The ‘Fall’ of Casterbridge

Autumn was the theme of the meeting on October 15th and it was a heart warming evening, ‘toasted’ by our very own President Pigg. Although some members are falling by the wayside, the spring of new growth is never far away, as a new member joined. Do you know of any budding potential members?

Paul Hutchings rehearsed his humorous speech in preparation for the Divisional contest on Sunday 19th. He will be competing against clubs from across the South. Steve Graham will also be representing the club in Table Topics. We wish them both every success.

Anya Di Iongh gave a very different advanced speech on a fact finding report and got us thinking and questioning about how we assess the NHS prior to drastic changes being made. Would you value anecdotes on social media from patients, who have real expereince of the service, or the methodical scientific reports of the medical experts?

Rosie Barfoot delivered a dramatic speech from the Entertaining Speaker manual, entitled ‘With Everything at Steak’ and gave an emotional account of how BSE impacted on her and the farming community.

Despite very strong competition, Dryden Pennington won best Table Topics with a tongue-in-cheek view of how he would (or wouldn’t!) entertain a bunch of 10 year olds on a wet autumn afternoon. There will be no calls for him to baby-sit!



Speaking for a Laugh

If you want to have a riotous evening, then come along on Wednesday September 17th to the Wessex Royale Hotel at 7.15 pm for our annual Humorous Speech and Table Topics Competition. Members will be competing for the club prize in these two categories.

The Humorous speech needs to be 5 – 7 minutes and is not a series of jokes, but a prepared speech with a humorous content. Table Topics requires contestants to speak for 1- 2 minutes on a subject they will be given just beforehand. This demonstrates the skill of quick thinking, impromptu speaking.

The winners will then go forward to represent the Club at Area later in the month and, hopefully, Divisional level in October.


Division J Spring Contest 2014

The 2014 International Speech and Evaluation Contests are now complete at Area level with the fantastic result that both winners are from Casterbridge Speakers.

042040So, well done Rosie Barfoot (International Speech) and Rachel Knowles (Evaluation) for a truly inspirational performance on Saturday’s event held at the Sturminster Marshall Golf Club.

Now, on to the next level, the Division J contest which will be held on Sunday 27th April at

St Georges Church Hall
Andover Road
Newbury, RG14 6NU

Entry will be £10 which includes tea/coffee and a ticket for the raffle.

The event will run from 12:30 until 16:30 and members are requested to book via this link


Please circulate this flyer to anyone who may be interested in attending the contest as a guest.

Please note: As both contestants from Area 42 will be from Casterbridge Speakers, no members of this club are allowed to be chief judge, tie-breaking judge or voting judge. You are however invited to volunteer for other roles such as counter and timekeeper.

Rosie and Rachel are representing all members of Casterbridge Speakers and will need our support to reach the next level which is the District 71 final to be held at the Royal Marine Hotel Dún Laoghaire, Ireland on 9th to 11th May 2014.

Please let a member of the committee know as soon as you can if you are able to attend the division contest so that we can make travel arrangements. A large contingent from the area, especially Casterbridge Speakers, will be appreciated by Rosie and Rachel I’m sure.


Club Committee – Roles and Responsibilities

Below you’ll find a list of links to more details about each of the roles performed on the Casterbridge Speakers club committee. These have been written up by the present incumbents to the role so are close to the ‘reality’ as it’s possible to give. If you are interested in taking on a role then why not talk to the person doing the job currently as they’ll be able to give you even more information and show you some of the actions you would need to take. Continue reading


Speaking Up with Confidence

1463127_670040283026375_1258960348_nThe ability to speak confidently in public is an important skill for everyone in business.  Whether delivering a presentation, networking, or making a sales pitch, the impact we have on our audience makes the difference between success and failure.  In particular, small businesses rely on presentation skills to boost business growth, whether that’s talking one to one to clients or presenting to groups – it’s what makes us different to the next guy.  It’s the way we connect and the way we sell.

Fear of public speaking is well known.  How do you feel standing in front of a large audience?  You might expect to be experiencing a range of stress reactions … increased heart rate, dry mouth, or worst case scenario the brain going in to shut down to allow the flight or fight response.  Research indicates that a significant factor is a fear of people making a judgement about us based on our presentation.  The more we believe we will be judge unfavourably the greater our stress reaction will be.  So many of us either avoid public speaking all together or feel varying degrees of fear when we stand in front of an audience.

What the benefits are to you and your business in speaking up with greater confidence?

  • promoting your business by taking up guest speaking slots
  • confidently delivering that all important speech or sales pitch
  • communicating with confidence at networking events

Is it possible to attribute a financial benefit to this?  What are you losing by not promoting your business, by letting nerves get in the way of delivering a powerful sales pitch, by not speaking up with confidence at networking events?

