Michael Johnson on Life

Our Olympic Quotation of the Day

28th July 2012

Quotation of the Day - Michael Johnson on Life

Michael Johnson with another Gold Medal


“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.”

 ~ Michael Johnson

One of the reasons that I, particularly, like this quotation is because it doesn’t only relate to life, it relates to Public Speaking, as well.  So, it seemed a very apt starting point for our Olympic Quotation of the Day.

The ‘hard work’ element comes when writing your speech.  You have to come up with the theme that relates to the ultimate purpose of your speech. You need to craft an attention grabbing opening with which to start.  The body of your speech needs to make all of the points necessary to fulfill its purpose and you need an ending that, not only summarises your speech, but that encourages your audience to do act in the way you want them to.

Writing Your Speech is Hard WorkOnce you’ve come up with the plan for your speech you need to write your first draft.  If you’re anything like me, that will probably be far longer and contain more information and anecdotes than you have time for.  So, you cut out some of the unnecessary elements.

Then you refine it a little more because it’s still too long.   In fact, you keep cutting down, even having to trim out elements that you really don’t want to ‘trim out’.  And then, when it’s just right, you start to practice delivering your speech.

You practice and rehearse – maybe recording your speech.  You  keep on practicing, then practice again …… and then you practice some more.  And all of this for those few precious minutes in front of your audience.

This quotation from Michael Johnson, definitely, relates to Public Speaking.

A Bit About Michael Johnson

Michael was born on September 13, 1967.  In his athletics career he won four Olympic Gold Medals and eight World Championship Gold Medals.  He still holds the World and Olympic records in the 400m and the 4 x 400m Relay.

He used to hold the world and Olympic records in the 200 m, as well as, the world record in the indoor 400 m.   He also holds the world’s best recorded time at the 300 m.

Michael Johnson Out in FrontHe won the 200m in the 1996 Olympics and his time of 19.32 seconds stood as the record for more than 12 years and Michael is, generally, considered to be one of the greatest long sprinters in the history of Track and Field.

Michael’s the only male athlete in history to win both the200m and 400m events at the same Olympics, a feat he accomplished at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He’s also the only man to successfully defend his Olympic title in the 400 m.

With his four Olympic sand eight World Championship Gold Medals, he’s tied with Carl Lewis for the most Gold Medals won by any runner in history.

As of 2012, Michael holds 13 of the top 100 times for the 200 metres and 27 of the top 100 times for the 400 metres.  Of those, he holds 14 of the top 25 times for the 400 metres. He broke 44 seconds for the 400 metres twenty-two times, more than twice as many as any other athlete.

Michael Johnson – What an amazing athlete.

Have a great one,

Steve Bimpson

A Tall Tales Evening at Wessex Speakers

Tall Tales Evening at Wessex Speakers

Tall Tales Evening at Wessex Speakers

On the 8th August 2012 we’re having a Tall Tales evening at Wessex Speakers and you’re cordially invited to come along to share in the fun – and it’s FREE to come along and join in.

Whether you’d just like to come along a listen to some Tall Tales or whether you’ve got one of your own that you’d like to share with us, don’t be shy – come on down!

Now, if you’re wondering exactly what Tall Tales are all about, let me explain;

According to Wikipedia, A Tall Tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. This implies, of course, that a Tall Tale is untrue but this isn’t necessarily the case. You see, Tall Tales can be any of the following;

    • A completely fabricated story that has no basis in fact, whatsoever.
    • A story that’s based on fact but where those facts and / or characters are, shall we say, embellished for effect.  Or
    • A true story that seems so ‘way out’ that no-one believes that there could, possibly, be any truth in it, at all.

In fact, when it comes to our Tall Tales evening, part of the fun will come from finding out whether the tales we hear are pure fabrication, whether they’re based on fact but wildly embellished or whether they’re completely true.  And members of the audience will have to guess.

Who knows, there may even be the odd prize on offer for those that get it right.

We have 5 Tall Tales for you and a ‘Would I Lie To You’ section to add to the fun, so, come along and join the fun.

A Tall Tales Evening – Where and When

Put the evening of the 8th August into your diary and note that we start, promptly, at 7:30pm, so,  aim to arrive a little earlier.  There’s always someone here from 7:00pm.

Incidentally, ‘Here’ is at the Winchester Tennis & Squash Club and you can find our full address and directions (and a very clever QR Code to guide you right to the door) by clicking on our ‘Directions Page‘, spookily enough.

Come join in the fun at our Tall Tales evening

Come and join in the fun at our Tall Tales evening

Anyway, I think we’re going to have a really fun evening, so, if you’re a speaker with a Tall Tale to tell, if you’re curious to find out what we do at Wessex Speakers (or Toastmasters) or if you simply enjoy a good story, why not come along and join us on the 8th August.  Everyone’s welcome but we would appreciate your letting us know.

Members can do so through the usual channels but if you’re not a member and are planning to come along, please either just drop us a line using the form, below (scroll down the page), or call me on 07957 818395 and we’ll reserve you a seat.

And do feel free to share this with your network using the ‘Share’ tab on the right of your screen or bring along a friend or two (or 3 or 4 🙂  ).

Have a great one.

