International Speech Contest Round-up, March 2016

Bev Hepting (left): winner, Evaluation Contest; Colin Beveridge (centre): contest chair; Caroline Brewer (right): winner, International Speech Contest

Bev Hepting (left): winner, Evaluation Contest; Colin Beveridge (centre): contest chair; Caroline Brewer (right): winner, International Speech Contest

She used to dread public speaking. Those days have changed. Last Wednesday, at the Casterbridge Speakers branch of Toastmasters International, Caroline Brewer explained her journey from a terrified talker to a terrific one, beating three other speakers in the club’s prestigious International Speech Contest. The main theme of her “One Thought” speech, the power of the human mind, was coincidentally echoed in several of the other talks: Rosie Barfoot‘s demonstration of the power of innovation, Bev Hepting‘s “Equation of Life” about dealing with chronic pain, and Dave Smith‘s description of his father’s life journey.

Caroline and Rosie progress to the Area contest at Ferndown Village Hall on March 20th, competing with speakers from around Dorset. The winners of that are two speeches away from the World Speaking Championship in Las Vegas.

The club also held an Evaluation contest, in which Andrew Knowles spoke about the “Golden Age of Computer Gaming”. Bev Hepting, Guy Kerr and Dave Smith all gave clear and constructive feedback. However, Bev’s evaluation was judged the winner and Guy will join her in the next round of the contest at Ferndown.

Casterbridge Speakers meet at the Wessex Royale Hotel in Dorchester on the first and third Wednesdays of every month at 7:30pm. Whether you’re preparing for a wedding speech, looking to improve your work presentations, or to develop your leadership skills, you’ll be made extremely welcome.

For more information about visiting Casterbridge Speakers, please contact Club President Rosie Barfoot on 01305 261540 or rosiebarfoot@btconnect.com


Getting New Members Off To A Good Start

As with any new journey, the first few steps are crucial.  We want every new member to Toastmasters to feel welcomed and to settle in as quickly as possible to how things work at Casterbridge Speakers.  We follow a simple four-step approach:-

  1. Every new member is assigned an initial mentor to help them during their first 6 months at the club.  Click here for more information about mentoring
  2. Every new member has a set-up meeting with either the VP Education and / or their mentor to discuss his/her needs and expectations, including accessing the Getting Started part of the club’s website.  Click here for topics covered on Getting Started
  3. Get them speaking – every new member is encouraged to schedule their icebreaker speech as soon as possible.  We have an informal goal of three speeches within the first 6 months
  4. Get them taking on leadership roles – every new member is encouraged to review the leadership track / Competent Leader Manual and to take on meeting roles as early as they can.  We learn by doing and by getting feedback and evaluation.  Click here for a summary of meeting roles

Tall Tales Contest Round-up: December 2015

Every year, we have four contests at Casterbridge Speakers: in the spring, we have the International Speakers contest (where an inspirational speaker can progress through the rounds as far as the worldwide Toastmasters convention) and the Evaluation contest (where a guest speaker is evaluated by several different people); and in the autumn, we have the Humorous Speakers and Table Topics contests.

These aren’t the only contests a Toastmasters club can run, though. The website also lists ‘Tall Tales’ as a possible category. As the last meeting in December is generally a good place to try something new, and as Christmas itself is full of far-fetched stories (seriously, who sends 40 gold rings?), we decided to run one of these at the end of 2015.

A tall tale — for the purposes of the contest, at least — is an exaggerated, usually humorous story, told as if it were true, a description that leaves an awful lot of wiggle-room, and which our contestants exploited fully.

First up was Bev Hepting, whose speech Never Be Awake When Santa Comes To Call explained the real story of Santa — that is to say, Santandino, a destroyer of worlds allowed out only once a year. Bev took the brave decision to accept the Anya Challenge in a contest and give a speech sitting down. Carefully crafted and strongly delivered, Bev’s speech put down an intimidating marker for those who followed.

She was followed by The One That Got Away by Andrew Knowles, who interpreted the thought process of a fish called Verity as it came to terms with a stupendous idea, following sidetrack after sidetrack, pursuing the meaning of words and quite closely mirroring my process when I have a good idea. Andrew’s passion for etymology and the structure of language shone through in a neatly-packaged speech with some great comic moments.

