The first committee meeting of this Toastmaster Year

What a fantastic experience especially for those who became a member of the committee for the first time!  Congrats to our new committee team:  Zsuzsanna- President, Ajeet- VPE, Aparna-VPE, Ryan- VPM, Diana- VPPR.  We will do a great job together! Thank you as well to all our predecessors who did a proper handover and an extraordinary job last year: 19 new members and 9 points out of 10 for the club- this is a fantastic result- don’t you agree?

The coalition of Ex and New committee!


Our last meeting of this Toastmaster Year

This last meeting of Toastmaster year was a truly special one! It was an evening consecrated entirely to speeches and evaluations. Congratulations to Andrew Luis who finished his last 10th speech! Richard Beagle surprised us with his unusual format of speech entitled ,, What a year this was”  where he mentioned the most memorable speakers of the year- obviously with such a great speech he had no chances but to win the title of the best speaker of the evening! And of course, Diana’s speech about Moldova made the evening truly special given the distinctive wine and chocolates she brought for all!

The moment of concentration
Best Evaluator and Speaker Title+ Our Speakers in full action

Anthony’s last stand

The theme of the evening was ‘leaders’, which was fitting as it was the last evening we were to be led by our president Anthony Brennan, as we almost reach the end of the Toastmasters year.  Anthony’s been an excellent president over the past 12 months, but now passes the mantle to Zsuzsanna, following a unanimous vote on Wednesday night.

Zsuzsanna will officially take on the role in July and be joined by Ajeet and Aparna, who’ll share the Vice President (VP) Education role, Ryan in the role of VP Membership, Diana will take on VP Public Relations, Andrew the role of Treasurer, Chun as Sergeant at Arms and Emily as our Club Secretary.  Massive thanks to all of them for putting themselves forward for the roles, and also to those that have been carrying them out so well for the past year – Judy, Jack, Jill who are standing down as officers and Aparna, Ajeet and Andrew who are taking on the new roles.

Now onto the reason we all come to West Herts Speakers, the speaking element.  Our Table Topics session – the section of the evening in which we practice our impromptu speaking skills – was brilliantly led by Ged.  He had identified the various types of leader that exist and he asked members of the audience at random at talk about one of them.  Our winner was Diane, who joined us for the evening from Chiltern Toastmasters.  Well done Diane!

Diane wins best Table Topics

We had three prepared speeches of the evening.  Richard’s speech was delivered by video, as he pursues an advanced Toastmasters programme, Andrew delivered his 9th speech from the Competent Communicator (CC) manual enlightening us to where the term ‘thinking outside the box’ came from and Jill delivered her 10th speech from the CC manual encouraging us all to follow her simple tips to cut down on plastic consumption.  All excellent speeches, but it was Jill that won the Best Speaker award on this occasion.

Jill wins best speaker

As always, each prepared speaker & the table topics master is assigned an evaluator, who delivers their own speech critiquing the speaker.  Ajeet, Aparana, Aga and Ryan all delivered brilliant evaluations, but it was Ryan that celebrated his first victory in the Best Evaluator category.

Ryan wins best evaluator

Our next club meeting is Wednesday, 27th June. Expect some exciting twists at this next meeting, as we are having a Speechathon (six speeches, no table topics) to properly mark the end of the Toastmasters year and launch into the new with vigour.  The theme is Feast.  Richard is on course to receive his Advanced Communicator Bronze with his After Dinner speech.

Dress for dinner and join us for a night of fun and fantastic speaking!

Storytelling & super speeches

The sun was shining, it was a perfect evening for staying home and sipping a G&T in the garden, but our West Herts Speakers Club members turned out in force to improve their public speaking skills and support those members delivering speeches.

Spencer took on the role of Toastmaster for the evening – it was his first time doing it, but you’d never have known, as he excelled in the role.  He also ensured our ah-counter Colin was kept busy for the duration of the meeting, as he amassed close to 50 filler words throughout, so well done Spencer on that front too!  😉

Diana led our table topics session with commendable prowess. Instead of the usual questions and answers, her approach to this section of the evening – which is all about impromptu speaking – was to start a story, which each of the speakers she’d picked out at random from her hat, had to continue.  It was hilarious.  Two guests – Charlene and Laura – took part and did brilliantly.  We hope they’ll come back in two weeks time as we’re looking forward to hearing more from them.  It was Jen who scooped the coveted Best Table Topics speaker award for her contribution to the story.  Great to see Jen back after a few months off from Toastmasters following a house move and life being just a bit busy in general.