Confident, skilled presenters are not born, they are made and it takes a lot of practice; the right kind of practice.  As with any skill development, practice has to be purposeful.  There is no short cut to being a proficient and confident public speaker.  Some people may appear on the surface to be natural public speakers but they will have been exposed to great mentors, the right kind of feedback and to plenty of practice.  Others have to create these conditions for themselves and that can be challenging.  How do you start to practice so that you can build up more confidence?

Casterbridge Speakers is based in Dorchester and is affiliated to Toastmasters International.  We meet on the 1st & 3rd Wednesday of every month at the Wessex Royal Hotel in Dorchester between 7.15 – 9.30pm.

If you are in the group that avoids public speaking at all costs, as a member you will get the opportunity to practice in a relaxed and friendly environment; you will be with others who understand how you are feeling; and you will get a real sense of learning together.

If you are in the group that knows they could do it better, as a member you will get targeted feedback and be able to practice those elements that you know are weaknesses, you will get mentoring support and you will enjoy the process of learning with others.

If you are in the group that already thinks you are great at it, as a member you will get honest feedback and recommendations about how to be even better and you will have the opportunity to enter national and international competitions to prove just how good you are!

Don’t let the fear of public speaking negatively impact either your business or your personal life.  You can with purposeful practice learn to control those unhelpful stress reactions, those shaking hands, those sweaty palms, that loudly beating heart.  You can with purposeful practice prepare and deliver a professional speech and you can with purposeful practice connect in a meaningful way with your audience.

To find out more about becoming a member visit our website and come along as a guest.



Caroline Brewer, Casterbridge Speakers President


Let’s get to know each other?

On 16th October 2013, our very own Natalie Haigh, took on the role of TopicsMaster at The Achievers Toastmasters in Marbella.

The Topicsmaster chairs a session of impromptu speaking topics.  The purpose is to help members think on their feet, by speaking without notice on subjects for 1 to 2 minutes each. It also allows speaking opportunities for those not scheduled for other roles on the Agenda.


Natalie decided it was a brilliant opportunity to get to know those in the club a bit better by sharing some things about herself.  This is what she shared!

How might you have answered the questions in one to two minutes?

“I’d like to get to know you all a bit better and what better way to do this than asking some very personal questions. To try and get away which such forwardness, I’m going to steal a formula from a UK TV show called ‘Blind Date’ presented by Cilla Black. I’m going to tell you something personal about me in the hope that you’ll be willing to exchange your own secrets… let’s start with an easy one…

1: I’ve often been compared to a butterfly because I never sit still for very long. What creature would you be compared with and why…?

2: People are often surprised at what I do for a living since I don’t really fit the stereotype. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. What is there about you that surprises others…?

3: One of my favourite things about the invention of the Kindle is that people can’t see what you’re reading. This means I can re-read Pride and Prejudice again and again without judgement. What’s your hidden guilty pleasure…?

4: As much as I want to and am trying to learn Spanish whenever a stranger talks to me in this language I don’t understand I come over all panicky and normally try to make a quick exit. What is it that fills you with fear & dread…?

5: My toughest year so far was when I was the IT manager at a German factory. But I never learnt so much so fast. What the most challenging job you’ve ever had…?

6: Although I like to think of myself as being helpful, I have been told that my eagerness to offer advice isn’t always welcome.  What’s your most annoying habit…?

7. My favourite sport is rock climbing and I’ve arranged my work and life to allow me plenty of time to do this. If you could make extra time in your life how would you spend it… ?

8. I’m really lucky to do voluntary work occasionally and support charities through my work as well. What causes are close to your heart…?

9. My closest friends are all very different, but they have some things important things in common like honesty and a good sense of humour. What’s your favourite quality in other people… ?

10. I was very proud to win a dance competition one in my life, especially as I am the least coordinated amongst my sisters. Don’t get too excited about it though as I was only 7 and it was at a holiday camp! Do you have any hidden talents… ?

Concluding remarks

Thank you for those interesting and honest accounts. I certainly feel that I’ve got to know some of you a bit better and I look forward to finding out more… “


Goal Setting & Planning with Caroline Brewer

00300bcCaroline Brewer, President of Casterbridge Speakers 2013/4 selected ‘Goal Setting and Planning’ from the Leadership Excellence Series for the Education Slot 6th November.

It is Caroline firm belief that the club will be even more successful if we all take individual responsibility for our own achievements.  To do this we each need to be clear about what we want to get from Toastmasters and set the appropriate goals and plans to achieve it.  The objective for this session, therefore, is to encourage everyone to set their own goals for speaking and leadership and to plan how these are going to be achieved.