Steve Bimpson 

Using Humour in Speeches – Would you like to know How?

Using Humour in Speeches - People Laughing

For those of us that do speak in public, or for those of us that aspire to, using humour in speeches is, surely, one of the more difficult things to do in a predictable way.

On a personal level, I’ve often found that an idea comes to mind that seems very funny and, so,  I build it in to my speech as I prepare.  The challenge comes from the fact that the more I practice my speech – and go over what I thought was funny – the the less humorous it seems to be.  At least, to me, anyway.

Then I start to doubt myself and wonder whether I really should use it, at all.  After all, although silence in a speech can be used in a very powerful way, it’s definitely not want you want to hear after delivering a joke, is it?

I’ve often wondered whether there’s a formula, or a number of formulae, that you can use to create humour in speeches in a consistent and predictable way.  Maybe you’ve been asking yourself that same question?

Well, I was delighted to discover that one of our neighbouring Toastmasters Clubs, Hamwic Speakers, is running a workshop entitled, “Using Humour in Speeches”.  No doubt, this will be the perfect opportunity for me to find out the answer to my question.

Perhaps you’d like the opportunity to find out the answer, as well?  If so, you’re very welcome to attend.

Using Humour in Speeches – A Workshop by Jan Jack

Using Humour in Speeches - a Workshop by Jan Jack

Jan Jack on Using Humour in Speeches

The workshop is being delivered by Jan Jack, the founder of the Laughter-House in Basingstoke.  Jan will be sharing some of her experiences as a stand-up comedienne, as well as, giving some Top Tips on writing and delivering humour in speeches.

She promises to deliver on the following, which all sound like just what I’ve been looking for;

  • How to craft humorous content.
  • How to deliver that killer line.
  • How to judge an audience, perfectly, to find the ‘right kind of humour’ for them.

It sounds like ‘just the ticket’.  In fact, I’ve booked my place and will be there on Tuesday 31st July 2012.

There’s not much time to get yourself booked in but guests are always welcome at Hamwic Speakers.  You can find out more about this event, and book yourself a place, by following this link.

I hope to see you there.

Have a great one,

Steve Bimpson

A Cinematic Flavour at Wessex Speakers

Meeting Review – 25th July 2012 – A Cinematic Theme

There was a distinctively cinematic flavour to this weeks meeting as the theme for the evening was The Cinema.  We don’t always have a specific theme at every meeting but tonight, the theme was woven, intricately, like a silver thread throughout the proceedings.

A Cinematic theme for the evening from Eric Skates - Vice President for Education

Eric Skates

Our President, Janet Blann, was away enjoying a holiday and so, for the first time, Eric Skates, our VP of Education (and Club Vice President) stood up to take on the role of conducting both the opening and the closing of the meeting.  He certainly didn’t waste any time getting in to the cinematic theme as he threw in several cinematic references in his opening.

Our Toastmaster for this evening was ……… me, taking control of the meeting for only the second time since I joined Wessex Speakers, earlier in February of this year.

The cinematic theme continued to weave its way through the evening when, for our Icebreaker, I asked the audience to tell us what their favourite film was, and why.  And there were some great answers, ranging from the Battle of Britain to the Lord of the Rings and from Superman to The Mummy.  (I think Penny managed to mention The Mummy about 20 times during the evening 😀  ).

Alex Robinson - a member of Wessex Speakers

Creative Imagination – The title of Alex’s speech

The first of our Prepared Speeches came from Alex Robinson who was doing his CC4 with a speech entitled, “Creative Imagination”.  As it happened, I immediately understood Alex’s passion about this topic as I, very recently, read his blog post on the very same thing.

Alex, is a very creative person working in a highly creative field as a web designer.  Interestingly, he also has a book keeping business, as well, which implies that he’s probably using both sides of the brain in the world of business, which is no bad thing.

The whole premise of Alex’s speech revolved around how companies try to stimulate the creativity of their employees by sticking them in a dull environment or by offering financial incentives that encourage them to be anything but creative.

Creative Imagination stimulated in a creative environment

Creative Imagination stimulated in a creative environment

Why not do something different, he suggests, and get people in a creative environment if you want to stimulate the imagination.  The suggestion that a company might take their employees to drink wine in a restaurant on the Mediterranean Coast was of, particular, appeal to me.  🙂

He did give us the example of Google and their approach to the helping their employees to be creative.  They give their staff ‘Play Time’, which takes place in a dedicated environment in their offices that is suitably decked out to, not only have fun, but to stimulate the imagination, as well.

And it works.  Many of the most creative, and successful, ideas that have come from Google have been conjured up in the imagination of their staff during ‘Play Time’.

Great speech, Alex.

As it would happen, I was the second speaker of the evening, with a speech entitled, “Just Because You Can’t See it ……”.

A Cinematic Theme with Steve Bimpson talking about Nano TechnologyI was working on my CC3 project and the purpose of my speech was to inform my audience about Nano Technology – which, of course, is something that we can’t see, feel, touch or smell …….. but it’s definitely there!

I opened my speech with some ‘Magic’ to capture my audience’s attention and then explained that, as I’m not a member of the Magic Circle, I’d explain how the trick was done, a little later in my speech.

