03Nov/16

Leadership, Leniency and Legacy

These three crucial (word of the meeting) aspects were the focus for my General Evaluation on November 2nd.

Leadership

There are many traits of leadership which can be used in a meeting and at work.

  • Setting the culture creates a safe and welcoming environment for guests and nervous speakers. Bev Hepting, President, and Steve Graham, Toastmaster, did that by making sure the room was set up correctly and by their warm, enthusiastic and explanatory introductions. They described clearly what was going to happen and brought humour to reduce the anxiety people may have been feeling. This continued when Luke Mclachlan used a humorous and creative explanation of the time keeper’s role, citing the importance of contracting.

It was lovely to have four guests attending and to see how members made them feel welcome at the start and in the break. The safe atmosphere allowed them all to have a go at Table Topics and for Jade to win best Speaker!

  • Listening is a key skill, which was demonstrated by our evaluators and especially the Grammarian.
  • Role Modelling adds credibility to your message, which Caroline Brewer showed in her leadership and delivery of the High Performance Leadership project to create a sustainable induction process
  • Delegation is another key skill for leaders. Caroline again had effectively carried this out in her project by calling on members’ strengths to get the job done.
  • Challenging people to achieve more is important, but the task needs to be achievable and not set people up to fail. My recommendation is that table topic questions are easy enough that participants can focus on speaking off the cuff, not trying to work out what the question was.
  • Resource Provider means ensuring that the meeting has all that is required. My recommendation would be for the Sargeant-at-Arms to ensure there are spare copies of the agenda; especially for guests.

Leniency

The role of the evaluator is to offer constructive feedback on how the speaker performed. This enables people to recognise what they did well and where they could be even better. The danger is that evaluators, for a variety of reasons, are lenient on their negative feedback. Yet this offers the greatest opportunity for growth. There was certainly no quarter given by Luke for those who went over time!

It is not necessary to apologise for your evaluation, even if you are not as experienced as the speaker. Your views still matter. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, it is important to be specific. Saying a speech was really good without explaining what you liked is no more helpful than saying it wasn’t very good. Giving clear examples from the speech and offering recommendations, as Christine Wallach and Rachel Knowles did, adds greater meaning. Rachel went on to deservedly win best evaluator

Legacy

Good leaders leave a legacy. They make a difference. Every member and guest can impact on others for the greater good. We can learn from each other in how we speak or fulfil a role.

The Club has contirbuted to past members achieving more, such as Harriet Laurie securing her funding bid, Gail Aldwin winning a poetry reading prize and Robin Clifton-Day giving a fabulous father of the bride speech.

Just a few examples of individual legacies are Steve Graham, who founded and has helped maintain Casterbridge Speakers, Caroline Brewer developing the induction process and Luke redesigning the website.

As a club we can also support members in their time of need, as with Dryden Pennington, Past President, who brought a legacy of humour and kindliness to the Club, and is now seriously ill.

Andrew Knowles spoke about defining your purpose. I believe you can also define your legacy. By showing good leadership and not being overly lenient in your feedback, you can leave an outstanding legacy.

What will your legacy be?

 

24Oct/16

Learning together – 19 October 2016

less-is-more

We had another enjoyable meeting of Toastmasters in Dorchester on Wednesday 19 October, compered by Luke McLachlan, with moving speeches by Christine Wallach and Rosie Barfoot. As ever, we had lots of laughter as we learnt together.

Christine’s speech was entitled ‘A Mother’s Sorrow’ – a speech she has developed from her own research and experience to use in schools to discourage children from experimenting with drugs. She presented us with lots of facts about drug misuse and in so doing, amply filled the requirements of her seventh project from the Competent Communicator manual – Research Your Topic.

Rosie invited the audience to gather round as she sat to tell us the story of El Dorado. I’m not sure what we were expecting with such a title, but the story was about her visit to another Toastmasters club while she was abroad. She had inadvertently arrived at the club for their humorous speech competition and Rosie shared her very varied reactions to the speeches given – and her conviction that Casterbridge Speakers was, undoubtedly, the best club to belong to. This was for her fourth speech in one of the advanced speech manuals – Storytelling.

Table Topics with Steve Graham included such diverse subjects as whether we preferred town or country, and what we would queue up for. Laura McHarrie was grammarian and her word of the day was ‘Inclusive’.

My general evaluation included the challenge to advanced speakers in the club to have a speech prepared to give at short notice so that if, as was the case on Wednesday, someone had to drop out due to illness, someone could step in and take their place.

I also suggested to the evaluators generally that ‘less is more’ – concentrating on a few points can make more of an impact. Clearly the person who needed to hear that most was myself as I then proceeded to go over time! My personal challenge is to stay within my 9 ½ minutes maximum time next time I do a general evaluation.

