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

Brilliant humorous speeches

Last night was contest night and it did not disappoint!

The judges must have had an incredibly difficult job deciding who would win our humorous speech contest and table topics contest, to compete on behalf of our club at area level.

But they managed it and it was the Ryan Parke Show.  Huge well done to Ryan – not only did he enter both the contests – he won them both!

Ryan wins the double

It’s hard to know whether it was his hilarious tale of when he devoured a table decoration along with his steak, while out for dinner, that had us laughing the most.  Or if it was his recollection of the time when he broke into an Austrian family’s mountain home, and fought off their dog.  Either way, we are sure he will do well when he represents in the area contest.

Our humorous speech contestants

Every one of the contestants did us proud.  From Anthony Boboe telling us of the floating Rasta-man’s head outside a London club, and Shayan’s 10k struggle that resulted in an injured ‘muscle’, to Ajeet’s comedic performance on the subject of HTML – How To Meet Ladies, Ajeet stylee.  Well done to everyone for stepping up and taking part.

Table topic contestants

There was no requirement for our table topics contestants to be humorous, but they all had us chuckling after being given the statement “My perfect day is…” to wax lyrical on.  All the participants did themselves proud: Andrew, Aparna, Corinne, Anthony Brennan and Werner.

We had three guests join us for the night, who were kind enough to get involved and help us moderate the vote counting and share the timekeeping role.  They seemed to have a great time and we hope to see them back at our next meeting on 11th October.

The whole evening was a huge success and it wouldn’t have been so without the excellent leadership from our contest chair Richard.  He showed us all how it should be done, working closely with chief judge, Judy, and our stand-in Sergeant-at-Arms Colin.

Lets all give Ryan our full support by attending the area contest in Luton on 7th October, 1pm:

University of Bedfordshire Student Union in Luton Room G004
Vicarage Parking Lot
Vicarage Street
Luton LU1 3HZ
Richard with Ajeet
Richard with Anthony
Richard and Aparna
Richard and Corinne

It’s conference time!

The Inaugural Division H Conference is taking place on 14th October from 10am-5:30pm,
The Stafford Cripps Centre, Cranfield University, MK43 0AL

Programme, information and booking details are on the conference website

These are the three top reasons for attending conferences:

1) The workshops A lot of thought has gone into the workshops where we strive to cover better speaking skills, skills for speaking success in the real world, leadership excellence, and thriving clubs. It is rare to assemble this quality and choice of presenters outside of District conferences and rarer still to have it at affordable prices in a convenient location.

2) Networking and catching up Toastmasters from 16 clubs and our friends will be assembling with ample refreshments and breakout space to network. You could easily make new friends and connect with excellent speakers in your field and thus find mentors or proteges.

3) The thrilling contests
Get to see six humorous speech and six Table Topics contestants battle it out for places in the finals at the District conference in Sheffield (3-5 November). The standards are going up exponentially with each round as contestants hone their speeches to perfection. I was blown away by the standards at the first Division conference I visited. I still remember the drunk squaddie’s night out

£30 for the day including lunch and refreshments or attend for just the morning or afternoon for £10. Contestants please contact us for special rates.

Preparing for our upcoming contest

Who wants to deliver a humorous speech?  That was the question of the evening at the West Herts Speaker Club meeting on 13th September, posed by club member Richard, who’s admirably volunteered himself to be contest chair at our upcoming humorous speech contest on the 27th September.  We Toastmasters love a contest and the humorous speech is a particularly enjoyable one, by its very nature, it’s one that guarantees much laughter.

Round the world, Toastmasters clubs are holding humorous speech contests, competing at division area, regional, national and international levels. Well done to everyone who put themselves forward, but especially to Ryan and Andrew, who have entered both the prepared speech contest as well as the impromptu speaking contest.  We think these two have a bit of rivalry going on…

Anthony is toastmaster for the night

It was business as usual otherwise for our club meeting, brilliantly led by our toastmaster of the night Anthony Boboe.  We had three guests join us for the evening, keen to know what West Herts Speaker Club is all about.  One has indicated she’s really keen to sign up to be a member, another loved how more relaxed we were compared with her former club in Hungary, and the other didn’t reappear after the short break – hey you can’t win them all!

Patrick wins best table topics

We also welcomed back Patrick, who was visiting us from Toastmasters in Luton.  He smashed his impromptu question, posed by our topics master Paul M, and won the coveted best table topics speaker award for the night.

Ryan wins best speaker

Our prepared speeches were delivered firstly by Aga, who was keen to dispel the myth that we should be eating five portions of fruit and veg a day; then Ryan who shared his top tips on how to influence people and not be held back by worries; finishing with Andrew, whose excellent speech on leadership blew everyone’s mind, not least because he over-ran the maximum allocated speech time by four minutes – you can’t be doing that during the contest next week Andrew!  All were inspired speeches, but it was Ryan that won the coveted Best Speaker award this week.

Richard & Paul tie for best evaluator

When it came to evaluations, the quality of the evaluators was so high that we simply couldn’t pick one winner.  Well done to Richard and Paul G, who shared the prize for the night.

Now try as we might to be a very serious club that observes all the rules of Toastmasters international, we do have our moments and Wednesday night was no exception.  Shout out to Spencer – our grammarian, who forgot he was supposed to provide a ‘word of the day’, to Jill – our timekeeper who repeatedly forgot to write down the times (she can’t do that during a contest) and to Phil – our general evaluator who hilariously failed to notice that he’d been fed the word ‘procreate’ as one of the 4 P’s Paul G had used in his evaluation of Aga’s speech.  Funny times.

We look forward to our humorous speech contest on the 27th and encourage as many guests as possible to attend.