Dave Smith‘s speech, A Walk On The Wild Side followed a family trek on a day so windy one might get blown away. For me, one of Dave’s greatest strengths is his animated style, and his vocal variety added a great deal to his story.

Finally, Rosie Barfoot told a story of the grim industrial north, with fishermen on the canal watching a hat go back and forth. I don’t remember ever seeing a better speech than It’s In’t Hat (other opinions may, of course, differ); from the sheer poetry of Rosie’s language to the magnificent punchline, the room was hooked. What topped it all (for me) was that she managed to make the entire absurd situation completely believable — an absolute masterclass in storytelling.

The judges — who, in this case, were the whole of the room — voted that the top two were:

  1. Rosie Barfoot
  2. Bev Hepting

It’s harsh when you have more than one excellent speech in a contest, because they can’t all win (and if anyone ever mentions Star Wars to me again, I’ll tell you all about it). It’s also harsh when there’s no Area contest for winners to go on to: I’d have backed the winners to go all the way.


How to evaluate to motivate

Flex those BICEPS for FAB evaluations!

Rachel Knowles with flipchart giving evaluate to motivate educational slot

Rachel shares how to evaluate to motivate

“Do I look okay? I’ve got an important interview and I need to know if I look okay.”
“Do I look okay? I’m looking for some advice here. Is there anything I could do to present myself better?”
Eventually I got some feedback: “I love the hat!” “You might like to try a different t-shirt.” “Change your trousers!”
What I was looking for was an evaluation – an assessment – of my appearance.

At Toastmasters, we evaluate everything. When someone gives a speech, another Toastmaster evaluates their performance. We work hard to make sure that our evaluations motivate the speaker to improve, not to give up and go home in dismay.

Why do we evaluate?

Evaluation helps speakers to:

The benefits of evaluation for speakers

Benefits of evaluation for speakers

Evaluation helps evaluators to:

Benefits of evaluation for evaluators

Benefits of evaluation for evaluators

FAB evaluations

Good evaluations should be FAB:

F is for  Feedback

An evaluation gives the speaker the opportunity to receive an immediate reaction to their speech.

A is for Advice

A good evaluation should include suggestions about how we could do things better or different ideas that we could try.

B is for Build up

The best evaluations build up self-esteem by praising what was good and giving useful suggestions for improvement in a sensitive manner that encourages the person being evaluated to become a better speaker.

How can we evaluate more effectively?

I want to encourage you to flex your BICEPS – yes, another acronym to help us remember what makes a good evaluation.

B is for BE PREPARED. This means knowing which project the speaker is presenting and what their personal objectives are. To evaluate my outfit effectively, you needed to know what sort of interview I was going to and when.

I is for INTEREST. To receive your feedback in the right way, the speaker needs to know that you are genuinely interested in them and in helping them to improve. If I know you really care, then I can more readily accept your suggestions. Recommendations without interest come across as criticism. If I knew you wanted me to do well at my interview, then I would know that you would give me the best advice you could.

C is for CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY. Your evaluation is your opinion, so use phrases such as: “I really liked the way you…” and “I would have liked to see” and “I suggest that…” to own your evaluation. Try to avoid phrases like: “You didn’t…” and “You should have…” and that little word that has a habit of creeping into evaluations: “but”.
If you told me you didn’t like my hat, I might not take it very well. (Actually it’s not mine at all – I borrowed it!) However, if you told me that in your opinion I would look better without the hat, I would be more ready to accept your advice.

E is for EVALUATE THE SPEECH TO ENCOURAGE. Evaluate the speech, not the person. And don’t forget what you are trying to do – to give feedback that will encourage the speaker to improve. I needed you to evaluate the way I looked in terms of things I could change, not my height or the size of my nose!

P is for PROMOTE SELF-ESTEEM and always have a POSITIVE ENDING. Remember to praise the good things the speaker has done and always end on a positive note. Advice should always be mixed with praise. If you had simply told me that I looked awful, then I might have given up going to the interview altogether.