I then introduced Nano Technology, explaining exactly what it is and how I first came to hear of it.  Luckily for me, I first came across Nano Technology in a film, which fitted in perfectly with our cinematic theme.  Of course, some might say that I cheated a little as I was involved in choosing the theme – but I don’t think we should dwell on that.

Chemical Structure of a Nanocar

The Chemical Structure of a Nanocar

Actually, some of the facts and figures and developments in Nano Technology amazed me as I researched the subject.  (Did you know, for instance, that scientists have already created a NanoCar? – see picture to the right – Amazing!)

But many of the areas I discussed are still a long, long way from every day use.    However, when it comes to the field of Nano Coatings, this isn’t the case.

In fact, the magic I performed in my opening was possible because of a Nano Coating.

Anyway, once you see what a Nano Coating can do, you’ll appreciate that “Just because you can’t see it …. doesn’t mean that it isn’t there”.

Our third speech of the evening came from Eric Skates.  It was and Educational Slot called “Motivation II” and was, actually, more of a workshop than a speech.  It followed on from the excellent speech Eric delivered at the last meeting (see that meeting review) about “The Learning Curve” and he gave a very comprehensive re-cap of that to begin with.

Eric Skates on Motivation

Eric Skates on Motivation

The purpose of this speech was to move forward and encourage members to think about what they’re looking to achieve from Toastmasters and put a plan into action to support that.  We’re also setting up a mentoring structure and we want all members to be proactively involved in encouraging and supporting their fellow members.  Particularly, offering tips and advice to members that are at an earlier stage on their Toastmasters journey.

Leadership is an essential skill to develop and we’re all being encouraged to stretch ourselves a little and proactively work towards our CL, as well as, our CC.  This means taking on roles within the meeting to help develop those skills and the club wants to support all members as best we can.

Eric had put together a couple of great questionnaires to gather the information he needed to help pull all of this together and is planning other Education Slots, including one on how to Make it Easier on Yourself”.  I’m, definitely, looking forward to that one!  🙂

He left us with a few words of wisdom;

“If you love something, let it go …………  If it returns, it was meant to be.  But, if it doesn’t return then  …….”

After the break Conrad Hoe, Penny Hoe and Julian Gee carried out the Speech Evaluations this week.  All three are very experienced members and make the Art of the Evaluation look deceptively simple.  We are lucky to have the depth of experience that exists at Wessex Speakers.

After the Evaluations, Eric returned as our Table Topics Master and continued with the cinematic theme.  Conrad was asked about his most memorable moment at a cinema and talked about an experience he had at Saturday morning cinema as a child.

The Mummy PosterSaturday morning cinema ………… doesn’t that take you back??

Penny was asked about her favourite movie genre and explained that it depended on her mood.  There were times when she liked to see a Rom Com and others when seeing Arnie ‘Strip ass and streak across the screen’ appealed to her.  But it also seemed very apparent that she could watch ‘The Mummy‘ almost any time.

Alex was given the question, “Harry Potter – Love him or Loathe him?”.  He explained that he loved the books but had been disappointed when the first film came out, although, he did find that they gradually improved and he really quite enjoyed the last two.

Mind you, he also got quite irritated when at Oxford because everyone described Oxford as looking like Hogwarts – rather then the other way round.

The Dictator PosterRavi was asked if he was ‘Holding out for a Hero’ – and who it was.  He almost burst at the seems with enthusiasm as he told us how India made so many more movies than Hollywood and then went on to passionately regale us with tales about The Dictator and what a terrific movie it was – his hero being Sacha Baron Cohen, of course.

Matt was, also, asked the genre question.   I hadn’t realised that he was a kindred spirit – a lover of Science Fiction – surely the best genre there is?

Julian was asked for his most memorable movie moment and, whilst claiming that he hardly ever watches the movies ……. he went on to give us 2!!

That moment in When Harry Met Sally

I’ll have what she’s having

That moment in “When Harry Met Sally” – need I say more?  And then a scene from the Battle of Britain (also his favourite movie, if you remember?) when a pilot was shot and his goggles slowly filled up with blood.  Nice one Julian.

Andy Brine stepped in to the role of Table Topics Evaluator which, I tend to think, is probably one of the toughest roles to take on as you have precious little time to prepare before having to give your evaluation.  Andy did a great job.

A favourite moment of the night, for me, came when The Matrix was mentioned and Eric immediately quipped,

“What do the French say when they experience Deja vu?”  ………..  Something along the lines of, “Ooh, that seemed a little familar”?

I love it.  🙂

The Wessex Speakers Oscars AwardsAnd then we were in to the Final Analysis.  Ravi brought his boundless enthusiasm to the role of Grammarian and Matt did a splendid job as our General Evaluator for the night.

It then fell to Eric for the closing comments and awards for the evening.

Conrad won the Best Evaluator, Ravi the Best Table Topic and I was surprised – and delighted – to win Best Speaker.

Eric left us with a few reminders.  Firstly, that Hamwic Speakers have a workshop on the 31st July – Using Humour in Speeches.  Eric said that he’s going along and I’ve decided to join him.  If you fancy joining us you can register for your attendance via the link.