As a club we measure our success against the targets within the Distinguished Club Programme (DCP).  There are a number of areas within the DCP for which we achieve points, including administration, membership and education.  Last year we achieved the status of President’s Distinguished Club, which meant attaining 9 out of a possible 10 targets, there were only 20 clubs that achieved this last year.

it is Caroline’s aim is to achieve the status for a second year; a challenging task in consecutive years! One of the targets is for four members to achieve their Competent Communicators (CC) award.  Two of our current members should complete their ten speeches quite easily, then have 6 members on projects 5 or 6.  It will require a bit of a planning ahead of the June 2014 deadline, assuming these members wish to complete this year.  However, whilst we want to encourage all of our members to achieve club goals, we do recognise it’s important they do it at the pace that suits them.

Goals and Plans

In the session we used the analogy of a map, deciding where you are now, where you want to get to and importantly how you want to get there.  If you are in a ‘motor car’ the main road is the quickest and most effective, but if you are on foot you may wish to take a different route and will certainly take a lot longer to get there!  It is very much about personal choice, but without the map and being able to answer those 3 questions there is a strong chance you won’t get to your destination and will give up all together.

The D71 website gives you the opportunity to see exactly where you are at the moment (through “My speech progress” and “My CL progress”), you can add your goals into both of these sections by clicking the appropriate button in the top right of both screens.

In the session we emphasised the value of SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound).  Goals don’t need to be complex and wordy they can be simple, e.g. “to achieve my CC by completing 4 speeches by May 2014”. 

Our VP Education, Steve Graham, uses these goals as a guide to planning the meetings.  An individual who has indicated they are on the proverbial ‘motorway’ will be given additional speaking slots to the individual who has indicated they intend to take the scenic route.

We have a mentoring structure designed to support you to achieve what you want to get from coming to Toastmasters.  Your mentor will be delighted to discuss your goals with you, to sense check them, to challenge you to achieve them and to suggest things to do if you get stuck.  Mentoring is a crucial element of leadership and Toastmasters is about developing your leadership skills as well as your speaking skills.  As a club we have a fantastic pool of talented speakers and you can seek advice and support from anyone of them if you have a specific issue you think they can help you with, but think of your assigned mentor as your first port of call, a trusted friend.

Caroline concludes “As President this year my vision is for a thriving, growing club, where everyone is enthused about their own development journey and where there is evidence of lots of support and encouragement, so that even the newest and shyest of members finds their true voice.”


To Err is Human – with Chris Stanbury

This is Chris Stanbury’s second speech from the Competent Communications manual.

Good speech organisation is essential if your audience is to follow and understand your presentation.  You must take the time to put your ideas together in an orderly manner.  You can organise your speech in several different ways.

The objectives for project number two are:  to select an appropriate outline which allows listeners to easily follow and understand your speech.  Make the message clear, with supporting material directly contributing to that message.  Create a strong opening and conclusion using appropriate transitions when moving from one idea to another.


Talking On Air

Steve Bulley, the managing director of Wessex FM is committed to supporting local community activities.

205071_200936296596177_4196919_nOn Wednesday 16th October he is joining the Casterbridge Speakers to simulate a radio talk show to help Laura McHarrie complete an advance communicators assignment.

The Talk Radio show has become popularsafe_image with thousands airing daily around the world.  Our local award winning Wessex FM  attracts new listeners year on year with its combination of witty presenters, local news and community interest.

There are three types of talk shows

Advice:  where the host introduces an expert in a particular field and listeners call in to get answers to their related questions.

Controversial: where the host invites one or more guests to discuss a contentious issue and the host moderates the discussion.

Feature: where the host invites a guest to discuss current events.  The host serves as an interviewer.

The last of these forms the project assignment that Laura McHarrie will be offering for evaluation at the Casterbridge Speakers meeting on the 16th October.  As the vice president for public relations for the club, she was delighted when Steve Bulley agreed to be the host.

“The actual project suggests you ask another member to take on the role but … it seemed like too good a publicity exercise to miss out on a local radio presenter actually asking the questions.

Laura explains.  “Since my performance will be evaluated by another member of the club, everyone will get to learn something from what I did well and what I might do differently ‘next’ time.

Anyone interested in what tips they might pick up, is welcome to come along.  There is no charge.

Casterbridge Speakers Club, founded in 2008, is affiliated to Toastmasters International. It is dedicated to improving your public speaking, communication and leadership skills in a friendly and supportive environment.  Each meeting provides a fun programme for those who are complete beginners at public speaking. Yet it also challenges more advanced speakers to hone the skills they already possess.

Casterbridge Speakers meets on the first and third Wednesdays of every month at the Wessex Royale Hotel in High West Street Dorchester.  Our meeting times are 7.15pm – 9.30pm,

You can also find out more information by sending an email to info@casterbridgespeakers.org.uk or by calling 0843 289 2142.