White Elephant gift exchange [Meeting Report of 2022-12-13]

For many years our club has had a tradition of doing a “white elephant gift exchange” at our last meeting of the year. This celebrates the season and is a fun way to give and get from each other. This gift exchange is a chance to get rid of something you don’t want any more. You might say: one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.
Poorana introduced the white elephant tradition to our guests Chris (from TM Heidelberg), Altun, Simon and Lena who participated for the first time in a Toastmasters meeting.  He introduced the team of the evening: Chris jumped in as Grammarian, Gabi took the important timer role and Katharina functioned as General Evaluator.
The word of the evening was kismet – destiny or fate. Example: “Let your kismet decide what gift you will get this evening.”

The table topics session was based on the white elephant gifts. Once the members get their gift they have 1 to 2 minutes to tell what is so special, great, fantastic about the gift.

  • Oliver received a big paper sun. He described how important it is to have the sun in the dark season of the year.
  • Chris picked a thermal cup. She uses it as a reminded to drink more and elaborated about health issues.
  • Lena received a gift in a bright orange color, usage unclear. She saw in it a perfect match to many things and was very enthusiastic about the gift.
  • Gabi got a piggy bank in the shape of a washing machine. For her a perfect reminder to save money when washing.
  • Simon received a gadget with three ugly dwarfs. He seemed to be happy about new flat mates.
  • Katharina received her own gift back. It is kismet she cannot get rid of it but she will try again next year.

We had two prepared speeches.
Nadine did her Icebreaker with the title “A year without alcohol”. She explained her motivation to refrain from alcohol and described her experiences. Her speech was evaluated by Oliver who praised the speaking skills she showed already in her first speech.
Shruti did her second speech in the path Presentation Mastery. Focus of her speech was body language and vocal variety. In her speech, “my experiences in Germany”, she gave us personal stories about public transportation and hospitals and compared these to her life in India. Sybille evaluated her speech and suggested a more catchy title to the speech and to check the unintended body movement which made it a bit hectic.

The GE Katharina rounded off the meeting with her evaluation of all roles. All in all an enjoyable and inspiring evening according to our guests.

The awards went to Katharina for the best Table Topic Speech. Nadine was the best speaker of the evening. There was a draw between to two evaluators Sybille and Oliver.

Thanks to Sybille for this great recap!

Have a peaceful and fulfilling holiday season, best wishes, 

Jeff, Mannheim Int. Toastmasters

Remember: The next meeting will be on January 10, 2023 – Online!

Here is a photo of the group this evening:

Farewell and new beginnings [Meeting Report of 2022-11-22]

“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”  Alan Cohen

As Presiding Officerour VP-Ed. Oliver welcomed everyone, and especially our two guests; Caroline, who has visited the club once in-person, and Hadi, who is a newcomer to Toastmasters. Both live presently in or near Mannheim.

I had the pleasure to be the Toastmaster of the Evening, and as such I had the support of the following roles: Gabi gave the word of the day (“invigorating”), as well as an quote fitting to the them of new beginnings as the Thought of the Day;  Uli jumped in spontaneously to do the Timer job (well done!); Oliver gave a funny story for the Joke; Nadine was grammarian, and Poorana took the role of General Evaluator.

Oliver also brought some great and challenging questions for Table Topics.

  • Nadine talked about “starting a new chapter in her life”  She movingly told how she left a steady and safe job to follow her heart, a move she never regretted.
  • Gabi took the question: “which chapter in you life would like to close.”  She shared with us the different work fields she had learned which took her afar in the world, and how she landed back at an older occupation that suits her today.
  • Caroline took the challenge and talked about “when it was time to say farewell for her own good.” She shared a very personal and moving story about having to take distance from a close family member, and how this was the best for her and the family.
  • JP talked about “a life chapter that was closed, which he only later realized”.  He talked about his moving from the great city of Mannheim to the smaller and more peaceful town of Walldorf. There are always trade-offs in changes we make.

Nadine was voted best Table Topics Speaker. Congrats, Nadine!

We had two prepared speeches.  Shruthi gave her Ice-Breaker with the title:  Life is not what it is, but how you take it . He Evaluator JP praised her storytelling, and gave some concrete tips on improving, i.e., making sure she is easily seen by getting better lighting.The second speaker was Alexya who was working on the project: Visionary Communication #3-1 – Develop a Communication Plan.  I gave Alexya the evaluation, underlying the strength of her message that both content and form are important in communication.  The title of her speech said it all: Plan your work and work your plan.
Poorana led us through the evaluation part of the meeting and gave everyone who didn’t have one an evaluation.  As he said, the meeting went smoothly and was a again a fun learning time together.