Tall Tales Evening at Wessex SpeakersHe reminded us that we’re holding a ‘Tall Tales’ evening at our next meeting on the 8th August and, finally, that it’s the Humorous Speech and Table Topics contest on 22nd September.  Anyone wishing to put in an entry should let us know soon.

Well, I have to say.  Film Directors make movies to connect to people and to stimulate their emotions.  If we’d had a room full of Film Directors with us at this meeting, they’d have been feeling very proud of themselves.  Why?

Well, the emotional content that everyone had to demonstrated during their respective cinematically themed stories, clearly showed the strength of emotional connection to the film concerned.  Well done to one and all.

And finally, a big ‘Thank You’ to everyone that stepped in to a role for this meeting.  As always, it’s greatly appreciated.

Well, that’s it for this time.  Have a great one,

Steve Bimpson

Start With a Simple Speech Structure

Start with a Simple Speech StructureWhether you’re new to Public Speaking, or more experienced, there’s something to be said for  using a simple Speech Structure.

If you are new to speaking or don’t have too much experience, then you don’t want to be thinking about too many things as you speak, so, a simple Speech Structure is perfect.  And if your speech isn’t too long then this same Speech Structure will work beautifully for you, irrespective of your level of experience.

The best part is, there are only 3 elements to remember and to plan – and it doesn’t get any simpler than that. Sometimes summarised as ‘Tell them what you’re going to tell them – tell them – then tell them what you’ve told them’, the 3 elements are;

      • The Opening – Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
      • The Body –  Tell them.
      • The Closing – Tell them what you’ve told them.

Let’s go through them, one at a time, and take a look at what you need to be thinking about for each element, bearing in mind that, in this post, I’m talking about a speech that’s no more than 7 to 10 minutes long.

A Simple Speech Structure – The Opening

Crafting an Attention Grabbing OpeningIt’s, probably, true that the first thirty seconds of your speech is going to be the most important part and this first element of the Speech Structure is very important. It’s in this element that you need to grab the attention of your audience, and engage with them, so that they’re eager to hear what you have to say.

There are a number of ways you can do this (and this is not a definitive list).  For instance, you could;

      • Explain why the topic is so important for your audience.
      • Ask a thought-provoking or rhetorical question.
      • Make a startling statement. One that’s either interesting or controversial.
      • Make a series of statements that gradually arouse suspense or curiosity.
      • Get your audience to think back to a particular time.
      • Get your audience to imagine a particular scenario.
      • Tell a quick story or anecdote.
      • Recite a relevant quotation.
      • Tell a relevant joke. Relevance being particularly important on this one.
      • Make a relevant historical reference.
      • Give a demonstration.
      • Do something that requires audience participation.

And the list goes on. In fact, it’s only really limited by our own imagination.

Once you’ve got their attention, don’t forget to ‘Tell them what you’re going to tell them’.

There are some things that you should avoid, including talking about the amount of preparation time involved, delaying mentioning the purpose or topic of your speech and you should never apologise for anything from the stage.

Once you have won the attention of the audience, your speech should move seamlessly to the middle, or Body, of your speech.

A Simple Speech Structure – The Body

This second element of the speech structure will, generally, form the largest portion of your speech and at this point, your opening will have grabbed the attention of your audience. They will have been introduced to you, and to the subject of your speech, and they’ll be ready to hear what it is that you have to say.

Whatever your message, you will probably have a number of points that you’d like to make, but it’s important not to over complicate things by throwing in a whole host of points, as doing that can be very confusing.

I’d suggest that you whittle it down to just 2 to 4 points that you can make, effectively.  It’s also important that you introduce them in such a way that each point you make builds upon those that have gone before. Doing this makes your speech easy to understand, easy to follow and your audience will get far more enjoyment from your speech, as a result.

More importantly, they’ll understand your message which, after all, is why you’re making your speech in the first place.

Having gone through your points in sequence, you’ll have set up your audience, perfectly, to go into your closing.

A Simple Speech Structure – The Closing

Where the opening of your speech is all about grabbing the attention of your audience, the closing is about re-iterating what you’ve had to say and then leaving your audience with a clear idea of what they should be doing, thinking or feeling as a result of your speech.  After all, every speech has a purpose, doesn’t it?

Where the first 30 seconds of your speech is, probably, the most important part, your closing comes a close second. You want to leave your audience with a great impression and to do so, your closing will need to contain some of your strongest material.

In fact, your closing is the last opportunity you have to make that great impression, so, you need to grasp that opportunity and;

      • Give a good summary of the main points of your speech.
      • Provide a little more food for thought for your listeners- perhaps with one more, quick point.
      • Leave your audience with positive memories of your speech.
      • End with a final thought or call to action of some kind.

Leave Your Audience With a Great ImpressionI find that if you can link your final point / message / call to action back to something in your opening, this can pull your speech together in a very powerful way and leave your audience with a great impression.

There are, of course, lots of ways to do this. As an example; if you ask a question, or make a statement, at the end of your opening, you can then answer that question, or refer back to that statement, as the final thought of your speech. This links everything together very nicely.

And that, my friends, is a simple Speech Structure and how to make it work for you.