28Aug/16

General Evaluator’s Report: August 17th

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!

17Aug/16

Up for Grabs – The Smedley Award

Toastmasters is probably Dorset’s Best Kept Secret. 

Toastmasters in 2016 has 345k members, based in 159k clubs in 142 countries around the world.  In honour of Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters International in 1924, Toastmasters holds the Smedley Award contest. It’s a membership campaign to help kick start the year’s marketing.  To qualify, Casterbridge Speakers must add five new, dual or reinstated members between August 1st and September 30th.  

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Gaining new members is good for the club, it’s good for members AND individuals could tick off project six in the Competent Leadership manual if they help this campaign over the next 6 weeks.

Thought I’d use tonight’s table topics to think about how we encourage everyone to spread the word. It would also give another BIG tick towards our club president, Bev’s vision for Casterbridge Speakers to be a ‘president’s distinguished’ club this year … 

  1. I have recently picked up a contact through Twitter who hosts a talk radio show in Sherborne.  She asks you to give her three good reasons to come to Toastmasters just to participate in table topics ….
  2. You are at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting where the speaker hasn’t turned up.  The organiser has asked you to fill in at short notice with your 3 top tips on controlling nerves when speaking in public …
  3. The humorous speech contests begin at club level next meeting.  There must be many many benefits for participating.  I can’t think any myself – please give your  top three for throwing your hat in the ring …
  4. Your best friend works for Job Centre Plus.  She asks you for three ways that Toastmasters helps build confidence without having to give a speech …
  5. We’ve seen members come and go in this club over the years.  Who do you miss most and if you picked up the phone for a chat this week what three things would you tell them about the club now …

If you want to know the answers to the above click through to the Casterbridge Speakers Facebook Page.

Remember the Smedley award runs from August 1 to September 30. So don’t wait, get involved, let’s add 5 members and qualify for the Smedley Award. Bev will love us.  Let’s get involved and have some fun doing it!

09Aug/16

August Committee Meeting

We had our monthly committee meeting last night, via Skype, in which we plan, strategise and support one another in our various roles. A few members were unable to make it due to the summer holidays however there is always a lot to talk about, with so much going on here at Casterbridge Speakers. The big focus at the moment is our aim to become a President’s Distinguished Club. The Distinguished Club Program recognises clubs that provide the positive and supportive environment that leads to member success, within which there are 3 levels; 1) Distinguished Club; 2) Select Distinguished Club, and; 3) President’s Distinguished Club. Our President, Beverley Hepting, has aimed for the top and the committee has agreed that this goal is highly attainable.

We also set a date for our Autumn Table Topics & Humorous Speech Competition, for Wednesday 7th September 2016. Please contact Colin Beveridge if you would like to compete. The competition is a precursor to the Area Speaking Competition, on Sunday 2nd October 2016.

The next committee meeting is on the 12th September, see you all there!

04Aug/16

3rd August Meeting

Many thanks to all those of you who attended last nights meeting. Jennie Dalton was our Toastmaster for the evening, her first time in fact as Toastmaster and she did us proud. The Toastmaster role is certainly very challenging because the evening is a reflection of the energy that the Toastmaster brings, plus they have to make sure that the meeting runs on time and that we cover everything that’s set out in the agenda for the evening, in the order that it’s set-out. Well done Jennie!

The speeches for the evening came from Christine Wallach, Caroline Brewer (with Doug’s involvement) and Beverley Hepting. The Best Speaker Award was presented to Christine with her speech entitled “Homeless”, where she recounted the awful experience of having her house burnt down by a firework prankster. It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, and in typical Casterbridge Speakers fashion Caroline turned the experience from one of initial sadness to gratitude that her most important belongings were saved – her family!

Our Table Topics Master was David Smith and he picked out Steve Graham, Rosie Barfoot, Siobhán Davis, Linda Parkinson-Hardman, this evenings Guest Phil Clarke & Steve Richards to speak about a range of topics such as “what animal would you like to be and why” to “what’s your mission statement”. Steve Graham wanted to be a cat and Linda Parkinson-Hardman’s mission was to procrastinate less. Siobhán Davis convinced us that poverty is not a state of mind and is very much a reality for some in society. The Best Table Topics Award however went to both Rosie Barfoot and Phil Clarke. Rosie had to give some Health & Safety advice to Humpty Dumpty about jumping off walls, which she did wonderfully, whilst Phil recounted his most memorable memory from the past year which was to ditch accountancy and instead study psychology. It takes a brave person to decide, half way through a degree, to press the reset button and he also displayed this bravery tonight by getting up and presenting his first Table Topics. Well done Phil and Rosie.

