What a lovely load of members ready, willing and able to speak at last week’s Casterbridge Speakers meeting. A bitter/sweet meeting as one of our founder members Carole Whittaker announced her relocation to Bristol; then we welcomed Neil Devoto, bouncing back after nine months undercover. Yippee! That’s great news.

Our Toastmaster of the evening, David Tucker began with his usual upbeat and humorous style and neatly introduced changes to the agenda. I would have like to have seen the Sergeant at Arms role allocated before the meeting to ensure that the Toastmaster’s wing man was fully briefed with the different usher activities. It helps the Toastmaster manage the meeting if he knows his back is fully covered.

I’m not sure what happened with the handshakes and handovers as they all felt a bit wobbly; more like a hangover than a true welcome encouragement for members to claim the floor. Even the Time Keeper’s red light wasn’t a beaming beacon, just a secret shade of amber.

The Grammarian Doug Pigg, chose GROCKLE for the word challenge of the evening following the For the Journey theme. Grockle is an informal and often slightly derogatory term for a tourist. Easier said than included it would appear.

We were delighted by three colourful speeches this evening:

Jason Routley served his Icebreaker speech without notes and seemingly faultless. His experienced evaluator Rosie Barfoot started and finished her evaluation speeches with a bang ‘sic a giant step on your Toastmaster journey’. The feedback she offered was also neatly structured. She explained what she was looking for then offered her examples. Jason was awarded Best Speaker of the evening. Can it get any better?

Paul Hutchings, our President, stood in for Steve Richards and delivered an inspirational speech entitled ‘If’. What a wonderful example of someone having dredged up a speech from the depths of memory and then delivering it so delightfully. I must pump him for pointers. Carole Whittaker evaluated. Paul is an experienced speaker; Carole would have liked to have seen a better use of pauses at certain points and a change of tone from time to time would have added impact – especially taking it up a notch at the end. Carole was voted best evaluator this evening.

Our third speech was another club and personal milestone for Caroline Brewer. In her tenth speech from the Competent Communicators manual, she took a different approach to the norm, asking the audience to role-play a work team. Her speech entitled ‘A Time and A Place for Everyone in the Team’ was evaluated by the experienced Steve Graham. He recognised a couple of brave moves that Caroline made during the speech which she was able to pull off. He commended the activity that she included in the presentation which physically moved the audience. When you wish to inspire then physically moving the audience helps the mental movement.

After the break our table topics master, Anna Shapter, continued the journey with questions involving long drawn out journeys and what you would take to keep the boredom factor at bay. I would have liked Anna to have stated the question before she allocated the topic. In a competition, the contestants have 30 seconds from hearing the question before they need to be on the stage. This gives them a little preparation time – important to help structure a dynamic beginning, middle and dynamic ending. Personally …. I need as much fluff time as I can get!

Mark Whitting evaluated the table topics which is not the easiest of jobs. He made us laugh when he declared what he didn’t like about the table topics was that the speakers didn’t make any mistakes. They did, of course, with many of the subjects going off topic. However, as Mark quite rightly pointed out it was a most enjoyable set of subjects. The best table topics presenter was awarded to Steve Graham but he did get two goes at it AND he is our representative in the area competition this Saturday. Good Luck Steve! {post script – Steve was robbed!}

Grammarian, Doug Pigg offered some interesting facts on the state of ums and errs without naming names. Sadly, he ran over time despite our timekeeper Dave Smith’s frantic gestations from the rear. This meant that some of the lovely use of language that had been employed tonight didn’t get quite the recognition it deserved.

Club president concluded the meeting with announcements and awards. He put out a call for club members to attend the competition in Newbury at the weekend. There were eight people from Casterbridge in Newbury – what a great turnout to support Steve Graham in his quest for excellence.`

This is Laura McHarrie, signing off as general evaluator for 19th October.

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