If you’ve found this article useful, please share it with your friends using the Wessex Speakers Share Tab on the right of your screen.  We’d also love to hear your comments in the boxes, below.

Have a great one,

Steve Bimpson

Do You Feel Nervous About Speaking?

Ewan McGregor - Actor and Jedi Knight - Gets Nervous About Speaking in PublicWell, if you do feel at all nervous about speaking in public, then you’re in good company.  Actor and Jedi Knight, Ewan McGregor, knows exactly how you feel and in the following video, courtesy of BBC Two, he shares with us how being nervous about speaking affects him.

He also gives us a few tips on easing those nerves, makes some observations on engaging with your audience and offers some advice on delivering a powerful speech.

For those that prefer to read rather than watch a video, I’ve summarised his comments, below.  Just scroll down the page a little.

Ewan McGregor – Nervous About Speaking

Ewan has found Public Speaking and speech making to be incredibly difficult and nerve wracking.  Horribly nerve-wracking, in fact.  Surprisingly, or perhaps not so, he says that he finds it much easier to walk on stage to play a part than to walk on stage to make a speech as himself.

Terrifying was the word that he used.  Perhaps you can relate to that?

I guess that, if you’re playing a part, then you’re not exposing yourself to the world in quite the same way as you do when you’re playing yourself.

He says that being nervous about speaking causes him to get that feeling of his heart being in his throat as he approaches the stage.  He said that he has a tendency to speak very fast because of his nerves and rush through what he has to say, frequently, missing parts of his speech out, much to his frustration.

Ewan says that if you get hold of yourself, slow yourself down and speak at a reasonable pace then your speech will, generally, go all right.

A 3D Man Getting Nervous About SpeakingHe doesn’t like to write down what he’s going to say but he does work through the points that he wants to cover and loosely work out how he’s going to say them.  Once he’s prepared suffuciently, he then trusts himself, despite his nerves, to put his points across.

Interestingly, Ewan doesn’t enjoy watching somebody read a speech as he finds it difficult to connect with it.  He says, “it’s a nice piece of writing but it’s not a speech.”

In contrast, when someone’s thought through and prepared, in their mind, all of the points that they want to go through, that allows them to speak freely from something they’re connected to, something they believe in.  The result is a very powerful speech that connects with the audience.

So, what’s his advice for someone who’s nervous about speaking in public?

To prepare, thoroughly. To think through everything that you want to say, the points you want to make and how you’re going to make them. And I just love the phrase he used to put across his last point;

Allow yourself the luxury of thinking through your points as you speak to your audience.  To not panic and not rush and make the points that you want to make – and mean them.  In doing so you will engage your audience.

So there you have it, some good advice from a Jedi Knight.

Have a great one,

Steve Bimpson

10 Tips For Successful Public Speaking

Successful Public Speaking is the result of a number of things all coming together at once but dealing with nervousness will help you take a major step forwards.

Feeling some nervousness before giving a speech is natural and healthy. It shows you care about doing well. But, too much nervousness can be detrimental. Here’s how you can control your nervousness and make effective, memorable presentations which are the essence of successful Public Speaking:

  • Know the room. Get familiar with the the room in which you’ll be speaking. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
  • Know the audience. Greet some of the audience as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers.
  • Know your material. If you’re not familiar with your material or are uncomfortable with it, your nervousness will increase. Practice your speech and revise it if necessary.
  • Relax. Ease tension by doing exercises.  And remember, simple breathing exercises can be every bit as effective as physical ones.
  • Visualise yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear, and assured. When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful.
  • Realise that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative, and entertaining. They don’t want you to fail.
  • Don’t apologise. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you may be calling the audience’s attention to something they hadn’t noticed. Keep silent.
  • Concentrate on the message — not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties, and outwardly toward your message and your audience. Your nervousness will dissipate.
  • Turn nervousness into positive energy. Harness your nervous energy and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.
  • Gain experience. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club, like Wessex Speakers, can provide the experience you need.

These are just a few things that you can do to help you deal with any nervousness you may experience but successful Public Speaking is more of a journey than a destination.  So, watch out for more Public Speaking Tips in future posts as we build up a useful library of information that you can refer to whenever you have the need.

Have a great one,

Steve Bimpson

Humorous Toastmasters Club Officer Training?

Toastmasters LogoIt sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it?  After all, you probably wouldn’t connect humour with Toastmasters Club Officer Training, or any other kind of official ‘Officer Type’ training, come to that.  But that’s exactly what we got at the Club Officer Training in Ferndown on Saturday.

Obviously, with a new Toastmasters year and some new Club Officers, it’s sensible for us to do the Toastmasters Club Officer Training.  It’s a good refresher for experienced Officers and ensures that new Officers, like myself, get familiar with exactly what’s required of us.

Not to mention the fact that we get ‘Brownie Points’ for Wessex Speakers if 4 Club Officers attend.  And we did manage to ‘tick that box’ as Eric Skates, Andy Brine, Ravi Bhatta and me all went along to represent Wessex Speakers.