S is for SUGGESTIONS. An effective evaluation will have recommendations otherwise it will fail to stimulate the speaker to improve. Even if you feel there is no obvious need for improvement, suggest something different that the speaker could try. Clearly my outfit was perfect for the interview (!) but you could have suggested I try a different t-shirt or a pair of heels instead of my trainers.

When you next take on the role of evaluator, remember to flex your BICEPS:
Be prepared and be
Choose your words carefully
Evaluate the speech not the speaker
Promote self-esteem
Suggest some improvements

That way, it will be a FAB evaluation with effective Feedback and good Advice which Builds the speaker up and helps them to improve.

Choose your words carefully


Recent Questions From Ice-Breaker to Competition Rules

The strength of the club is being able to ask more experienced members how to solve problems or answer questions. The philosophy of Toastmasters is learning by doing and you can research the answers from a variety of resources.

Here are two recent questions from a new member wanting to do their first speech to an experienced member wanting to know more about competitions, who researched the answer for himself.

How do I sign up for my ice-breaker speech?

A: If you go to http://toastmasterclub.org/ and sign in, you should see “My participation” in the navigation bar. Hover over that and click “Sign up for meetings”. Below ‘Confirm attendance’ you should see a ‘Request speech’ button; click that and a new window should pop up.

Type in your title (TBC is fine if you don’t have one yet, you can come back in and change it later.)

Click ‘Select a workbook’ — if you can see ‘Competent Communicator’ in the workbook table, click it; if not, you may need to start a new workbook from the drop-down first: pick Competent Communicator. You should then see a menu of speeches; click on the radio-button next to ‘Ice-Breaker.’

Lastly, go to the ‘Preferred dates’ tab and select three possible dates, ideally ones for which the meeting isn’t full!

Click the save button in the top right corner, and you’re done.

Colin Beveridge, Vice President of Membership

What happens if a contestant is absent for the relevant competition briefing?

A.  If the primary contestant is absent for the relevant competition briefing, the alternate speaker (if present) is permitted to attend the briefing in place of the primary contestant.

The Competition Rules go on to say:

  1. If the primary contestant is not present when the person conducting the contest is introduced, the primary contestant is disqualified and the alternate officially becomes the contestant.
  2. Should the primary contestant arrive after the briefing but before the person conducting the contest is introduced, the primary contestant is permitted to compete, provided the primary contestant:
  3. a) Reports to the contest chair upon his/her arrival.
  4. b) Has all required paperwork in good order before the person conducting the contest is introduced to begin the contest.
  5. c) Waives the opportunity of a briefing.

Douglas Pigg, Treasurer



Tenacity In Action!

How do voluntary groups and organisations thrive and grow? One answer to this question is undoubtedly through the tenacity of their members.

Tenacity is one of Casterbridge Speakers Club’s values – “working determinedly to deliver agreed personal goals, club roles and the club’s success plan”. It was also the theme of  last night’s meeting and we experienced tenacity by the bucket load. We had new members speaking for the first time, and despite their nerves, receiving rapturous applause and heartfelt support. In fact, Siobhán Davis won best Table Topic speech.

We had members stepping proficiently into roles to cover for last minute sickness absence. Rachel Knowles delivered an inspirational education slot, by  In true tenacious fashion; having accessed the network’s training resources, she added her very own spin on it with humour and relevance. This led to her being presented with the evening’s Golden Nugget award.

Casterbridge Speakers Club is affiliated to Toastmasters International. We learn to be better leaders and communicators by practice and feedback. Evaluation is a key element of the process, and unlike many evaluations in the workplace, it is never judgemental. People are given suggestions about how they can improve their speech or performance in a role. Andrew Knowles gave Christine Wallach a great piece of advice about how she might increase the impact of her speech’s opening and ending by tying the two together. We all learned from his neat and thoughtful suggestion. Rosie Barfoot learnt that she could increase her impact on the audience by avoiding the pull to lean on the lectern. Of course I continue to learn that my ‘umms and errs’ in certain situations run wild and need to be better managed!!

Toastmasters is a journey of education and development. At Casterbridge Speakers, we are seeing individuals and the club go from strength to strength. The tenacity and commitment of our individual members is at the heart of that growth and our success. And it helps that we have a lot of fun doing it!