Hope you enjoyed this recap.  Join us on the 13th of December for our last (in-person) meeting of the year.

Best Toastmaster wishes, Jeff

Mannheim Int. Toastmasters

Here a photo of the meeting:

Contentedness [Meeting Report of 2022-11-08]

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for”. Epicurus

In our third in-person meeting three prepared speeches and three dedicated evaluations were delivered. An evening full of inspiring ideas and lots of fun.

Caroline and Alexandro were our guests, and both gave extremely positive feedback to the evening.
Evening was conducted by Sybille as Toastmaster, Oliver as General Evaluator, Alexia took the time role and gave the word of the day “saint-like”. The word was used once in the evening.

How can you achieve contentedness, adjust your perspective to appreciate what you have so that e.g. you  you start enjoying the sunshine instead of complaining about sunburn?
Sybille gave some tips like – live in the present, be grateful for what you have, appreciate little things, take time to reflect, stop comparing yourself to others, fake it till you make it (do not complain when you feel bad), love yourself.

Uli explained the function of Table Topics and asked three questions:

1. Who is your longest friend and how do you feel the connection? Florian referred to his wife and described a very close connection to her.
2. Which celebration or festival embodies connectedness for you most?
Shruti gave us an insight into the culture in India with lots of festivals and described the festival of lights.
3. How did you maintain a personal feeling of connectedness during the pandemic? Our guest Caroline talked about the way she kept in touch with her family in Kenia.
We had three prepared speeches. In his path presentation mastery Florian focused on the project effective body language. In his speech with the title “surprisingly different impact on climate change among grocery bags”,  he compared the environmental impacts of different kinds of grocery bags. His speech was evaluated by Shruti, who jumped in that role and did it for the first time. Well done Shruti. She praised Florian’s speaker qualifications and mentioned that the body language could have been a bit stronger in some parts.

The second speech was Gabi’s Icebreaker. She spoke about how Origami came into her life and how it accompanied her over the years until now. With nice prompts she led us through the history of her life till now and all the different places she had been to. Martin, her dedicated evaluator, congratulated Gabi for her excellent speech. He especially loved her enthusiasm and the positive energy of her speech.

A very different speech was given by Katharina. It focused on leadership and compared different leading approaches in the voluntary field and a professional working environment. In her title she referred to the quotation: “You don’t have to be a Schnitzel in order to roast it” and explained its meaning. Her speech was evaluated by Oliver who praised a well structured and presented speech.

This evening we could vote for three functions. The best TT award went to Shruti. Congratulations. The best evaluator was Martin and the best speaker Gabi. Congratulation to all winners. Thank you to everyone taking part in the meeting which was again a very joyful and inspiring evening.

“Contentedness is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty”, Sokrates

Thanks to Sybille for this fine recap!


Join us for our next (online) meeting on the 22. of November.

Best Toastmaster greetings, Jeff

Mannheim Int. Toastmasters

Fall forward [Meeting Report of 2022-10-25]

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

— Nelson MandelaOur VP-Education Oliver opened the meeting as Presiding Officer, one of the many hats he wore tonight. He greeted our new guest Ayleen, who came to the  meeting because of a Toastmaster friend’s recommendation.  Oliver was also our Toastmaster of the Evening, and the Evaluator for our one prepared speech.  The other roles were filled as  follows: General Eval. J.P.; Table Topics Master was me (Jeff); Grammarian was Uli; Shrithu took over as Timer, and our newest member Nadine jumped in as Ah-Counter.  Nadine was unanimously voted in at the beginning of the meeting. Welcome to the club Nadine!
Oliver, the man of many hats tonight, gave the word of the day: Ephemeral, meaning lasting a very short time; e.g. ephemeral pleasures.
Ulrike told a short and very funny joke about a toothless termite who entered a pub and asked: “where is the bar tender?”
I gave a thought of the evening on my discovering through having a vegetable garden that one has to take time to harvest if we want to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

As Table Topics Master I asked the following four questions:

  • What is your favorite season?  Nadine explained, she enjoys all seasons, but the spring opens her heart the  most.
  • Are you for or against daylight savings time? Ayleen explained that this maybe was helpful many years ago, but not today with our modern rhythms of living.
  • Have you ever “fallen forward”, i.e., experienced a set-back from which you actually profited in some way?  Uli talked about a difficult life experience that had a positive side.
  • The fourth speaker was Shruthi, and she talked about what costume she might chose for a Halloween party: she had fun talking about how good it would be to come as a super hero like spiderman!