Jen & Diana conquer table topics
Emily wins best speaker










Our first prepared speech of the night was by Emily, one of our newest members.  She delivered an excellent and very moving icebreaker speech about how she’s overcome some huge challenges early on in her life and is now embracing her fears and becoming the person she wants to be.  She thoroughly deserved to win the Best Speaker award and did so, despite being up against two more excellent speakers Ryan and Chun who also delivered top notch speeches.

Zsuszanna wins best evaluator

The Best Evaluator award went to Zsuszanna, who was evaluating Emily.  She delivered a clear, concise evaluation that benefitted not just Emily, but everyone in the room.

Our next meeting is taking place on 24th May – same time, same place: 7.30pm, The Noke Hotel, St Albans. We hope to see you all there.

International speech & evaluation contest

Last Wednesday was the Toastmasters International Speech and Evaluation contest at West Herts Speakers.

Massive well done to all our contestants – Richard, Jill and Ajeet stepped up to take part in the speech contestant and all did very well, but it was Anthony’s hilarious tale of why you should never front up to a truck driver and his wife while driving through Vauxhall that made him the judges’ favourite.

Anthony wins Speech Contest
Richard wins Evaluation Contest









In the evaluation contest, Ryan, Paul and Richard gave impressive evaluations of Ajeet’s speech, but it was Richard’s seamless, note-free commends and recommends that scored the highest.

Both Anthony and Richard will now represent the club in the Area Contest on Saturday, 7th April at 1pm, at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton. All members are most welcome and invited to attend the Area Contest – and there are roles to be performed for anyone wishing to participate. Venue details of the Area Contest are outlined below.

Our contest chair, Zsuzsanna Jakabfi, did a superb job pre contest getting everything organised and then running the contest on the night. Zsuzsanna, on the back on this role, has completed her Competent Leadership manual, which is a fantastic achievement.

We had a great turnout of guests too, who all seemed to have an enjoyable night with us.

Our next club meeting will be on Wednesday, 11 April. Looking forward to seeing you all there.

A juxtaposition of old and new

For the second meeting in a row we had an unbelievably impressive icebreaker speech, that just blew us away.  New member Alastair had us gripped with his tale of how he turned his life around after realising in his 20s that doing anything was better than doing nothing.

Alastair delivers a winning icebreaker

Icebreakers are the 1st speech in the Competent Communicator manual and are an opportunity for our newest members to get in front of an audience and introduce themselves to the rest of the club.  As you work through the manual you are encouraged to use movement, structure, vocal variety, props etc to enhance your speech delivery – so if Alastair was this good with his first speech then we cannot wait to see how he excels during his Toastmaster journey.



We had an extended table topics session hosted by table topics master Andrew.  The table topics master poses questions to the other members and invites them to come forward and give a mini speech, off the cuff, to answer them.  Andrew asked seven questions of 15 that had been asked to some of the world’s leading lights in industry, and every member he picked answered them convincingly well.  Competition for the Best Table Topics speaker was fierce, and we ended up with joint winners – Richard and Anthony Boboe.

Richard & Anthony celebrate
Richard wins Best Evaluator

Not content with winning just one prize, Richard also took home the Best Evaluator award after giving a brilliant evaluation of Aparna’s excellent prepared speech.  Richard is an experienced toastmaster who, in each meeting, in whichever role he takes on, teaches by example the best practices for being truly effective in the roles.






The juxtaposition of the freshness of our new members and the experience and insight of our long time members is what makes West Herts Speakers so special.  Everyone has their personal reasons for joining – for some it’s to get over a fear of public speaking, for others it’s about gaining confidence to speak in a foreign language, while others come to finesse their presenting skills.

We’re already looking forward to our next meeting on 14th February and hope to see a full complement of club members. Well what else would we want to do on Valentine’s Day?

A record breaking night for West Herts Speakers

Well our first club meeting of 2018 exceeded all expectations.  We had a record breaking nine guests join us last night, so our little room at the Noke Hotel was packed full.  This is the most guests ever to come on one night, since the club formed 20 odd years ago.

Our toastmaster for the evening Richard started the ball rolling by getting all members to stand up and share their public speaking goals for 2018 – which he clearly intends holding us all to!