Caroline Brewer

General Evaluator 21/10/15


Try This – Presenting with Fun

It may come as a surprise to you that presenting a speech can be fun. Yet that was the message at a recent free workshop delivered by two members of Casterbridge Speakers for Try This Dorchester. Rosie Barfoot, President, and Beverly Hepting, Vice President of PR, explained how the thought of public speaking fills many people with fear or dread, but that it doesn’t have to be like that. The workshop allowed participants to actually practice and have some fun. There is no better way to learn presentation skills than by doing and getting constructive feedback.

What participants wanted to learn

  • Finding the fun in presenting
  • Some useful tips to improve their presentations
  • How to improve voice projection
  • Avoiding looking nervous

Finding the fun

We are what we think. If you are telling yourself that ‘you hate presentations’ or ‘you’re a nervous wreck when you present’, guess what you get. The beliefs that we carry will influence our performance. The key is to change your mindset. The first part of the word confidence is ‘con’, so con your brain into believing you love giving presentation. Then fake it ‘til you make it.




  • Preparation – do your research of what your audience wants to hear and what you need to say to deliver that.
  • Purpose – have a clear purpose to inform, inspire, entertain, or whatever
  • Practice – practice, practice, and polish
  • Passion – if you are not passionate about your topic, why should they be?
  • Perform – be larger than life whilst still being real
  • Project – use your voice so people can hear you.

How to improve voice projection

The key to good voice projection is breathing. It pays to breathe! Unfortunately when we are nervous, we tend to breathe shallowly in our upper chest. This can prevent good projection. As your confidence grows, so can your voice.

It is also about visualising throwing your voice to the furthest member of the audience. I recommend getting a voice coach to help you, if this is a problem for you.


How to avoid looking nervous

If you can keep good confident eye contact with members of your audience, you will look less nervous, despite what might be going on for you internally. Keep focused on them.

Focus and build on the qualities you do have as a speaker and be confident.



Some Do’s and Don’ts of Presenting

From feedback they had on the workshop, participants created a list of do’s & don’ts.


  • Listen to what your audience wants to hear
  • Have a clear brief with timings
  • Do your research – get the information
  • Set the scene and expectations
  • Bring humour into what you say and do
  • Use words to create a picture
  • Have a steady pace – vary your speed and use pauses for impact
  • Be grounded with a good stance
  • Have good eye contact with the whole audience – involve them
  • Smile and use appropriate facial expressions
  • Use vocal variety to add emphasis and drama
  • Use meaningful hand and body gestures to express meaning
  • Have the knowledge of the subject
  • Be credible and confident
  • Be courageous enough not to use notes
  • Tell a story or take your audience on a journey
  • End with a bang and not a whimper


  • Tell (talk at) or patronise
  • Miss people out with eye contact
  • Speak too quietly
  • Turn away from the audience when speaking
  • Speak too quickly
  • Go into your head for ideas and disengage from the audience
  • Apologise for forgetting to say something or for not being very good at public speaking
  • Sway from side to side
  • Have distracting hand gestures

Whatever your reason for presenting a speech, whether for work, pleasure or an important occasion, you can make it fun, if you choose to.





Contest Judging Help Sheets

When we are judging it sometimes feels like we need an explanation of the criteria. Well, there is a very handy explanation just on the reverse of the form (assuming it was printed correctly). However, even that seems inadequate sometimes and further explanation or more to the point, simplification is needed. It would also be nice to have somewhere to take notes on each contestant.

Here are some ‘help sheets’ which can be used during contest. Use one per contestant and then use this to transfer the score to your official judging sheet – make sure you sign this one!

Autumn Contest

Humorous Speech Contest

Table Topics Contest

Spring Contest

International Speech Contest

Evaluation Contest

These help sheets were originally produced by Teresa Dukes.

Remember, the only objective in Judging is to find a winner and doing so fairly and based on the criteria NOT personal feelings about the speech subject or the speaker is essential.


Courage, Confidence and Competence for Change

‘It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory’ W.R. Deming

Change is essential for survival. Leadership is about gaining the engagement of people to make those changes happen. It requires courage, confidence and competence to leave the norm and step outside your comfort zone. (Reference: Engaging Change by Mark Wilcox and Mark Jenkins). It’s when you leave your comfort zone, that magic happens.  At last night’s meeting, we had three major changes.

