Archive for December 2006

Christmas Meeting 2006

December 12, 2006

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Last night saw our special Christmas meeting, the last of this year.

Accordingly, many of our members brought along food, and the club provided red and white wine. Magdalena, my lovely wife, kindly spent most of Sunday baking a delicious chocolate cake which I proudly brought along.

Since my mother was staying with me at the time, I’d asked Club President Mireia if it would be OK for Mum to attend. It was, and she really enjoyed her evening.

I had a role too – Sergeant at Arms. I was responsible for making sure it all got started on time, but I’m afraid I wasn’t very good at it and we started a few minutes late.

We had lots of Table Topics speakers but only two main speakers for the evening, to make time for food and drink.

The table topics were all on the Christmas theme, followed by two excellent speakers: Marion and Muryel.

Marion’s speech was especially dramatic right from the start – and in an unexpected way. When she took the floor and looked back at the audience, there was a little pause. Then the pause grew a little longer – something was wrong. Marion said something like “Oh, I’m sorry; I’ve frozen” before very graciously sitting down to compose herself.

It was the right thing to do. It gave her time to get her opening back together and, when she stood up again, she got back into the flow of her speech. Slowly at first, but then more confidently, she built the picture of her story.

The story was dramatic too and, because of her well structured speech, as well as the surprising entrance (and super recovery!), we found ourselves gripped throughout. She took us to a cold and lonely ski lift which she was trying to help her son desperately get up. Each unsuccessful attempt drew more strength, and we all waited anxiously to hear if they would get back before the cold night drew in.

It was a great talk, made all the better by its image of a cold, snowy mountain, a perfect tale for the time of year. Oh – and they did make it home that night so it had a happy ending too. Marion closed by telling us the experience had taught her to accept help when it’s needed, and to remember to bring a functioning mobile with you, when you’re out on the slopes.

Our other speaker was Muryel – she of “How Many Feet are in an Apple” fame. As with her last speech, her talk was on food, this time discussing the history behind the various Christmas treats.

She bravely ended on a comparison of British Christmas Pudding with her homeland’s “La Bûche de Noël”. The Brits were never going to come out ahead in this comparison (well, she is biased!).

Mum evidently enjoyed the whole evening but was quite surprised when Mireia invited her to speak about it, at the end of the night. Mum spoke for a few moments about her fear of speaking, the wonderful atmosphere at the club and how much it had surprised and encouraged her.

She spoke confidently, and her words were well thought out. Given how well she talked, I wondered why she was so afraid of talking in public. I was so proud of her.

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Some Like It Hot

December 7, 2006

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Well I thought I’d be in for a quiet week, but I was wrong.

Despite not having any roles planned for the evening, I was asked at the last minute to step in as evaluator for Andrew.

Furthermore, at the start of the night, I was asked to give the first table topics talk (“My Most Exotic Meal”) – so much for having an easy night. I must admit I let out a bit of a yelp when my name was called!

But I got up there and did it. It wasn’t too bad. I started off with a story about my Mum & Dad, to buy me some time to think. Before meeting my father, Mum studied and learnt 366 recipes, so that he would never be bored. Then, when they finally got together, she learnt that all he really liked was “Mince & Tatties” on Monday to Saturday, and Steak on a Sunday! She still has the poor unused recipes in a folder somewhere.

That was how the evening started. And then, at the end of the night came Andrew’s speech and my evaluation.

He was giving a speech from one of the advanced programmes, and his project required him to have a questions and answers section afterwards.

Andrew was speaking on an interesting topic too – global warming, with a speech entitled “Some Like It Hot”. Now it is often said (and it was this Monday) that you’re best steering clear of sex, politics and religion – at least when it comes to
public speaking.

Andrew resolutely ignored this advice. He even made a joke out of it. He went through each of the UK political parties in turn and analysed their response to global warming.

For him, in this speech, it worked. He certainly had no problem getting the audience to ask pertinent questions at the end. It just goes to show there are no rules to speaking that apply all of the time.

And do you know what? Despite my having been so nervous last time, I took this evaluation in my stride. This time, I wasn’t eating myself up with questions beforehand. Perhaps because it had been sprung upon me, I simply felt that I could do this, that I’d make a good show of it for Andrew. I felt good about it for once.

I feel like I’m getting somewhere now, that I’ll be actually not just able to do this public speaking lark, but I’m starting to actually relax enough to enjoy it.

Maidenhead Speakers Club is changing how I feel about speaking, and how I feel about myself too.