Janet Malphus and Elizabeth Hendry - Area Governors

Janet Malphus and Elizabeth Hendry

The Toastmasters Club Officer Training format has been changed for this year.  Our new Area Governor, Elizabeth Hendry, and her opposite number in Area 42, Janet Malphus, thought that it would be a good idea to work together on this and train Club Officers from each Toastmasters Club in the two areas at the same event.

The downside of this was having to travel a little further than usual and having the training take place on a Saturday.  On the positive side, Elizabeth and Janet came up with the idea of adding a useful Workshop into the proceedings.

And that’s where the humour part came in.

Gayna Cooper was at the Toastmasters Club Officer Training in Ferndown

The experienced and accomplished Gayna Cooper

Gayna Cooper, a very experienced and accomplished fellow Toastmaster, and a member of the Bedford Speakers Toastmasters Club, delivered an excellent Workshop entitled, “How to Write a Humorous Speech”.  This 2 hour workshop was, for me, the highlight of the day, in terms of content.

As well as looking at presentation skills, speech structure, the things we worry about when writing speeches, the use of body language, engaging the audience, taking into consideration what the judges are looking for and lots of advice on how to deal with all of these things, Gayna also delighted her audience with 3 terrific speeches.

Gayna, as well as being a humorous speaker, is an inspirational speaker.  She speaks from the heart, she speaks with passion and her words carry with them a very powerful message.   Her work is funny, thought provoking and moving – all at the same time.

I’m not going to attempt to convey what she communicated in her speeches but I will give you a quick overview just to give you a flavour.

Her first speech was called “Marrowbone” and I’ll never forget the simple meal of ‘black peas and coweels’ (cow heels!!) that she enjoyed as a child from the north.  She used that simple meal and the act of literally, sucking the marrow from the bone, as a beautiful metaphor for sucking the juice out of life.

Heads or Tails - a speech by Gayna CooperHer last speech was entitled “Heads or Tails”.  Here, Gayna used another powerful metaphor.  This time it was the flip of a coin, something that we’re all familiar with, as the metaphor through which she conveyed her powerful message.

Instead of thinking in terms of ‘Heads you win, Tails you lose’ why not spin it around and allow yourself to think in terms of ‘Heads you win, Tails you win’.  Isn’t that a shift?  And what do you think would happen in your life if you allowed yourself to think in that way?  Again, very inspiring stuff.

I’ve left what I think was Gayna’s best speech until last.  Simply called “Handbags” it was, funny insightful, thought provoking and inspiring.  Much like the others, only this one resonated a little more with me.

Now, you’re not thinking that this is because I’m a closet handbag man ……. Are you?

Handbags - a speech by Gayna CooperGayna, clearly, appreciates the power of metaphor – she used it very effectively in all three of her speeches.  In this speech she equated the way that ladies change their handbags as they go through their lives with how their lives change.  She also used a really good analogy to make sure that she engaged the men in the audience.  She compared the way ladies change their handbags through their lives with the way men change their cars.  It worked very well.

Having said that, the part that really resonated with me was when the ladies handbag was, essentially, a babies changing bag, as well.  I can still remember the time when my children were young and I would ask my wife whether she happened to have, what could be, the most obscure of objects.

I can’t remember Linda her ever saying no!

It didn’t matter what I asked for, it always used to magically appear from somewhere in the deep, dark depths of her ‘Handbag’.  And that was why it resonated so much.

Gayna, if you’re reading this, thank, from the bottom of my heart.  I had great fun listening to you and I learnt a lot.  What’s more, I’m sure that I wasn’t alone.

Facebook - Twitter - LinkedInI must confess that the Toastmasters Club Officer Training didn’t have, quite, the same level of impact on me, but it was really good to gain the depth of understanding of my role in our club and I’ll endeavour to fulfil my responsibilities to the best of my ability.

As with all of these kinds of events – and as a professional networker, myself – the best part of the day is the people you meet on these occasions and the connections that result.

As VP Public Relations I’ve taken on the responsibility for the website, Facebook page, Twitter and all other form of PR, all with a view to attracting more guests to our meetings.  Meeting with others that share that same responsibility in their own Toastmasters Club was great.

One of the things that we plan to do, as a result, is to coordinate our respective efforts.  We’ll link to one another’s websites, follow each other on Twitter, Like one another’s Facebook pages and posts and share everything we can with our own social networks.

After all, we’re all looking to grow our membership, we’re all looking to help people develop their communication skills and we’re all looking for visitors to come to our clubs.  We’re also all in different catchment areas, so, coordinating our efforts will have a very positive effect for every club, and everyone, involved.

Google LogoGoogle loves to see this kind of ‘chatter’ and ‘sharing’ going on.  It shows that people are finding what they’re looking for and sharing it, talking about it and coming back for more.

Google’s in the business of giving people what they want and when they see that happening, everyone involved moves up the ranks and everyone will get more visitors to their websites, more visitors to their meetings and more members in their clubs.


Thanks to Elizabeth and Janet for their efforts in putting on this Toastmasters Club Officer Training Day.  I think it went down very well and will look forward to the next one in 2013.

Have a great one!

Steve Bimpson

What’s the Link Between Public Speaking and Skittles?

Public Speaking and Skittles - Eric Skates

Eric Skates – VP Education

Well, isn’t it obvious?  The link between Public Speaking and Skittles is Wessex Speakers, of course.