1. Room Layout

Our thanks go to Dryden Pennington, who arranged with the hotel to change the room layout to include tables. This was an idea that came from a recent training day and Dryden had the courage of his convictions to give it a go.

It was interesting to see the reaction as people entered the room. This was not the normal theatre style and the comfort zone had been challenged. The tables enabled people to have their drinks safely to hand. Writing notes as an evaluator was easier and I certainly found it helped to organise all the materials I needed for my roles. It also brought the time keeper into the meeting more.

The layout was not perfect, and as with any change; it would be easy to slip back to the way things were. It is about now as a team being creative to make the change work, as there are real advantages to having tables there.

2. Mentoring

One of the greatest benefits of being part of Casterbridge Speakers is the opportunity to be mentored and be a mentor. Where else can you have a free quality mentor for speMentoringaking and leadership skills?

Instead of Table Topics, members partnered up with their mentor and worked on their goals for the coming year. This still required impromptu speaking, listening and thinking on your feet. It was fantastic to hear the buzz in the room. The feedback was that many found it highly beneficial to share their thoughts with another and one or two felt truly inspired.

 Benefits of being mentored

  • Tap into the knowledge of another to aid progress
  • Turn knowledge, feedback and ideas into practical application
  • Increase confidence and sense of self worth
  • Having the support for your ideas aids motivation
  • Feel more part of the team and understand roles

Table Topics will resume, but having the occasional mentoring session instead proved highly beneficial.

3. Golden Nugget Award

The Golden Nugget Award was started last night to recognise the person who has gone the extra mile. As Laura McHarrie, our Area Director, says ‘Tiny things matter’ and there are people in a meeting that introduce small changes that make a real difference.This award is to recognise someone who has made a difference above and beyond the norm, as selected by the General Evaluator. Golden Nugget Award

Our first winner is Andrew Knowles for his excellent and humorous explanation of being a time keeper and then implementing the role perfectly. Being able to understand, explain and deliver your role requires a number of key skills. How well do people in the workplace manage this?

Getting Engaged

Casterbridge Speakers is an amazing club because its members have the courage, confidence and competence (and humour) to challenge the norm, try something new and make it work. Thank you for getting engaged.


Your President’s Goals

Our thanks go to Laura McHarrie, Area Director, for organising Club Officer Training Day on Saturday 25th July. The programme set out Laura’s vision for her year in office with the focus on tiny things that matter. The training day gave us time to chat with members of Chaseside, Ferndown and Hallmark Clubs, which is always valuable. This created various ideas and shared best practice.

One of the things we were asked was; if there was a fire what would you rush back in to save from your Club? My answer was the humour. Dryden suggested the ice breaker manual. Some things that matter are tangible and others intangible. What would you want to save?

We were also tasked to say what advice we would give a new club setting up. The answers from the three mixed groups gave quite different perspectives, which I believe Laura will be sharing with us. What advice would you give?

Another strategic task was to identify the key components of the different roles. Our group worked on President and this was our response, so I have set myself a challenge to deliver this!

  • See the Club as a business and run it professionally
  • Encourage mentoring and goal setting
  • Create teamwork and listen to what your team says
  • Encourage new members to take on roles at meetings
  • Enable members to achieve their goals
  • Deliver excellent customer service
  • Uphold processes and procedures
  • Be prepared to take a risk and adapt meetings occasionally
  • Sell the benefits of Toastmasters at every opportunity
  • Help the club to grow
  • Be a role model and demonstrate the values and qualities
  • Be a resource and offer help when needed
  • Set expectations through the vision and values
  • Make a difference and create a legacy by leaving the club stronger at the end of your term. In my case, I want to improve the judging of competitions. (more later)
  • Show good governance and transparency e.g. accounts

I call on you, my team, to help me achieve this, as I cannot do it alone. I also need you to give me feedback on how you think I am doing.

You can start by signing up for a role at the next meeting, if you haven’t already; and thinking about what speaker and leadership goals you will set yourself for the coming year .