Our Table Topics Evaluator was Douglas Pigg and General Evaluator was Linda Parkinson-Hardman. This evenings Best Evaluator award went to Andrew Knowles for his evaluation of Christine Wallach’s speech. His use of the stage to demonstrate the effectiveness of Caroline’s delivery and the structure of his evaluation were clear winners. Andrew and Rachel Knowles are experienced speech evaluators and it was a pleasure, as well as highly educational, to see both of them in action tonight.

This is my first blog post as new VP of Public Relations here at Casterbridge Speakers. The website has had a much welcome facelift and it’s now cross-platform compatible, so those of you on mobile devices can now navigate with ease. However if you notice anything untoward please let me know via the contact page. The injection of a few more photos is on the “to-do” list, photos certainly do add more colour to a website and in fact this post would have been a lot more fun if we had some action photos. See you all again, and hopefully some more brave guests, in two weeks!

03Jun/16

Annual General Meeting June 2016

Casterbridge agmMinutes of Annual General Meeting on June 1st 2016

Attendees: Rosie Barfoot (RB); Bev Hepting (BH), Caroline Brewer (CJB),  Colin Beveridge, Jennie Dalton, Luke Mclachlan, Justin Waller, David Smith, Christine Wallach, Laura McHarrie, Jennie Dalton, Siobhan Davis, Alex Picot.

President’s Report.

RB gave an overview of the year’s events and thanked everyone for making it a successful year. The Club will achieve Select Distinguished Club award. This was achieved by:

  • Laura McHarrie– Advanced Communicator Silver – tonight
  • RB achieved Advanced Communicator Bronze last July
  • Steve Graham achieved Advanced Leadership Silver
  • Rachel Knowles achieved her Competent Leader and Advanced Leadership Bronze
  • We have over 20 members and 5 new members joined through the year, Guy Kerr, Luke Mclachlan, Siobhan Davis, Johnathan Woolls and Justin Waller.
  • We attended 2 x club officer training sessions (with more presence than other clubs)
  • We paid our dues to HO on time

Individual Recognition for outstanding effort

  • Caroline Brewer for her excellent role as VPE. Organised meetings, established education slots and kept people on track. Also taken on her High Performance Leadership project to improve induction.
  • Bev Hepting has achieved 4 speeches this year and sorted out our social media
  • Doug Pigg for sorting out and providing excellent Treasurer’s reports
  • Laura McHarrie for the support she has given us as Area Director

Achievements

  • 24 members – not all of whom are as active as we would like.
  • Remained financially strong thanks to members paying their dues and by delivering Speechcraft to Dorset County Council
  • Established the vision and values and re-committed to the Toastmaster promise
  • Improved the social media presence
  • Mentors have been assigned and used by those wanting this
  • BH and Jason Routley led the inter-club mock trial of social media – great success.
  • Steve Graham got through to Table Topics Divisional final
  • 2 finalists (CJB and BH) at Divisional International / Evaluation. BH came 2nd
  • Tall Tales competition at Christmas
  • We have held 12 Skype committee meetings which all finished on time
  • We have volunteers for every role on the committee!
  • We yet again provided the Area Director – Laura Mcharrie, and she will be succeeded by Linda Parkinson Hardman
  • BH and RB delivered a workshop for Try This Dorchester and spoke at the Granby Breakfast club. BH is to speak at WPCC in July.
  • Most importantly a massive thank you to every member who has helped make this a great year and a fantastic club.

The Future

  • Firstly I would like to thank everyone of the existing committee for their commitment and support – they have been a brilliant team and those staying on will support the new team.
  • To everyone for volunteering to the new committee and I am sure they will do a fabulous job. It was agreed to have two Sergeant-at-arms to provide extra cover for the other roles.

New Committee

Role Name Proposed Seconded
President Bev Hepting Colin Beveridge Alex Picot
VP Education Colin Beveridge Caroline Brewer Christine Wallach
VP PR Luke McLachlan Bev Hepting Alex Picot
VP Membership Siobhan Davis Dave Smith Bev Hepting
Secretary Christine Wallach Laura McHarrie Justin Waller
Treasurer Doug Pigg Rosie Barfoot Laura McHarrie
Sergeant at Arms Jennie Dalton

Justin Waller

Dave Smith

Bev Hepting

Caroline Brewer

Colin Beveridge

 

26Apr/16

Getting ready for your first speech…

Here’s a great link to a fantastic set of resources from Toastmasters International for new speakers.  Why don’t you take a look and ask your Induction Buddy to go through with you any of the information that you are interested in. http://www.toastmasters.org/en/Shop/Members/manuals-and-programs/the-better-speaker-series/The%20Better%20Speaker%20Series%20Set_269.aspx

14Apr/16

Keeping the Commitment

Keeping the commitment is a reminder of the expectations of members as part of this Club. This is the speech I gave as President on April 4th 2016. I would like a discussion and answers to the questions in bold.

