Into the Mix

The room filled at Aubrey Park Hotel for meeting powered by both the old and the new members.
Leading the charge with the main speakers were Judy Mallinson and Karen Willis, both on their 9th speeches – just one away from Competent Communicator level. Judy won Best Speaker with Why I Drugged My Son, persuading listeners to recognise the reality of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. Karen’s All Work and No Play was a persuasive talk on making life’s work a joy, and how she and a little ducky mascot had achieved just that.

Richard Beagle, already a Competent Communicator, delivered his 17th project, which was to appear as a “guest” on a televised talk show. He had artfully commandeered some lounge chairs for the set and answered questions on his favourite subject – Toastmasters – put to him by a very convincing interviewer Corinne Frydman. The audience was left wondering if there were new careers in the offing for them both.

New members also showed their developing confidence with Atakan Akkaya mastering timing of all the events of the night on his second time in the role – it’s not an easy job – and Matthew Tang showing excellent observational skills as Grammarian.

The level of evaluations at this meeting drew particular praise. Seasoned evaluators Anthony Brennan and Colin Donald, and JJ Lynch who is a confident speaker new to Toastmasters, all gave fulsome recognition for the speakers’ achievements and then recommendations for future speeches not just for the night’s line up but ideas that everyone there would want to take on board. Anthony was declared best evaluator.

The other section of the night was the always popular and entertaining Table Topics (impromptu speaking). Tom Goodfellow shaped the questions around his love of music. This wasn’t too surprising because at another meeting he was put on the spot with a difficult question and responded with a rib-crackingly funny  round of air guitar.
JJ Lynch took the prize for his impromptu response, as always with the ease of someone who had been rehearsing all day.


From left, Anthony Brennan (Best Evaluator), Judy Mallinson (Best Speaker) and JJ Lynch (Best Table Topics speaker).
From left, Anthony Brennan (Best Evaluator), Judy Mallinson (Best Speaker) and JJ Lynch (Best Table Topics speaker).

Pirate night brings new faces to the helm

The theme was pirates (very ably and punningly led by Sebastian Lane) on a night which brought new leadership to the good ship West Herts Speakers. The changes were not brought about by waving cutlasses but by the annual election of office bearers.

The officers elect are:

  • President: Anthony Boboe
  • Vice Presidents Education: Irina Baldwin and Judy Mallinson
  • VP PR: Tom Goodfellow
  • VP Membership: Anthony Brennan
  • Secretary: Corinne Frydman
  • Sergeant at Arms: Spencer
  • Immediate Past President: Richard Beagle

Ribbon winners for the evening were:

  • Table Topics: Philip Walls on what a pirate would wear
  • Speaker: Karen Willis on “Garden Adventure” – a spellbinding true tale brought to life with a slideshow of drawings.
  • Evaluators: it was a “Richard & Judy” tie for Richard Beagle’s evaluation of Karen’s speech and Judy Mallinson’s evaluation of Monica Alabi’s clever metaphor involving incubating duck eggs and a new career.

Special mention to Jenny Davison who turned her Ah Counter role into a pirate’s “Aaaargh” counter and Sarah Lovell for a general evaluation that charmingly reminded us all that the meeting is about those coming for the first time.

Hey, someone's missing!
Hey, someone’s missing!
Phillip exhibits some reluctance to have his photo taken.
We can see you! Philip exhibits some reluctance to have his photo taken.
Moments before going official...
The one they think will not be published…
At last, a line up: Best Speaker Karen Willis (2nd from left); Tied Evaluators Richard Beagle (left) and Judy Mallinson (centre); Best Impromptu Philip Walls (2nd right) and Area Director John Kendall (right).



Role of the Grammarian – in rhyme

Resident wordsmith Paul Goodman offered this as a poetic summary of the Grammarian role. Spot the deliberate errors in the first line*

I would of thought, while I was sat
And other solecisms that
Should only meet with disapproval
Will be picked out for their removal

By the speaker who’s transgressed
So that, in time, what is expressed
Is flawless (as in precious jewels)
At least per English grammar’s rules.

Conversely, one seeks out the phrase
Which merits some degree of praise
Perhaps because the words deployed
Arouse emotions (see S Freud).

Or, by drawing on techniques
Developed by the ancient Greeks:
Alliteration, metaphor
(To name but two from many more).

The challenge is to earn a grade
Equating to an accolade
And this is what the goal must be:
A speech of five star quality.

© Paul Goodman
April 2016

*You spotted it! “Would’ve” is the correct contraction for “would have” and “sat” is in the wrong tense.

A night of Js – 13th April 2016

Just in case anyone out there is feeling a bit in awe of the experienced and long standing West Herts Speakers members…
At our last meeting, two new members stole the show!
Jill Faiella was noted best speaker for a text book and warmly delivered Icebreaker entitled “Who is Jill?” By the end of it we had no doubt about her determination and ability to overcome her fear of public speaking.

