It’s a TREAT…

At the end of every meeting the President always invites any guests that have attended to give some feedback on their experience of the evening. It is a two way thing isn’t it? We want to make sure that our guests have enjoyed themselves, and their feedback helps us to consider ways we can improve. Last night was no exception and it was rewarding to hear when our guest replied ” I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and I did not expect to laugh so much” 

Table Topics is a regular feature of every Tunbridge Wells Speakers meeting and it provides an opportunity for people to give an impromptu speech, lasting around 2 minutes, on a subject determined by the Table Topics Master. No-one is forced to take part and guests do, on occasion, decide to be spectators only, as they acclimatise to the environment of a meeting.  Last night our guest opted not to participate and sat happily laughing and enjoying all the other two minute contributions by the members of the club. At the end however, when the Table Topics Master was about to pass the responsibility of the meeting back to the Toastmaster, our guests hand shot up and with a smile she asked “can I do one”? I believe taking that plunge and summoning the courage to get involved helped to contribute to an enjoyable and rewarding evening for her, and that rewarding feeling was extended to everyone, as we have all been in that place, hesitant and a little anxious, concerned what people may think of us, nervous at making ourselves vulnerable.

District 91 of Toastmaster International held their Spring 2016 conference in London last weekend. One of the afternoon workshops was facilitated by Elizabeth Toohig and her subject was “Table Topics. It’s a TREAT!” During her workshop Elizabeth shared some of the strategies she adopted which helped her prepare for the 2014 District 91 Table Topics contest, which she won. Clearly it was a winning strategy for Elizabeth and full details can be found on her website by following this link 

The strategy outlined by Elizabeth is not limited just to Table Topics and can be adopted to help with all sorts of life events, like business meetings, interviews, impromptu talks at weddings or parties, there is no end to the value that can be gained.

It would be great to see more guests joining us for an evening, if only to find out what goes on and discover why people enjoy themselves so much…


Half of us is other people…

I borrowed the heading for this post from the 5th Chapter, entitled Do I need you?, of David Eagleman’s book “the Brain – The Story of you”, and I’m using it because we had such a fun meeting this week at Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club. The energy in the room vibrated as we welcomed 9 guests, some new and some who had visited us before.  They got involved in the warm-up, where the Toastmaster for the evening helps relax people by creating an opportunity for people to say a few words based on a random suggestion. This week, the suggestion was to provide 3 uses for a paperclip other than what it was designed for. And then later in the evening, after the main speeches, they  all volunteered to take part in the Table Topics session, which was beautifully facilitated by Richard Green who provided some challenging and interesting topics for us to attempt to speak about for up to 2 minutes.

Was it a stretch for some of us? The answer has to be a yes, and that’s the point, isn’t it, to find a comfortable and safe place you can learn, a place to develop a new skill and to increase your confidence? In his book, David Eagleman asks the question,

“What does your brain need to function normally? Beyond the nutrients from the food you eat, beyond the oxygen you breathe, beyond the water you drink, there’s something else, something equally as important: It needs other people. Normal brain function depends on the social web around us. Our neurons require other people’s neurons to thrive and survive.” 

It’s exciting to see us growing as a club. Each new visitor brings along new benefits and new opportunities to share stories, to interact, to learn from one another and grow as individuals.

We hope to see you soon.



The truth and nothing but…

There are many things I enjoy about Toastmasters: the opportunity to increase your confidence, develop ways to articulate yourself through encouraging feedback, and exploring better ways to express yourself through gestures and body language. But what I especially like is the learning; by reflecting on the speeches as they are delivered, and subsequently after the evening has come to an end, I’ve learned a great deal about a number of things and a number of people. This week was no exception and we listened to three interesting speeches from club members. The title of the speeches were Make Life Interesting, Not Easy, Truth, and Matching and Mirroring.

All of the talks were interesting and made me think. It is also interesting, if you consider that the subject choices were all made independently, that there was a loose connection between them. In one way or another they dealt with the human condition which is only natural as we are all interested in life and are trying to figure out how to make it a good life for the relatively short time we are here. For me, the most poignant of the 3 talks was the one titled “Truth”, which opened with the speaker calling us all liars, but then went on to communicate his rational and ended with a thought-provoking poem he had written and that he originally read out at a funeral of a friend.