Over the past few weeks we have been provided with an exceptional learning opportunity if we choose to address it. I would like to sincerely thank everyone involved in providing us with this. We could ignore this opportunity or we can use the professional strength of this club to have an open and honest discussion on the etiquette or unwritten protocols. We can recommit to the Toastmaster Promise.

A TOASTMASTER’S PROMISE

As a member of Toastmasters International and my club, I promise…

  • To attend club meetings regularly
  • To prepare all of my speech and leadership projects to the best of my ability, basing them on projects in the Competent Communication, Advanced Communication Series or Competent Leadership manuals
  • To prepare for and fulfill meeting assignments
  • To provide fellow members with helpful, constructive evaluations
  • To help the club maintain the positive, friendly environment necessary for all members to learn and grow
  • To serve my club as an officer when called upon to do so
  • To treat my fellow club members and our guests with respect and courtesy
  • To bring guests to club meetings so they can see the benefits Toastmasters membership offers
  • To adhere to the guidelines and rules for all Toastmasters educational and recognition programs
  • To maintain honest and highly ethical standards during the conduct of all Toastmasters activities

I would like your advice, as members of Casterbridge Speakers, as to how we live our values. The values and associated behaviours set the culture of the club. Too often we can assume understanding.

Toastmasters International Casterbridge Speakers
·         Integrity

·         Respect

·         Service

·         Excellence

·         Supportive

·         Mentoring

·         Active

·         Recognition

·         Tenacity

Are they to be just words on a page or a blueprint for our behaviours?

I believe my role as President is to help clarify expectations. We may all have different views, and I would like us to start talking about it. The fact is there have been a number of incidences where speech content has made the audience feel uncomfortable or even offended. Now we can turn a blind eye to this situation or as a professional, courageous and caring club resolve it.

As you know, I am very proud of this club and what we have achieved. Having fun is a key part of that and long may that continue. However, one person’s joke can be offensive to someone else.

One of the Toastmaster commitments is that we observe ethical standards – in words and action. This includes being respectful and courteous to everyone.

What I don’t want, as I am sure you don’t, are

members or guests coming to meetings apprehensive of what they will hear, feeling uncomfortable; or going away and not coming back. Nor do I want speakers feeling they have been gagged. We have to accept that Speakers have the right to choose their subject material.

How do we balance freedom of speech with the sensitivities of the audience? 

How do we define an appropriate or inappropriate speech?

Is it down to us to agree as a club?

How do we balance the speaker’s judgement of an appropriate speech with the audience’s view?

Not everyone will respond to your speech the same.

Not everyone will respond to your speech the same.

How far do we push the boundaries?

Should we let anything go or agree boundaries?

Perhaps Speakers when choosing a certain topic can reflect more on what impact it may have on a known audience and run it past a mentor or friend.

Swearing is another part of this. I realise that what we have not done as a Club is agree what is appropriate.

How much swearing is acceptable?

Members and guests come to these meetings and expect a safe environment, whether physical or emotional.

Do we not have an obligation to provide that?

How open minded do we need to be?

Do we ignore our values and be more liberal?

Where do we draw the line?

How do we respond when we feel someone has crossed that line?

Is it our individual responsibility to make people aware how we feel?

We have a fantastic opportunity to address a key leadership issue of defining the culture we want. We are all leaders in this balancing act of managing ours and others expectations. In a fast changing world, deciding where the line is can be fraught with difficulties, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying.

I trust you to rise to this challenge and for Casterbridge Speakers to grow in strength and integrity as a result.

I welcome your comments either personally or by email.

 

04Apr/16

Chairing a successful contest

I find being Toastmaster for a meeting requires a serious amount of preparation. There are an awful lot of moving parts in a meeting. Compared to running a contest though, it’s nothing. The number of moving parts easily doubles, and they move in ways that can’t always be predicted.

Here’s how I managed the International Speakers Contest and Evaluation Contest for Casterbridge Speakers in 2016.

Before the contest

I started by splitting up the organisation needed before the meeting into three main strands: roles, contestants, and paperwork.

Paperwork

I was given a free pass when one of the club members (Andy Pettman) volunteered to help organise the contest. This is something that can be evaluated for the Competent Leadership manual (I think it’s Project 6), so it’s worth asking if anyone in the club is willing to give you a hand.