Best evaluator prize went to JJ Lynch who has been with us only a few months. He is an experienced and highly skilled speaker but appears to revel in having others evaluate him so that he can become even more polished.

So who won Table Topics? Both JJ and Jill – they tied first.

Special mentions go to the other speakers – Anthony Boboe and Sebastian Lane – who put in entertaining and thought provoking performances.

Richard Beagle led Table Topics, putting speaker after speaker on the spot to talk about a first in their lives.

Gwendoline Alderton kept up the energy and characteristic deft footwork throughout the evening as our holiday-themed Toastmaster.

Contest night – 23rd Mar 2016

The club’s round for the International Speaking Contest on 23 March brought a change in routine: the gales of laughter dropped a notch – but excitement was elevated.
The speakers’ contest was between three highly adept speakers: Richard Beagle, Cathal Gilbert and Gwendoline Alderton. Cathal won with Summer of Hope, a rich and wry linking of the World Cup to Ireland’s tiger economy.
The evaluator contest was between Judy Mallinson, Gwendoline Alderton and Irina Baldwin, with Judy taking the prize. Our thanks go to JJ Lynch for presenting his disarmingly accomplished Icebreaker as a test piece for evaluators.
The competition organiser Anthony Brennan led the evening with aplomb, and the exceedingly accomplished Paul Goodman was chief judge. New members Sarah Lovell and Jill Faiella joined in as counters for the judging.
The whole club wishes Cathal and Judy good luck at the Area contest in Hatfield on Saturday (2 April).

From left: Cathal Gilbert, Paul Goodman, Judy Mallinson and Anthony Brennan
From left: Cathal Gilbert, Paul Goodman, Judy Mallinson and Anthony Brennan

Dream Night – 9th Mar 2016

The theme was sleep but there was nothing soporific about the night’s entertainment.
The self-confessed insomniac snowboarder Sebastian Lane led the impromptu section on that topic, with Gwendoline Alderton voted best speaker for her balletic response revolving around the Orient Express.
Gwendoline was also voted best evaluator for her appraisal of Anthony Boboe’s gripping prepared speech, “Mumbai”.
Special mention, too, to Corrine Frydman who delighted all as she extolled the virtues of mastering languages in her speech”What Do you call…?”
In the end, it was Karen Willis who triumphed from the speeches of high standard, with “How to Eat Fruit”. Karen was giving her speech number 7 – a research topic – and held the audience in her hand with the challenge of whether it is best to eat an apple pulped, juiced or whole.
We were once again delighted to welcome guests – eight in all – some of whom were even ready to take part from the start. Hope to see you all again soon!
It was interesting to hear one guest ask if we were all on Toastmasters and we were able to say that we are all volunteers and that is what keeps the costs low and makes Toastmasters an affordable and accessible way to learn public speaking and leadership.
Our next West Herts Speakers meeting is a speech and evaluation contest night. It will be slightly more formal than our usual meetings but will give visitors the opportunity to see the standard members can reach, some just seven or eight speeches from a shaking start.

Energy Conservation or Conversation? 24th Feb 2016

“Energy conservation” was the theme but if any energy was being conserved, it was only by one person in the West Herts Speakers room at Aubrey Park this week.

Toastmaster of the evening Paul Goodman steered the evening in his consummate fashion, with a self-deprecating humour garnering an abundance of laughs. (And groans for the light bulb jokes.)

Table Topics turned into electric debates, led by Area Director John Kendall, who challenged paired speakers to argue such essentials as chocolate versus flowers and deep pan pizza versus crispy.
Judy Mallinson’s tale of a chocoholic husband enlisting their Border Collie to hunt down the dinner party chocolate won the debate for flowers for Valentine’s Day.

Cathal Gilbert was a master of powerful storytelling with Comical Punishment – tales of his Irish schooldays – and took the prize for best speech and could well have taken a prize for best stand up if it were on offer.

President Richard Beagle won Best Evaluator for his powerful summary of Gwendoline Alderton’s “Come out from behind the curtain” – a stylish and smooth performance of her transformation from wallflower to the compelling speaker she is today.

The most telling feature of the night was the energy the club is gaining through its new members and visitors – there was a record-breaking seven visitors this week.

We all hope to see them, and many more, at the next club meeting which is on 9 March at Aubrey Park Hotel.

