How fitting that the latest meeting of Wimbledon Speakers Club, held on St. Valentine’s Day, was tinged with passion and emotion, as we bade a fond farewell to William Morris House, our home ever since the club was formed back in 1998. But before we said hello to our new home at Wimbledon Library in a couple of weeks, there was time to send the old place off in fine style!
And we did just that, as Sam took the chair to welcome the audience to an action-packed evening, the highlight of which was the Annual Speech Evaluation Contest, for which we were honoured to have Suzanne Taylor Warren from Chaucer Speakers Club (and former National Evaluation Finalist) in attendance to judge the competition.
After the traditional icebreaker where Sam asked us all to introduce ourselves and tell us about one memorable place we’d been to in our lives, he then moved onto the Topics session, which this week centred around one of his passions – horse racing! Having noted some of the wonderful words and phrases that owners give to their horses, he gave each participant the name of one horse that ran the previous weekend and asked them to speak for 2 minutes in any particular way about that word or phrase. Our Topics Evaluator for the evening, Bilwa, noted the fantastic and inventive responses that were given to all Topics, including ‘Deeds Not Words’ by Katherine, ‘Whatswrongwithyou’ by Debra and ‘Shortbackandsides’ by William, but Michael took the honours for the final time at William Morris House, with his response to ‘Bloody Nose’! Special mentions must also go to our three newcomers on the evening – Anne, Natasha and Roya, who all participated brilliantly on their first visit.
After the brief business session and a cup of tea, it was time for the Main Event. Ben provided the Target Speech for the contest – a Level 3 ‘Mean What You Say’ speech entitled ‘From Duckling To Dolphin’ – where he told the audience of his experience of training for his first triathlon. John, Bilwa and Joseph took part in the contest and, after careful consideration and describing the key things she was looking for in the evaluation, Suzanne announced that Bilwa was this year’s champion. Many congratulations to Bilwa who goes on to represent our club in the next round of the competition. As Sam remarked, our new venue has a large mantelpiece that would look great with a trophy on it……
After some last quick-fire topics, it was time for Michael to close the evening with his general evaluation – a fitting way to bring the curtain down on 20 years at William Morris House. And with that, Debra, our Club Secretary and Founder, closed the door for the final time….
And so now it’s time for pastures new!! We look forward to our next meeting on Wednesday 28th February (kick off 7.30pm) which will take place in our new home of Wimbledon Library (2 minutes walk from Wimbledon train / underground station) for more practice and progress! Everyone welcome – especially new visitors!
Religion, Sex and Politics. The three subjects that Speakers Clubs should never go anywhere near. But that’s exactly what we had yesterday evening* in an explosive, blockbuster meeting chaired by Club founder, Debra!
The traditional icebreaker saw Debra ask us to name one thing that we wouldn’t mind losing, with the audience giving answers such as their gardens, their sense of time and their noisy next-door neighbour! This warmed us up nicely for the Topics session where we were all given a discussion point on one of the taboo subjects of Religion, Sex and Politics. Despite the seriousness of some of the themes, it was all very light-hearted, great fun and and an undoubted success.
Big issues of the day (as well as of yesteryear) were confronted by the eager audience who got well and truly stuck into the merits of Margaret Thatcher and Jeremy Corbyn, the scale of the housing crisis and real value of money, and the worthiness of charity CEO’s enormous pay packets. It was Don Bishop who came away with the trophy for best Topic of the evening, with his analysis of his namesake Donald Trump’s first year in office.
How could we possibly follow this? Well in true Wimbledon Speaker Club-style we did just that with an engaging second half that saw Neil give his Level 4 speech, which saw him have to focus on the use of gestures and body language. Neil made a great choice of subject matter for the speech – overcoming his fear of scuba diving – which saw him able to use a wide array of gestures as he described being fitted with his diving kit and making the leap overboard! Sam evaluated Neil’s speech and gave him a solid pass, but with encouragement to take the stabilisers off and dispense of the lectern for future speeches.
Lissy then followed with an education session on the best way to structure a speech. As one would expect with such an experienced public speaker, Lissy gave us all some invaluable advice on the most engaging and logical ways to get from A-Z in speech structure and cleverly used props and a reference to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood in order to illustrate her key points.
It was left to Phillipe to round off the evening with the general evaluation which he did so in fine style and heralding the meeting as a roaring success! And with that, the audience made their way next door to the pub to enjoy a post-meeting tipple!
We look forward to meeting once again on Wednesday 13th December (kick off 7.30pm) for the annual speech competition and for more practice and progress! Everyone welcome – especially new visitors!
*Shhhhhh don’t tell the ASC!
At a recent meeting, Club Founder, Debra Owen-Hughes gave us all some valuable advice regarding the role of Topics Evaluator. The challenging task of Topics Evaluation becomes even more challenging when there are a large number of people who have taken part in the topics session and only a 10-minute set period to conduct the evaluation. Here were Debra’s main points:
1. Don’t run over time. Count how many speakers you have and work out how you can get it into 10 minutes. Begin with a brief reflection on the Chairing of and choice of topics and then get going with the speakers. Leave out any of the more experienced speakers and you can always include them later if you have spare time. Or, you could exclude anyone with a speaking role in the second half as they will be evaluated elsewhere in the meeting. One good tip would be to list and evaluate the new speakers on one page, and the ‘older’ speakers on another so they are clearly defined and you can move on to the second page only if there is time.
2. Depending on the time available, mention only 3 things per person at most. If you make a point for improvement, include a suggestion for how to improve, don’t just point it out. Everything needs a solution or an idea about how to change it.
3. Be adaptable and flexible and keep it brief. Better to say too little than too much, and if you’re feeling the time constraints, offer a single point well made.