Andy took on the task of making sure we had all of the paperwork arranged, which included getting hold of forms for eligibility, judging, counting and results, as well as printing out the certificates for participants and winners. Having someone take that off my plate made everything more manageable.

Contestants

Ideally, you want to have several competitors — four or more — in each contest. Apart from making a more interesting contest, it also avoids the conundrum of having to tell someone (or let it be easily deduced) that they came last. We had three evaluators and four International Speakers, and could probably have done more to strong-arm people into participating.

We reminded people at meetings to sign up, and we mentioned it in the email newsletter, but we certainly weren’t banging on people’s doors saying “YOU! You ought to take part.”

Once you have people signed up, you can send them the contest rules, as well as some forms to fill out. We emailed out the eligibility forms and biographical details sheets ahead of time, so that contestants could fill them out before the meeting. Meanwhile, I checked that everyone was eligible for their contests, just in case they tried to slip anything past me.

We also encouraged speakers to give us their titles (or, better yet, put them on the website themselves) before the meeting, so I had a chance to practice introducing the speakers. Luckily, nobody had thrown in a tongue-twisting title this time.

Roles

The two key roles for a contest are the contest chair and the chief judge. It pays to recruit the chief judge well in advance, and work with him or her to arrange several other judges for each contest. You also need two timekeepers, a sergeant-at-arms and a couple of counters, all of whom need to be neutral.

Lastly, if it’s an evaluation contest, you need a “target speaker” to be evaluated. The sooner you arrange this, the less stressful it becomes. Ideally an exchange with a neighbouring club or clubs works best, but it depends if they are willing. We were in a tight spot with a couple of days to go and only rescued by one of our members (Andrew Knowles) stepping up to the plate to speak at short notice.

Contest chair!

Then there was my personal preparation.

I’ve tried running meetings directly from the agenda, but find that I continually lose my place and get flustered. Instead, I make up index cards before the meeting saying things like

“Sergeant at arms opens meeting, passes directly into President’s Introduction, who hands over to me.

  • Explain agenda
  • Explain clapping/shaking hands
  • Warm-up question: [whatever the warm-up question is]
  • Introduce timekeeper
  • Introduce grammarian”

I have one card for each time I’m on stage, numbered in case I drop them or they get out of order. They help me. Your approach may differ!

Two of Colin's notecards for chairing a contest

There are a couple of wrinkles to the system on contest night. The main one being that I don’t know until the briefing who is going to speak first. That’s easily managed though. I can simply have a card for each speech and arrange them into the right order once I know what’s happening.

The other major wrinkle is that there’s a gap in proceedings while the counters leave the room. You can stand there and twiddle your thumbs, furiously ad-libbing, or you can set up some table topics, which I did.

I also needed to come up with some interview questions. Interviewing is something I’m working on at the moment, and it’s not something I’ve often seen done well at contests. The contestants have been through a stressful time, so you want to make it as easy as possible for them.

My structure was to have a handful of open-ended questions about the contestants and their speeches that I could ask to anyone. You can supplement them with any ideas springing up out of the speech itself or the biographical information. Things like “how was that different to a regularly-scheduled speech?”, “what inspired you to enter the contest?” and “how do you structure your speeches?” are always questions that are answerable for the contestant and (hopefully) interesting for the audience.

On the day

On the day, getting the speakers together for the briefing (“These are the rules and requirements for any protests. This is how the lights work. Pick a card for order of speaking. Any questions?”) is the main thing to do before the meeting starts. Naturally, you’ll want to check in with everyone doing a role and make sure they know how everything is going to go down. For example, you want to make sure someone, usually a timekeeper, is in charge of filling out the winners’ certificates and ensuring you have them at the appropriate time.

If I’ve done the preparation right, the contest itself should just be a case of showing up and following the directions on the cards. Of course, it’s never that simple. I need to do all of the Good MC stuff like maintain eye-contact and avoid ums, and there’s always scope for something to go wrong. (I have a bad habit of forgetting to give the judges time to do their scoring, for instance, and it throws me briefly when I’m reminded.)

One of the reasons I find being Contest Chair exhausting is that the role requires being on one’s feet much more than the Toastmaster role does. The Toastmaster is forever handing over to Presidents and Topics Masters and Grammarians. On contest day, I think it’s the case that, Sergeant-at-Arms excepted, the Chair and the contestants are the only people who speak from the stage.

Although it’s exhausting, it’s also extremely rewarding! Almost as rewarding as sitting down with a cup of tea once it’s over, and smiling at the thought you won’t have to do it again for (hopefully) several years.