Our impromptu speaking section, ‘table topics’ took a break from the norm owing to our Table Topics Master Aparna having a sore throat, so to save her vocal chords, she showed photos highlighting key events of 2017 and asked speakers to give each a caption and talk about the photo.  Trump’s inauguration, Ariana Grande’s Manchester concert and the #metoo campaign were among the images presented for discussion.  Well done to Jenny, who won best table topics speaker of the evening.

Jen wins best table topics speaker

Next up were our prepared speeches.  Thuan gave us a seriously impressive icebreaker speech, sharing the heritage of her name and the emotional impact having that name has had on her whole life.  You would have thought that after such a speech the rest of us would manage to pronounce her name right for the rest of the night…

We also had an excellent speech from Zsusannah, her 8th from the Competent Communicator manual.  She made a great case for why we should appreciate our electricity providers more.  Anyone for a Smart Meter?  Zsuzsannah is the woman to talk to.

Despite there only be two speakers, our club president Anthony decreed we would still vote for Best Speaker and Thorn, sorry Thwang, I mean Thuan won it.  Well done Thuan – very well deserved.

Thuan wins best speaker

Our 3 evaluators: Anthony, Jenny and Jack provided superb evaluations, giving speakers some really valuable feedback.  It was Jack’s evaluation of Zsuzsannah, however, that won him the title of Best Evaluator of the evening.

Jack wins best evaluator

The whole evening was generally evaluated by our longest serving member Colin and he had plenty of useful insights to offer.  Our Grammarian Paul’s word of the day ‘succinct’ was a good one, but not used quite as much as he’d have liked.  While Sebastian and Jill fulfilled their respective roles of timekeeper and ah-counter faultlessly.

All in all, a great night.  We know at least one guest, Sarah, has confirmed she will be joining our club and we hope to see the others at our next meeting on the 25th January.

Merry Christmas!

We’ve officially finished our meetings for 2017 but couldn’t let the year end without a good Christmas night out. We had lots of fun getting to know each other a better and a giggle as we took part in some games and quizzes organised by Ryan. Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas.

A memorable night

Last Wednesday’s club meeting was anything but forgettable, as the theme for the evening was ‘memory’, selected by our Toastmaster of the evening and club chairman Anthony Brennan.

In keeping with the theme, our grammarian Zsuzsanna, selected ‘remember’ as the word of the day and every speaker of the evening, without exception, was able to weave it into their speeches.

Shayan had the role of table topics master and he put five of his fellow toastmasters on the spot to deliver mini impromptu speeches on questions all centred round the memory theme.  This week’s winner was Jill, who was asked to speak about her most memorable teacher.  Mr Dobbs – who loved an oversized cardigan.  Our table topics evaluator Ged, had some excellent feedback for Shayan and all the speakers.

Jill wins tabletopics

Our prepared speakers were once again all excellent.  We kicked off with Aga, who reached a milestone by delivering her final speech from the Competent Communicator manual all about how we can determine our own luck.  Next up was Ajeet, who shared the 7 traits an eagle has, that correspond with those of great leaders.  Chris delivered his second speech, reminding us to not give up even when the odds are stacked against us.  Last – but not least – was Jenny, who reminded us all of the importance of Armistice day, the meaning of the poppy and why we must never forget those that fought and died in the first world war.  She and Ajeet both tied for the Best Speaker Award.

Ajeet & Jen win Best Speaker

Every member delivering a prepared speech is assigned an evaluator, who introduces the speaker and provides an evaluation speech of it afterwards.  This week’s evaluators were Richard, Judy, Colin and Paul M.  It was Colin who scooped the best evaluator award for an extremely thorough analysis of Jen’s speech, full of commends and the all-important ‘recommends’.

Colin wins Best Evaluator

An excellent evening all round, evaluated in its entirety by general evaluator Andrew, aided by our timekeeper Diana and ah-counter Matt.  We were also really pleased to welcome 3 guests, 2 of whom were back for their second visit.  We look forward to seeing them again at future meetings.

Next meeting will take place on 22nd November.

Halloween themed speeches

We were all renamed ‘ghostmasters’ for our Halloween themed club meeting last week, led by Toastmaster for the Evening, Aparna.

The best costume award went to NO ONE, as not one of us decided to come as witches or ghouls, however we had plenty of other awards to give out to recognise those that excelled in their speaking roles.

