Usually, when someone acts as Toastmaster for the first time, you can expect a hesitant, unsure performance: no matter how much you appreciate there are a lot of moving parts, there’s always a niggling doubt that there’s something forgotten, or something wrong with the agenda, or any one of a hundred things that can go wrong. Even experienced Toastmasters get that.

Which means, I was as delighted as I was surprised to see Luke McLachlan give a demonstration of running a meeting that I wish had been videoed. Confident, clear and engaged, he made it the kind of warm and friendly meeting we expect at Casterbridge Speakers.

We had two speeches in the first half: Siobhán Davis gave speech #4 from the Competent Communication Manual (How to say it), and told us about daydreams, before Rosie Barfoot told us a story with a moral (Speech #3 from the advanced Storytelling book) about a frustrated artist who became an ace cartoonist. Linda Parkinson-Hardman also gave an educational speech outlining the roles and responsibilities for a meeting.

In the second half, Laura McHarrie ran a table topics session asking for advice on various Toastmasters-related scenarios.

Shout-outs to:
Bev Hepting and Dave Smith for stepping in when the scheduled timekeeper was unavoidably detained
Duncan Smith for recording parts of the meeting
• Guest Jon Osborne for coming along and taking part
• Speech evaluators Christine Wallach and Caroline Brewer, and Table Topics Evaluator Bev Hepting for strong, helpful recommendations
• Grammarian Doug Pigg for doing a role he evidently dislikes.

Concerns about:
• We should make an effort to avoid stock phrases like “without further ado”. This particular one cropped up a couple of times and it always suggests that what’s gone before was ado. To you, it may be taboo to pooh-pooh the “ado”, but to me, the “ado” is something we should say adieu to.
• The temperature of the room varied wildly through the evening. I recommend we err on the side of slightly too cold; it’s always possible to wear extra layers, but it’s not always possible to remove layers. Nobody wants to see my vest.
• We should be aware of over-apologising and hiding from recommendations. I know we’re based in England, but that’s no excuse for saying “I’m not very good at…” or following a joke with “I know, sorry.” As for shying away, I have transcribed: “If there was an area I might look at, for me…”, which I reckon is four layers away from saying “You should…”.

A final note

The entire second half was caught on video by Duncan Smith. So far as I could tell, the camera didn’t even register in the consciousness of the speakers, let alone put them off. I strongly recommend we record future meetings:
• so that evaluators can show a speaker “look, you’re rocking back and forth” or “there’s the hand gesture I mentioned” or “can you hear what I mean about your tone of voice?”;
• so that especially good speeches can be used – with consent – as promotional material for the club;
• to help us all become more confident in front of the camera.

As always, it was an enjoyable and informative meeting; the next one is the Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contest on Wednesday September 7th – 7.15pm at the Wessex Royale Hotel in Dorchester. Please come along!

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