We’re 20 and (just quietly) awesome!

West Herts Speakers celebrated its proud 20 year anniversary last night with a wonderful mix of the old and the new.
What’s new? The club has just reached the gold standard of President Select status for its achievements throughout the Toastmaster year. And it partied at the venue which will become its new home later this month – The Noke in St Albans.
As for the old we really should say “young-at-heart founding members” who joined in the fun: Colin Donald, Stuart Lawson and Madhu Kundu. Each regaled the audience with tales of smelly venues and cantankerous doors but above all decades of friendship and the miracle of members moving from fear to fluency.
President Richard Beagle rarely missed the chance to say (rub in) the achievements of his club but failed to mention his indefatigable energy, dedication and belief in his members that contributed to an “awesome” year.
The after dinner speaker and well-known “roastmaster” Kevin Baggs had the marquee walls flapping with laughter with some well aimed shots at office bearers.(“I always wanted to be a comedian but they’re not laughing now!”)
John Kendall, Area Director (outgoing) and regular visitor at West Herts spoke of his support for the club and its achievements over the past year and years.
District Director Kevin Lee delighted by posing the question of who can name the gardener who nurtured the “tree” from which Newton’s apple fell and sparked an inspiration that resounded throughout the centuries since. His words inspired us all as clubs to be the metaphorical “gardeners” for the trees that can nurture and support great things in others.
Last but certainly not least, Irina Baldwin read a poem penned by the talented Paul Goodman for the occasion. Paul couldn’t be there due to illness but his presence was felt though his words.

To West Herts Speakers

Penned by Paul Goodman for its 20th Anniversary Celebration on 17 June 2016 – with reference to the Competent Communication manual

Welcome all you speakers (whether old hands or brand new)
We’re a group of people who are tailor-made for you
Our start point is a handbook of ten projects (each discrete)
With a badge that marks you “competent”, when the programme is complete.

Everyone commences with a form of their CV
Built from just those highlights to be offered orally
This “breaks the ice” quite gently: no research but notes allowed
To an audience supportive (a smiling, friendly crowd).

Secondly comes structure: beginning, middle, close
While thirdly, put quite bluntly, there’s little point to prose
Unless it meets a purpose: inform? or entertain?
On a topic that’s specific, so the message is quite plain.

Then it’s “How to say it”, when one’s writing for the ear
Techniques (including rhetoric) to keep the meaning clear
Not forgetting body language in the speaker’s “box of tools”
Such as facial expression and the key eye contact rules.

Having reached the halfway mark, it’s voice that’s now “on stage”
Are tone and pitch adjusted so they’re likely to engage?
When offering the details to support a point of view
That flows from both rehearsal and thorough research too.

Effective use of visual aids comprises project eight
Leading to persuasion with words that carry weight
Before the final session where inspiring earns the votes
From a speech delivered crisply without any trace of notes.

Regular attendance at Club meetings offers roles
That also hone one’s speaking skills (or work to other goals)
The “Emcee” of the evening (for example) will aspire
To harmonised proceedings – think orchestra (or choir).

This calls for people management, quick thinking, sense of mood
As does evaluation where asperity’s eschewed
In commenting as critic after listening with great care
To recommend improvements based on findings that are fair.

So if it’s public speaking where proficiency is needed
Follow the advice that a growing host have heeded
By joining West Herts. Speakers: where our members all agree
Their progress can speak for itself, when it comes to oratory.

Paul Goodman
June 2016

(Some of you may have read the coded message – to others the hint is to look at the paragraphs one by one.)