Being on a mission to put some fun into Public Speaking doesn’t mean that we have to focus on speaking at meetings, alone.  So, on Friday evening, 20th July, a group of us went down to the Kings Head at Hursley for an evening of food, fun, friends ……….. and Skittles!

Thanks to Eric Skates (VP Education) for arranging everything and thanks to Christian and the staff at the Kings Head, Hursley for providing great food and, most importantly, the Skittles Alley – It would have been difficult to play without it.  😉

Conrad Hoe took care of the music (I didn’t know you had such good taste, Conrad. 🙂  ), Eric organised the Skittles Programme for the evening (including prizes) and Julian Gee recorded some video for posterity.  Just click to view;

The main event was a team competition.  How we came up with the team names “The Lepers” and the “E-Coli’s”, I’m not quite sure but everyone got right in to the spirit of things.

Unsurprisingly, the competitive nature of people, particularly some of the ladies, quickly came to light but the score line of 3-0 to the “E-Coli’s” doesn’t reflect how tight the competition really was.  Of course, being a “Leper”, myself, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Sorry, did someone mention the word ‘Whitewash’???    Naaahhhhh!!

Public Speaking and Skittles - Eric awards Alex the Gold Prize for the E-Coli's

Alex receiving the Gold Prize on behalf of the E-Coli’s

Alex was only too pleased to accept the ‘Gold Prize’ on behalf of the “E-Coli’s” – several boxes of Ferrero Rocher – Lucky things!  Needless to say, they didn’t last out the night and were polished off well before the end of the evening.

There were a couple of other prizes, as well.  Eric’s wife, Gill, won the Gold for the highest individual score throughout the Team Competition and Andy Brine got the ‘Wooden Spoon Award’ for the lowest score of the evening.  I’d love to say that Andy ended up in this position because of the incredibly high scores achieved by everyone else ……….. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the case, with a number of us (myself included) vying with Andy for the bottom rung on the ladder.

Public Speaking and Skittles - Eric Presents Gill with the Highest Score, Andy Misses Another One and Gets the Wooden Spoon

Gill wins the Highest Score of the Day – The story of Andy’s evening – missing another one and getting the Wooden Spoon

Next on the agenda was an Individual Knockout Competition, which also turned into a bit of a whitewash with Debbie Froud winning every round.  That’s consistency for you.

Public Speaking and Skittles - Eric Presents Debbie with the Individual Knockout Award

Eric Presents Debbie with the Individual Knockout Award

Now they do say that consistency pays off in the end and it certainly did for Debbie as she won a very nice bottle of red wine.   I think she mentioned something about sending Robin out with the children and having a quiet evening, alone with her bottle …… but I may have been mistaken.

Amazingly, for a Public Speaking Club, the only speaking that took place came when Eric presented the prizes to the lucky recipients.  The focus was, definitely, on fun for the evening and a great time was had by all.  Oh, and we did manage to squeeze eating into the schedule, as well.

Poddi Winchester - THE Place to Network in WinchesterOn a personal note, this particular Friday was a little bizarre for me.  I’m very active with Poddi Winchester, a new networking group in the area and we meet on a Friday morning for a breakfast meeting at the Kings Head.  So, I got there at 6:30 am for Poddi and, finally, left shortly after 11:00pm.

I should point out that I really wasn’t there all day.  Honest.

And it’s worth noting that, if you do go networking but don’t feel entirely comfortable when you have to get up and introduce your business to the group, Wessex Speakers are here to help you develop your Public Speaking skills and have fun, all at the same time.

Anyway, if you’re reading this and are looking for a fun evening out with friends, family or any other group of people, you really should think about a Skittles evening at the Kings Head.

Have a great one!

Steve Bimpson

A Very Inspiring Evening

Wessex Speakers Meeting Review – 11th July 2012

Wessex Speakers Meeting Review 11th July 2012 - Janet Blann - Our President

Janet Blann

Tonight was our first meeting since our AGM and since the changes that have taken place on the committee and this meeting review is the first one that we’ve done.  Janet Blann settled right in to her new role as President of the Club.  I’m not sure how she was feeling at the prospect of her first meeting as President but, to me, it looked like she’d slipped on an old pair of gloves.  Welcome, Janet.

Our Toastmaster for the evening was Matt Jerrard who, in his fifth year as a member, provided a steady hand on the tiller to steer us through a very lively meeting.

Elizabeth Hendry, our new Area Governor, joined us for an informal visit to introduce herself and to say hello but she also ‘got her sleeves rolled up’ and delivered the first Prepared Speech of the night.  A night which turned out to have a very inspiring theme to it.

Entitled “Try Trusting the Truth”, Elizabeth spoke about how easy it was in life to get swept along collecting some things and agreeing to others that, in all honesty, you really don’t want to do.  This can come from mistaking sentimentality with genuine affection.  She gave examples of her mother collecting Toby Jugs after receiving one as a gift and of her own collection of decorative plates, as well as her agreeing to be a foster parent.

It turned out that her mother didn’t like Toby Jugs, she didn’t like decorative plates and she didn’t want to be a foster parent.   She wrapped up with a very thought provoking question;

“What are your Toby Jugs and what decorative plates are hanging on your walls”

What a great example of the use of a metaphor.