From left: Cathal (Best Speaker), Judy (Table Topics) and Richard (Evaluator)
From left: Cathal (Best Speaker), Judy (Table Topics) and Richard (Evaluator)

Top talent on toy night – 10th Feb 2016

President Richard welcomes the newly inducted Lynn OBrien (left) and Aga Stewart
President Richard welcomes the newly inducted Lynn OBrien (left) and Aga Stewart
Celebrating wins are, from left, Monica Alabi (Table Topics),   Anthony Brennan (Speaker) and Karen Willis and Judy Mallinson (Evaluators)
Celebrating wins are, from left, Monica Alabi (Table Topics), Anthony Brennan (Speaker) and Karen Willis and Judy Mallinson (Evaluators)

Elsewhere folks were tossing pancakes but West Herts Speakers were having a flipping fantastic night with seven guests, two new members and a top line up of talented speakers.

Table Topics Master Aga Stewart playfully picked up the theme of the night, which was”toys”, to test the impromptu skills of her chosen speakers. Monica Alabi was voted best in that category after letting loose on how she hated football.

In the night of highly experienced speakers, Anthony Brennan finished his 10th speech and therefore the Competent Communicators Manual with an inspiring and soul baring journey through the world of finances with the title of Life Really Does Begin at F. The ever effervescent Richard Beagle struggled to stay in the frame for a filmed piece on Where’s Your Next Holiday but nevertheless impressed all. Anthony Boboe’s nonchalant delivery of a folk tale about diamonds was utterly enchanting. In what was surely a close vote, Anthony Brennan took the prize.

The evaluator vote was tied by Karen Willis (evaluating Richard) and Judy Mallinson (Anthony Brennan).

It is always a concern that new members will feel daunted when faced with an experienced field of speakers on their first night, so it was heartening to hear them say that if they could become that good as a result of Toastmasters, they wanted to join. One visitor also commented on the warmth and support and said it felt like family.

Flying through time – 27 Jan 2016

Our host for the meeting with a ‘flying’ theme was Irina Baldwin, who, in her first go at the role did an exemplary job of guiding us safely through the evening. As we had a little time to spare, Irina challenged every member (and each of our 5 visitors) to speak for 30 seconds on the subject ‘If you could fly anywhere tonight, where would that be?’. Everyone did an amazing job, with Sussex being the closest destination and Australia being the furthest, although Bhutan sounded the most tempting with its high happiness count.
This was followed by a simple but imaginative Table Topics session led by Anthony Boboe, based around numbers which was won by JJ, one of our visitors, who entertained us by telling us about his four sisters and his 84 cousins.
In the prepared speeches, Aga Stewart gave a polished performance for her ‘ice breaker’ speech, talking about how her husband ‘imported’ her from her native Poland to England, and what she learned from the experience.
Karen Willis then delivered an impacting speech on developing meaningful goals by looking at the past year from different angles, including describing the year in tweets and using the 4 Ls (Liked, Learned, Lacked, Longed for).
Anthony Brennan gave an excellent evaluation of Karen’s speech, earning him the title of ‘best evaluator’ for the meeting.
A special mention for Monica Alabi who excelled despite being thrown into a second role at short notice.
Overall a very enjoyable evening with many people taking on new challenges which, after all, is what Toastmasters is all about.

First step to the internationals – 23 March 2016

We have some inspiring, eloquent and downright side-splitting speakers so we can expect our club competition for the International Speech and Evaluation Contest to be a night to remember!

Please join us at Aubrey Park Hotel to be inspired and cheer on our club entrants.

The winners from West Herts Speakers will go to the area competition and have every chance on going on to division and district levels.

There is some more information on the following link:

New Year starts with a hat trick for Monica – 13th Jan 2016

Monica “blamed it on the Suffragettes” in her prepared speech to win her third Best Speaker title in a row – a wonderful start to the West Herts Speakers year.
Cathal Gilbert won best evaluator for his detailed and warm critique of Corinne’s apposite speech on web awareness.
Karen took the Table Topics prize with memories of the world that opened up to her when her parents – finally – agreed to get a television.
If it sounds like a dry night, it certainly wasn’t – the strong line up of speeches prompted a load of laughs.
The theme of the evening was, quite aptly for this time of year, Weather and Toastmaster Sola wove it into her links with great enthusiasm.
We were thrilled to welcome three visitors who have all promised to return – and bring their friends!
Our next meeting is at 7 for 7.30pm on 27 January at Aubrey Park Hotel. Ask for us at the friendly reception desk.

Jubilant winners: Monica (left), Cathal and Karen
Jubilant winners: Monica (left), Cathal and Karen

Bonding before Christmas – 9th December 2015

It was puns galore at West Herts Speakers tonight with the theme of Bond.
There were also visitors galore to add more sparkle to an evening with lively speeches and an innovativeTable Topics led by Corinne.

Winners were, from left, Colin Donald (Table Topics), Monica Alabi (Evaluator) and Karen Willis (Speaker).
Winners were, from left, Colin Donald (Table Topics), Monica Alabi (Evaluator) and Karen Willis (Speaker).

The next meeting will be on 13 January – I wonder what the theme will be?