25 May 2016 Meeting: Regeneration

By Mike M


2016-05-25-img_0010sThe theme for the Ascot Speakers’ Meeting of 25 May 2016 was ‘New Beginnings.’ The session was opened by our Sergeant-at-Arms, Ann M.

James H, the club President, started by welcoming guests by name. He then presented official Charter Member certificates to Emilio S and Hira S (who were unable to attend the charter dinner). Finally, he welcomed four new members, Anna G, Nicola M, Salter H and Mike M.

New members: Nicola M, Salter H, Mike M

Our Toastmaster for the evening was Jacqui H and she introduced a number of people taking on new roles.

These were as follows:

  • Julie H – first speech, Ice Breaker
  • Abby T Timer
  • Reshmi B – General Evaluator
  • Nee V – Videographer
  • Mike M – Meeting Blogger

As Timer, Abby T explained why and how we timed meetings. Grammarian, Jordan S, explained her role for the meeting and introduced the word of the day, Regeneration.

Prepared speeches

The first of the prepared speeches was an Ice Breaker, from the Competent Communication manual, by Julie H and was entitled ‘If, but or maybe!’ Through her excellent first speech, Julie passionately articulated how a comment in a school report stating that “she would never achieve anything” had had a profound effect on her in her younger years. She spoke of her determination to prove the teacher wrong and how she went on to perform excellently at school. She now has a successful career as a trainer and coach. This thought-provoking and superbly delivered speech illustrated how – through sheer determination – it is possible to turn a negative event into something truly positive.

Hira S’s speech was the Your Body Speaks project from the Competent Communication manual and was titled People Value What They Pay For. This was an elegantly-delivered speech describing how people often achieve better results when they pay for something due the fact that they are more invested in it. Hira told the story of her experience of driving lessons in the UK. She cleverly bought this to life through her characterisation of her impatient, rude and unsupportive driving instructor, Clive. Despite her ill-mannered instructor, Hira did pass her test and she described how her financial investment in the test motivated her to persevere, despite her strong inclination to quit. Hira wrapped up her talk nicely by describing how the power of money can make you a better learner.

Ann M delivered another excellent speech. This time it was project 6, the Vocal Variety project from the Competent Communications manual. The speech was called Referendum Blues. Ann certainly delivered on her objective as she described her frustration with the communications and maneuverings relating to the upcoming EU referendum. She eloquently and powerfully talked of her despair at the endless soundbites, the split parties and the self-centred career politicians. She also introduced an interesting perspective that hasn’t had much general media coverage, the impact of a vote to leave on the Irish border. The parallels drawn with the Scottish referendum worked very well. In concluding her speech, Ann encouraged her audience to exercise their democratic right and participate in the vote.

Ann M, Halfway to Competent Communicator

Table Topics

Our Table Topics Master for the evening was Ian S who themed the questions around life-changing events.

Regular visitor and new dual member, Nour F was first up with the topic ‘How has your evening class in origami changed your life?’ Nour described how she enjoyed expertly creating birds, jumping frogs and, in particular, paper planes!

Second was Nikita P, who told the audience of how her new knowledge of the Russian language had changed her life. Nikita shared that her name actually originates from Russia.

James H was third to speak; his challenge was to describe how his new haircut had changed his life. The audience learnt of his Greek Fisherman hairstyle that he wore as a teenager. An image that I’m sure will stay with us for some time!

Paola K spoke of the life-changing effect of synchronised swimming. The audience learnt how she watches her toys bob or sink against the ripples from the swimmers and synchronises her swimming to them.

Fifth to the stage was Nee V who described how her new car has changed her life. Her passion for red automobiles and aeroplanes shone through.

Mike M spoke last about how his pet giraffe had changed his life. He told us how he kept it in his back garden to the despair of the local residents.

Paola K, Best Table Topic


The purpose of the evaluations is to provide constructive feedback to the speakers in order to help them develop their public speaking skills.

Paola K evaluated Julie H’s speech. She described Julie as a confident speaker who delivered an impressive introductory speech. She noted that it was remarkable that Julie had memorised her material. Paola suggested that Julie would benefit from including some pauses in key places. One way to help with this is to insert the word ‘pause’ between paragraphs when drafting the speech. Recording rehearsals can also help ensure that the pacing of the talk is optimised. Paola summed up Julie’s speech as a pleasure to listen to!

Karolina E evaluated Hira S’s speech and reflected on the effective use of gestures throughout the delivery. Karolina particularly focused on Hira’s use of her arms and hands. Recommendations included that Hira could vary her speech a little more, both in terms of volume and pace and perhaps limit her movement on the stage slightly. Karolina praised Hira’s greatly improved voice projection.

Hira S, Area Contest Ready (6 speeches given)

The final Speech Evaluator was Nikita P who evaluated Ann M’s speech relating to the EU Referendum. Nikita highlighted Ann’s passion for her subject, the effective use of a map as a prop and the powerful use of her voice to portray the viewpoint of an Ascot resident relating to the Scottish resurrection. Nikita suggested that Ann’s preparation wasn’t quite as thorough as usual and that this affected the delivery. Nikita summed up with comments on Ann’s beautiful, expressive language and confirmed that she had ‘nailed’ the objectives of project.

Ruth M was the Table Topic Evaluator. She commented that the session had been an interesting one and how she had enjoyed Ian’s choice of topics that fitted in perfectly with the evening’s theme of New Beginnings. Ruth provided praise to all of the speakers. In particular, she commented how Nour’s story about paper aeroplanes rang true, how James commanded the stage with a powerful pause prior to starting his entertaining speech, how Paola’s great interpretation of the question was both interesting and humorous, how Nee’s passion about cars exuded from the stage and how Mike’s dead pan delivery of the story about the giraffe in the back garden had amused her.

Our Grammarian for the evening, Jordon S, congratulated everybody on their speeches. She provided feedback on some lovely use of language such as the word ‘delectation’ in Jacqui H’s opening. She also noted the impactful use of repetition in Julie H and Ann M’s speeches and emphasised Ann’s powerful use of onomatopoeia i.e. drip, drip, drip. Jordon suggested the general tip of taking the time to identify some useful adjectives so that these are on the tip of the tongue for use in improvised talks. The thorough review of the individual speeches meant that there wasn’t enough time to provide a detailed breakdown of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’.

Reshmi B took on the role of general General Evaluator for the first time. She provided a thorough and vibrant account of a ‘fantastic’ meeting. She was extremely complimentary about the way guests were welcomed and introduced to established team members. She provided specific feedback to the Evaluators. Reshmi did point out that a number of speakers had retreated from the spotlight which made it more difficult for the audience to see them clearly. This is something to be aware of for future speeches. All in all, Reshmi provided a glowing evaluation of both the speakers and the evening in general.

Awards, News and Closing

Club President, James H presented the following awards:

  • Hira S won the award for Least ‘Ahs’ and ‘Ums’
  • Nikita P was awarded Best Use of the Word of the Day
  • Most Imaginative (or Expressive) use of English was won by Ann
  • Julie H was awarded Ice Breaker: Achievement Unlocked for completing the first speech in the Competent Communications Manual
  • Hira S was given the Halfway to Competent Communicator award for completing her fifth speech from the Competent Communications manual
  • Ann M was recognised for having delivered six speeches and being Area Contest Ready
  • Paola K was awarded Best Table Topic
  • Ruth M won Best Evaluator

This most enjoyable meeting was closed by Ann M.

Ruth M, Best Evaluator

Next Meeting

The next meeting is on Wednesday, 8 June 2016.

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