Andy Brine - Vice President Membership

Andy Brine

Our second Prepared Speech came from Andy Brine.  I’ve only been with Wessex Speakers since February and I’ve seen a marked improvement in Andy’s speaking.  Mind you, he has put himself forward and done quite a few speeches in the last few months, which just goes to show that he ‘walks his talk’.  You see, there was a phrase that he repeated several times in his Speech, tonight;

“It’s not the outcome you create but the actions that you take that are important.”

He was talking about Genius and whether it’s something that we’re born with or something that comes as a result of the actions that we take.  By ‘walking his talk’ Andy’s a great example that the actions we take (i.e. doing lots of speeches) makes a big difference to the level of skill we display.

I must confess that the question of whether we’re born with genius, an affinity with a particular skill set, is another subject.  However, it’s very clear to me that if we don’t have a CANI attitude towards that skill set (Constant and Never-ending Improvement), and if we don’t take the actions necessary to practice, develop and refine those skills, then we’ll never achieve our true potential …… genius or not!

Very inspiring, Andy, and in my opinion, the best speech I’ve heard you deliver, to date.

Eric Skates - Vice President for Education

Eric Skates

Eric Skates, our Vice President Education delivered our third, and final, Prepared Speech of the evening.  He very cleverly managed to combine an Education Slot for the club with a speaking project from his manual.

With a Speech entitled “The Learning Curve”, he reminded us all about the learning process whilst giving us a deeper understanding of that process by breaking it down into the 4 steps that we all go through when we learn something new;

Unconscious Incompetence  >  Conscious Incompetence  >  Conscious Competence  >  Unconscious Competence.

Of course, this is a cycle that we continue to go through as we continue to learn.

Eric also showed an extraordinary degree of empathy for all members when he started to talk about the emotional journey that we go through while we learn.  From the stress and anxiety we may feel at the bottom of the Learning Curve, to the euphoria and sheer joy that we experience at the top.   Eric wants to understand what it is that motivates individual members and work with them, accordingly.

All of this brought us, very nicely, to the focus that he wants to bring to his role as Vice President Education.  He’s set himself four priorities;

  1. Getting newer members through the Competent Communicator manual.
  2. Starting a mentoring programme where individual needs and goals are matched to appropriate skills.
  3. Making sure that newer members are equipped to take on the roles that are essential to the smooth running of the meetings.
  4. Encouraging members to work through their Leadership and Advanced Leadership Manuals.  Something that’s, apparently, very easy whilst looking quite complex.

What really struck me, as Eric moved on to this part of his speech, was the obvious passion and enthusiasm that he has for his new role in the club.

Yoda - Do, or do not ......... there is no try.

Do, or do not – There is no try.

He ended by quoting Homer Simpson, who said, “Remember that trying is the first step towards failure”.  He then posed a question for us all to ponder; “Is trying the first step towards failure?”

For what it’s worth, I subscribe to Yoda’s philosophy; “Do, or do not.  There is no try!”

Very inspiring, Eric.  I, for one, am really looking forward to this next 12 months at Wessex Speakers.  It’s going to be great!

After the break, we moved on to the Evaluations for the Prepared Speeches.  These were carried out by Janet Blann, Paddy Roadnight and me – with my very first Speech Evaluation.

After the Evaluations, Andy Brine was our Table Topics Master for the evening and he used what has now become known as the ‘Pot of Death’ to give the speakers their topics.  This is a small pot with cards in it.  Each card has a question on it and the speaker pulls one out, completely at random.  Their answer to the question is the subject of their Table Topic.

That’s impromptu speaking at its best.

Janet Blann, Paddy Roadnight, Stuart Mackrell and Matt Jerrard were our Table Topic Speakers and they were evaluated, admirably, by Just Gee.  A great job was done by all.

In the final analysis, the General Evaluation was carried out by a guest.  Chris Bonham was a member of the Vodafone Toastmasters Club but is looking for a new home.  I hope that he was suitably impressed with the evening’s proceedings and that he decides to join us.  He certainly indicated that he would be seeing us, again, at our next meeting on 25th July.

Wessex Speakers Meeting Review - Best Speakers Award - 11th July 2012


Eric Skates won the Best Speaker vote, Paddy Roadnight the best Table Topic Speaker vote and I was very surprised to win the best Evaluator vote with my first Evaluation.  Mind you, it may have been a bit of a cheat as I was also Grammarian, so, I had two bites at the apple.   😀

Finally, I’d just like to thank everyone for their terrific contributions.  In particular, to those that took on roles this evening;  Matt as Toastmaster, Stuart Mackrell as Timekeeper, Andy Brine as Table Topics Master, Julian Gee as Table Topics Evaluator and Chris Bonham as General Evaluator.   Plus, of course, the Speakers and Evaluators mentioned above.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening.  If you missed it, you really should get yourself along to the next one – members and visitors, alike.  For those of you that did miss it, I hope that this meeting review has at least given you a flavour of the evening.

The date for your diary: Our next meeting is on Wednesday 25th July.  See you then!

Steve Bimpson