Grammarian Gambles

False safety

It was months ago I had signed up for this role. It seemed so far away. It seemed so safe. But my first time as Grammarian had crept up on me whilst I was looking the other way. And now I was so busy at work I hadn’t had the time to prepare. To make things worse, I had just had the following conversation with my manager.

“I’m going to be in China next week, would you be able to attend a meeting for me on Wednesday?”

“Yes, no problem.”

“Excellent, I’ll forward the invite, I’ll send you the slide deck you’ll be presenting.” I looked at the meeting invite as it slipped into my inbox. It was a one-day workshop.

Back in control

Two days before my Grammarian duty I wondered what I had to do, I’d never done it before and I had little idea. I reached for the one thing I knew would help me. The Handbook!* and skimmed the following regarding the grammarian:

  • Report on interesting, unusual or effective uses of speech and any grammatical errors or ‘inappropriate’ uses.
  • To set a ‘word of the day’ and report on its use.
  • To report on filler words and hesitations (Ums and Ahs) where they distract from the speaker’s message

 I read on and it said exactly what I had to prepare, little did I know, where the handbook hadn’t let me down, my own memory soon would. But for now, I was in control again. One problem, I was already two days late in setting the Word of the Day. I quickly messaged the VP Education and logged into Easyspeak (our meeting management system) to set it up where everyone could see. I had chosen “Pandemonium” a word invented by John Milton for his poem “Paradise Lost.” It reflected the chaotic nature in which I had prepared for the role.

A dilemma 

Tuesday morning and I still hadn’t prepared what I was going to say, another busy day at work and the slide deck I was presenting the next day came through just as I was leaving to go home. I could stay to read it and let down everyone at Toastmasters, or I could get into work early the next day.

I left for Toastmasters.

Practice makes perfect.

My one-hour drive home is enough time to create my one-minute speech which would explain the role of Grammarian to the club. In my head, I constructed and practised the words. I started feeling more confident.

But then disaster struck. I had five minutes at home before heading out again. I checked the handbook one last time, just in case I’d missed something. Turns out I had. The speech I had just prepared was almost entirely wrong. I had focussed all my attention explaining the role and nothing on explaining the word of the day. On my 15-minute drive to the Toastmaster venue, I created a new speech and repeated it as many times as I could in my head.

Preparation is everything

I arrived early enough to pin-up printouts of the ‘Word of the Day’ on the wall, I took a banana from the snack table and sat down. Little did I know how pivotal that banana was going to be later on in my ‘Table topic’, but that’s another story. My hands were shaking a little, I was definitely nervous, tripping over the words I had prepared in my head. Then was my moment, I grabbed my banana, stood up and started speaking. Whoever would have guessed the pandemonium that had led to that moment.

Next Day

I got home late and had an early start to get to work with enough time to go over the slide deck before I had to present it. But there was an accident on my route and I got stuck in traffic. My safety buffer eroded away and I arrived 1 minute late to the workshop. I was presenting first, and as I plugged my laptop into the room’s display equipment (as it was still booting), a load of words came up in ‘my’ presentation that I had never seen before. Just like Table Topics (a section in the meeting where we practice spontaneous speaking). So, I started speaking. It’s amazing how transferable the skills I practice at Toastmasters are, I’m glad I gave it a go.

*The Handbook is a guide to meeting format, roles and responsibilities written for the club by VP Education Chris Murphy 2019

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash


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