His talk reminded me of an essay written by A C Grayling, a British philosopher who until 2011 was the professor of philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, called Lying. In his essay, he quotes Plato who said that lies are not only evil in themselves, but infect the soul of those who utter them. Grayling then goes on to counter this austere view with examples that facilitate the idea of lying as an acceptable and almost needed reality. We accept that people within politics and government are often economical with the truth and find interesting ways to communicate their embellishments, and I think it is also reasonable to quote from his essay “It is acceptable to tell an untruth when it protects the other from injury, to his feelings or otherwise. ‘Am I ugly?’ asks your neighbour, who makes quasimodo look like a beauty queen. ‘I wouldn’t use the word “ugly” ‘, you reply; ‘you have a distinctive face.'” 

Just before the end of a Toastmaster meeting, we always award a prize for the person who gave the best Table Topic talk.  This is when those that have put their name forward are given the opportunity to do a short impromptu talk on a subject that is only given to them a few moments before they begin. This week it was awarded to Sophie, who is not a member but had come along to experience first-hand what an evening with Tunbridge Wells Speakers is like. Congratulations, Sophie! Your talk on chocolate was indulgent and fun, it made us all smile, and we hope you will come back to see us again soon. And that is the absolute truth! 

Happy Easter




International Women’s Day

Words are powerful and the ones you choose and the way in which you  deliver them  is vital to get across your message in the right way.  In celebration of International women’s day I thought it would be fitting to post a YouTube video of “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou. It’s not all about lecterns and podiums.


New members – New stories – New website

Recently we have had more new members join which is really exciting, not only because it introduces a different energy into the club but also it provides an opportunity to share more stories and experiences. Our stories and experiences are our shared life blood and play a significant role in helping us understand each other, they support our memories and enable us all to connect in more meaningful ways which, in today's technological world, has increasing importance.

How you communicate your story is  very important and can determine the difference between success and failure. Let's look at the job interview, as an example, is this just a "job interview" or is it an opportunity for you to meaningfully engage with the interviewer to influence them and persuade them you are the right person for the job? Or an internal negotiation at work, when you're vying for scarce resources in order to help your team achieve its objectives. Some people may question what these have to do with "public speaking" and I would suggest that it has everything to do with it. Of course, you are not necessarily standing up and talking to an audience but you are communicating and similar rules apply. There is a beginning, a middle and an end, to every interview, as there is to a negotiation a story or a speech, and it is vital that one considers these things carefully if the desired outcome (call to action) is to influence and persuade the interviewer to say, yes.

So, while you the reader, may not see yourself standing up and delivering speeches to small or large gatherings, there is value in increasing your confidence, learning to communicate more effectively and exploring how to influence and persuade people when you want to achieve something.

Tunbridge Wells Speakers have something we want to achieve, which is to help people develop these skills within a relaxed, encouraging and friendly environment. To help us achieve this we are currently reviewing our website to see how we can improve how we communicate with our audience, you.

Hope to see you at one of our meetings.



Top 10 Speaking Tips

Feeling nervous before giving a prepared speech is natural and can be beneficial.

To deliver a great performance you’ll need to get those butterflies under control. Here are some tips to help:

1. Know your material

Pick a topic you are interested in. Research the topic so that you know more about it than you can or want to include in your prepared speech. Use humour, personal stories and conversational language to tell your story (deliver your speech). This approach will help you to remember your speech.

2. Practice…

Practice. Practice. Practice!

There really is no substitute for rehearsing out loud with all equipment you plan on using. I personally use and recommend the use of a video camera to record myself and review my performance (in private of course!).

Amend your speech and performance as needed. It’s amazing how you’ll be able to control those, er, erm, filler words;

Practice pausing at relevant points in your speech and PLEASE remember to breathe. When practicing use a timer and allow time for the unexpected. Speeches are usually allowed a minimum, mid and maximum time, like 5 to 7 minutes. For a 5 to 7 minute speech I aim for just over 6 minutes. The lights usually at the back of the room (Green Amber & Red on 5, 6 & 7 minutes really help)

3. Know your audience

Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.

4. Know the room

Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone if there is one and any visual aids like flip charts, props and computer presentations.

5. Relax

Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. (“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.

6. Visualise yourself giving your speech

Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualise the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.

7. People want you to succeed

Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.

8. Don’t apologise

for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.

9. Concentrate on the message

not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.

10. Gain experience

Mainly, your speech should represent you, as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need in a safe and friendly environment.