensuring that the different roles and speeches were smoothly linked and that the energy in the room remained high.

Ana’s gave a speech on her first skiing experience, which involved sliding sideways, sliding out of control and sliding into other people on the slope. It was a very vivid description of events, so in our minds, we were sliding with her. Bryan described South Africa, his home country, as a fascinating holiday destination. After hearing about Table Mountain towering 1000m above the sea, lions, leopards and buffalos, ice-cold beer and small wine-farms near Stellenbosch spoiling their visitors, many in the audience felt tempted to go right now. For those, Bryan emphasised the cheap and excellent airline connections. Brad reminded us of the impact we have when interacting with others by telling his story about a brief encounter with a primary-school girl in India. She wanted to try out her English and this was most likely the first encounter she had with a Westerner. How easily could that event have been spoilt by dismissing her as a beggar.

Timekeeper Mike explained that time is an illusion, but continued to measure it anyway. Brad guided the introduction of all our guests to the audience.

After the break, Trang shone as table topics master, stimulating the speakers with intriguing questions that they answered without hesitation. Robert worried about going into the wrong meeting room and ending up late at a wedding. Roscoe promised to make 2019 the “year of 100% go” for his degree, his work and his whole life. Tom‘s principle for 2019 was “Don’t let Sunday spoil your Monday”, promising great parties and spectacular hangovers. Asked for a decision that had changed his life, Roland mentioned his move to South Africa, the place Bryan had so lovingly described in the first half of the meeting. Walter, a Director of Photography, illustrated how he had learned to take still pictures last year and compared this skill to operating a washing machine. Karsten remembered that he had been down and without friends a few years ago, but that the people he met through his work in the last years had made a big difference to his life. Neil agreed that life is too short to spend it on talking to people who suck the life out of you – and if one has to, one should focus on what one can get out of them.  Ariel supported the idea that beauty captures the eye – by describing how he met his last girlfriend – but that character captures the heart – by describing how they split up.

The audience voted on the performance of the participants and decided that Ariel had been the best table topics speaker, Roscoe had given the best evaluation and Ana had delivered the best prepared speech.

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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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