All of our contestants did a great job of sharing their views and experiences.  Nadine was voted best Table Topics Speaker.  Congratulations!

As Toastmaster of the evening, Oliver reminded us of the World Champion of Public Speaking Darren LeCroix, whose winner speech actually included two moment where he literally fell to the floor (it is a fantastic speech, if haven’t seen it, do take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puSUnj3gf_Y).

After the break Oliver introduced Poorana, who did the speech project: Innovative Planning #4 – 2.  The speech was titled “Three core learnings from process improvement”.  Poorana gave an example from his professional work.  The three core points: Look at a problem in a system from outside; always ask “why” things are being done as they are; and lastly, be consistent and use a feedback loop to improve a system. 

Oliver congratulated Poorana on his well developed speech, noting Poorana’s good vocal variety and fine structure.  A suggestion for improvement was to use clearer transitions to help his listeners better follow the development of his ideas.

Our General Evaluation J.P. led his evaluation team through their reports and gave the meeting good marks for content and energy.

Before closing the meeting Oliver ask our guest Ayleen for feedback about how she liked the meeting, and gave us a last quote, from Mary Pickford:

Hope you enjoyed this recap.  Join us on the 8th of November for our next (in-person) meeting.

Best Toastmaster wishes, Jeff

Mannheim Int. Toastmasters

Here a photo of the meeting:

The power of positivity [2022-10-11]

“Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day”, Dalia Lama
What an exhilarating meeting. With 15 members and guests we enjoyed our second in person meeting. We had the pleasure to welcome Eileen, Nadine and Raseem as guests who joined in very well in the Table Topics session. Hurrah, our club is growing. Two new members were voted in, welcome Katharina and Shruti to the Toastmaster family.

Poorana, as Toastmaster of the evening, introduced the theme with a personal story, and explained the structure of the evening. He also presented his team: Florian assumed the timer role, Katharina was the Grammarian, Gabi counted the filler words and Martin jumped in as General Evaluator. Poorana also gave the word of the day, exhilarated, which was used vividly in the course of the evening.

Shriram proved his abilities as actor when he presented his joke which was mind-blowing.

Katharina’s thought of the evening was based on a quote by Eckhard Tolle: “Happiness is when you do not wait for the next moment to become happy.”

As Table Topics master, JP chose situations that are actually bad, but the idea was to find the positive aspect in them.

1. You lost your wallet with 1000 Euros and all your documents. Why is this still a good thing for you?
Gabi got a lot out of this loss. She could not travel so she was not on the plane when it crashed.

2. Why was it a positive thing to set your kitchen on fire?
Raseem did it as experiment to demonstrate the fire protection systems of this company, so it was a promotion activity.

3. You destroyed the car by driving into a tree. Why was that a good thing?
Katharina wanted to get rid of her car to protect nature. So she hit the tree but making sure the tree is not hurt.

4. Why was it a good thing to invest a lot of money in Wirecard on the stock market, which you then lost?
Eileen depicted a personal story about how she met a lot of friends by dealing with investments in the stock market which is more valuable than the money.

5. Someone ate all the cookies – why is it still positive?
Shruti focused on the fact that this helped her to resist the temptation while dieting.

Oliver delivered a speech from the path Strategic Relationship level one, No 3, with the title “Once more onto the breach”. He used scenes from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” and interpreted parts of them in their application to us as Toastmasters. This was a very challenging and inspiring idea and got us all hooked on. In her evaluation, Sybille praised Oliver’s use of vocal variety when he changed from the Shakespeare scene to his own person. However, sometimes the literary texts were a bit long for the audience to follow so that the link to Toastmasters could not easily be understood. But a great speech we all enjoyed.

This evening we only voted for the best Table Topic speaker. This award went to Raseem. Congratulations!

“A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you.”

Hope you enjoyed this great recap (written by our President Sybille).  Join us on the 25th of October for our next (online) meeting.

Best Toastmaster wishes, Jeff

Mannheim Int. Toastmasters

Here a photo of the meeting: