30 Mar 16 Extra Meeting: EU discussion

By Paola K


2016-03-30-300This meeting was one of the club’s special extra fifth Wednesday meetings. They are crafted for Toastmasters, however, the meetings don’t follow the usual format. Every one of our fifth Wednesday meetings is different.

There were two main sessions this time. The first to get used to pauses by inviting Toastmasters to bring prepared speeches of just 15 words to be delivered in a minute.

The second session was themed around the EU referendum. Two Toastmasters delivered prepared speeches on remaining in and leaving the EU. There was then a 25-minute discussion moderated as an advanced communication project.

The meeting was live-tweeted by Jacqui H. A first for the club and a big success.

A planning committee was formed to organise the event. The committee was chaired by Paola K and comprised Ann M, Ruth M and Jordan S.

The objectives of the meeting were:

  • Provide an environment in which club members can practice and communication and leadership skills
  • Strengthen relations with surrounding Toastmasters clubs
  • Promote the club to the local community
  • Raise some money for the club
  • Recruit new members

15-word speeches

Nerves means that time passes faster for speakers. Newer Toastmasters think they’re pausing but they’re really not. To force people to pause for a long time, this meeting included a session where people delivered prepared speeches of just 15 words within 45-75 seconds.

Each speech was videoed for the speaker’s own use, the idea being that when the speaker compares how they felt during their pauses to the video, they will gain a better sense of timing for when they use pauses in future speeches.

The speakers also considered what they did in the pauses – such as move across the stage, gesture, break eye contact. This can all be scripted and memorised.

For example:

Suddenly [eyes wide, standing at the front of the stage] a figure appeared [step back, scared] its [looks around, eyes wide] voice [start to pace] ignited [stop suddenly and face the audience] the darkness. [look around] Trembling [a few paces back] we hid. [look for somewhere to hide] Waiting [standing still] “Dinner’s ready” [smile]


“Trump [said matter-of-factly] … Trump [said questioningly] … Trump [said with surprise] … Trump [said with shock] … Trump [long, drawn-out shouted to sky] … Trump [as if reprimanding a child] … Trump [with panic] … … Trump [questioningly] … Trump [with some surprise] … Trump [with some panic] … Trump [increased panic] … Trump [scaredly] … Trump [with facepalm] … Trump [dejectedly] … Uh-oh!

Our extra meeting provided an opportunity for Toastmasters to practise pausing in a supportive environment. We contacted the clubs in the surrounding area to invite Toastmasters to participate.

EU session

We designed the EU session around a project from an advanced communication manual, Facilitating Discussion. Monica Horten, President of Maidenhead Speakers, is working through this manual and had offered to run a discussion at Ascot. The upcoming EU referendum provided a perfect opportunity after one of our members suggested a debate on the EU.

Monica H, presiding over the discussion

Prepared speeches

We arranged two prepared speeches by Toastmasters – one making the case to remain in the EU and the other to leave – to provide the discussion some context. Paola K organised two main speakers and two stand-in speakers. As it happened, the main ‘remain’ Speaker had to drop out the day before the meeting due to illness and the main ‘leave’ Speaker dropped out about four hours before.

The stand-in Speakers – Susie S and Jordan S – did excellent speeches. No one would have been able to tell that they were back-up speakers.

L-R: Susie S, Monica H, Jordan S

Facilitated discussion

Monica chose to do project 4: Handling Challenging Situations.

The objectives:

  • Select a problem and ask club members to discuss and resolve it by either a majority vote or by compromise.
  • Serve as facilitator for a discussion.
  • Effectively handle any member’s behavioral problems that may interfere with the discussion.

To this end, we invited Ascot members to take on one of four defined ‘challenging characters’ during the discussion. Monica wouldn’t know which characters had been picked or by whom.

For example:

The Chatterer: You like to make side comments to the discussion, but prefer to do it only when someone else is already talking. You break in to agree, disagree to make another point.

The Personality Conflict: You intensely dislike another person in the group. Their personality, mannerisms, and voice annoy you, and you find their ideas ridiculous. You seize every opportunity to demean this person.

The Silent One: You are shy and avoid participating in group discussions for fears others will ridicule your ideas of you will embarrass yourself.

How we promoted the meeting

We knew that the EU discussion would be of interest to people who didn’t know what Toastmasters was and so we heavily promoted to the meeting to the public, using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Streetlife.

The session of short speeches was scheduled before the EU session as a way to introduce Toastmasters to members of the public. The meeting was attended by 10 guests and 5 visiting Toastmasters. We charged an entrance fee of £2.50 to visiting Toastmasters and £4.50 to non-Toastmasters.


We decided in advance to live-tweet the meeting. Jacqui H agreed to do this. She had done for another event and she did a marvellous job for this meeting (see below). The Acting Sergeant At Arms, James H, introduced a meeting-specific hashtag – #ASlive – and the @AscotSpeakers account when he opened the meeting.


Sheila HA was the Toastmaster of the Evening. At this particular meeting, we expected members to be outnumbered by the public; we therefore needed a strong Toastmaster to make to describe the meeting protocol and ensure it was followed during the meeting.

Ruth M was Topicsmaster, running the session of short speeches.

Club President, James H, was also Acting Sergeant At Arms and Timer.

Monica H ran the EU discussion.

Susie S from Camberley Speakers agreed to be a stand-in Speaker and ended up delivering her speech when the main ‘remain’ Speaker dropped out.

Jordan S, similarly delivered her back-up speech as short notice when the main ‘leave’ Speaker dropped out a few hours before the meeting.

Paola K, was Videographer and Blogger.

Post-mortem: doing the 15-word speeches

When the videos were sent to the speakers, they were asked “how did it feel to do the 15-word speech? Was a useful experience, especially after seeing it back on video?” Their replies follow:


Making the 15-word speech was challenging, and a little nerve-wracking/exciting, to see if I could make it last OK for 45 seconds, and remember the exact words.

In the event it was also educational, not only doing mine, but listening to others. It makes one realise that we often fail to use enough pauses, and how effective they can be.


I really enjoyed it and those pauses were genuinely nothing like as long as they seemed to me at the time! blush


It was interesting. Rehearsing made me think about how pauses could work. I noticed that the long pauses meant I experienced the emotion far more. Not sure if it had that effect on the audience though.

My text was adapted from a love poem by Wendy Cope.


I think it was a really useful exercise and not as impossible as it first seemed. I will definitely be using more pauses in my next speech! I will incorporate pauses as I would gestures, etc., as I think they’re really important.


It was pretty weird giving the 15 word speech. Looking back I should have emphasised the words to make more impact. (I ran out of time, amazingly). I realised when practicing that you don’t need to explain your body language in words for it to have impact.


It was a useful exercise, however, I had not appreciated the effectiveness of the pauses. It was good to practice this, as one could convey some powerful messages with pauses so that it gives time for the audience to think about the message while one is doing their speech. Great comedians do this by pausing between the jokes and this allows the audience to laugh at the jokes. Thanks again for giving me the opportunity.

Next meeting

The next club social is on 6 April 2016 at The Station Inn (next to Ascot train station) from 7:30pm. It’s open to members and people interested in knowing a bit more about the club.

The next club meeting will take place on 13 April 2016.

Ascot Speakers looks forward to welcoming you then.

Tweets & videos

This is an online compilation of tweets and videos from the meeting (using Storify). Read on Storify.


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