Spencer wins Best Speaker

Spencer took home the Best Speaker award of the evening, for a personal tale of overcoming anxiety and not simply ‘forgetting everything and running’.  He had stiff competition from Werner who shared his experiences of when he forced himself to live off just £2 a day, for a month, to get a better idea of what it must be like to live, as many do, on a very low income; from Saulius whose third speech from the Competent Communicator manual was all about his superhero Martin Strel, the Slovenian marathon swimmer; and from Diana who absolutely killed her icebreaker speech.  We cannot wait to hear more from Diana.

Diana gets her Icebreaker ribbon







Our best evaluator award winner was a three-way tie between Zsuzsanna, Jack and Paul Goodman.  Each had their own unique style and delivered some excellent feedback for our speakers.

It’s a three-way for Best Evaluator

The table topics section of the evening was hosted by Jill on the subject of scary movies.  She had some very tricky questions that challenged even our most accomplished speakers.  It was Judy’s recollection of when she discovered that Santa wasn’t real that won her the Best Table Topics Speaker award.  Well done to everyone who stood up and spoke for the obligatory 1 minute – Shayan, Matt, Ajeet and Andrew – you all did very well.

Well done Judy!

Club business included an update from Andrew on how fulfilling it was to attend the Division conference recently, in support of club member Ryan who represented our area in the Table Topics Contest. We have also started to plan our West Herts Speakers Club Christmas party!

Journeys… lead to great speeches

Excellent turnout at our last club meeting, with some brilliant speeches and cracking evaluations.

Paul G may be both “vertically and follicly” challenged (his words) but his unique style and extra dry sense of humour makes him a winner in the role of Toastmaster for the evening.  We listened intently waiting for whatever gem would next leave his mouth.  If you miss an evening with Paul as Toastmaster, then you miss out.

The theme for the evening was journeys.  We think our prepared speakers must have been a little bit psychic as first up was Paul talking about his 10k race running experience, with advice on the training needed to get yourself 10K ready.  Jack, who deservedly won Best Speaker of the night, told us about how he

Jack wins best speaker

‘climbed to the top’ on a bike riding journey, followed by a harrowing tale of crossing terrifying rope bridges over French mountains.

Continuing the theme was Jill who encouraged everyone to follow her example and bag themselves a Munro (a Scottish mountain over 3000ft high).  Then in a break from the active lifestyle motivational talks, we had Aparna who gave us compelling reasons to calm down our social media usage.


Ryan wins best table topics speaker

Our Table Topics master Richard put our guests on the spot during the table topics session, but they had nothing to worry about as they did brilliantly.  Being able to stand up and speak on a subject of someone else’s choice, without prior knowledge is a brilliant skill to have, and one we all go to Toastmasters to develop further.  Well done (again) to Ryan for winning Best Table Topics speaker.

Colin wins best evaluator

Evaluations were expertly delivered by Gwendoline, Colin, Sola, Judy and Andrew.  They all provided the all-important ‘commends’ and ‘recommends’, giving not just our speakers, but the audience something to think about for when preparing our next speeches.  Colin’s excellent evaluation of Jack earned him the Best Evaluator award.

Our general evaluator Anthony Boboe finished off the evening with some great observations about our evaluators and the evening, after insightful reports back from Saulius, our ah-counter and Ged, the grammarian.  Our stand-in President for the night, Judy must also be commended for stepping in and making the role look easy.

Well done everyone!

How to be a great Table Topics Master

Love them or hate them, Table Topics are a key component of a typical Toastmasters club evening, through which club members learn how to improve their impromptu speaking skills.

If you have taken on the role of Table Topics master (TTM) then there are some important ways you can ensure you and your impromptu speakers get the most out of the evening

1. Start by preparing, in advance, the theme for the coming session and the specific topics to be addressed by the selected club members (and, possibly, by one or more guests)

2. Ensure that the Timekeeper for the evening concerned is briefed (normally just before the start of the meeting) to announce when requested (typically by the Toastmaster of the Evening (TME): the name of each Topics speaker, the title (or equivalent) of their Topic and their time

3. Take over the floor from TME at the commencement of the session

4. Introduce Table Topics by explaining why they are an important part of the evening

5. Set out the theme for the current session

6. Set out each specific topic in turn and select the speaker to address that topic

7. Lead the applause when welcoming and take back the floor after each speaker and provide brief “continuity comments” before moving on to the next Topic.

8. Provide a few closing words at the conclusion of the session, thanking the speakers for their participation and handing back to the TME

Click here to read our full guidance on How to be a great Table Topics Master