The lost art of spontaneity [Meeting Report of 2021-07-24]

Dear friends,

it was my honor to be Toastmaster of the Evening.  Spontaneity was the theme, and some great Toastmaster spontaneity helped make this an especially engaging meeting.  Shortly before the meeting was to start, Craig invited an experienced Toastmaster from England to present a speech: Joy Kurian from the Spa Speakers near Stratford upon Avon. And just before we started, Poorana offered to do his next speech.  We then needed one more evaluator, when my Toastmaster friend James Falcon from Saltsprings Club in Vancouver popped in unexpectedly. He was immediately drafted to do the third evaluation…………….and he spontaneously agreed. We were also delighted to have as a guest Adam McConnaughy from the Ramstein club. Adam is the incoming Director for our area.

Our President Poorana greeted everyone warmheartedly, and asked our guests (Joy, Adam and James) to introduce themselves.

As Toastmaster, I began with a quote from Bertrand Russell: “To like many people spontaneously and without effort is perhaps the greatest of all sources of personal happiness.”

Our Word of the Day was “blunder” : a gross, stupid, or careless mistake. If you want to be spontaneous, you have to live with having some blunders.

Marion gave the Joke of the Evening, also having to do with a kind of blunder:

At school, the teacher asked:
“Paul, give me a sentence with I”
Paul:” I is the…”
Teacher: ” no, Paul…you must say ‘I am..’ not ‘I is..’
Paul: ” ok, I am the ninth letter of the alphabet” 😁

Martin had questions prepared for the Table Topics:

  • Craig told a fast moving story about “where would he travel spontaneously?”
  • Marion gave her ideas on “why should the world be more spontaneous?”
  • Adam shared “what he cooks when friends come over spontaneously?”
  • And I got the question of “why being spontaneous is fun?”

Craig and Adam were both voted as Best TTs Speaker.

Prepared Speeches:

We had three great speeches tonight.

Eloisa gave her Icebreaker titled: “But really, who am I?” She gave an outline of her life in recent years, moving from her home country of Paraguay to Germany, to highlight how and why is it worth changing ourselves to be happier in life.

Joy’s speech from the Pathways Effective Coaching was titled: “Growth Mindset and Grit”.  She gave an inspiring talk about the  power of  perseverance and grit to help us succeed in all aspects our life. She referred to the work of psychologist Angela Duckworth on the importance of perseverance in attaining goals.  (Check her out:

Poorana‘s project was from the Presentation Mastery Path, Effective Body Language.  Title: “A Christmas Party”.  The great storyteller that he is, Poorana told how he and friends finally got to the Christmas party. His message: In life, when we need help, some people might ignore us like the fancy person, some people might not be able to help us due to personal circumstances but if we wait with patience, we will definitely meet the person who would be more than happy  to help us.

Best speech award went to our guest Joy.

Our three evaluators did an excellent job.  JP evaluated Eloisa’s Icebreaker, noting the many skills she brings to public speaking. Oliver praised Joy for her very inspiring and professionally delivered speech. And James reaffirmed that Poorana’s storytelling is very effective.

As best evaluator we also had a tie between JP and James.

Our next meeting is on the 27th of July, we would love to have you join us!Best wishes to you all, Jeff

Here is a snapshot of the evening:

Health is wealth [Meeting Report of 2021-06-22]

Dear friends,
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”, with this quote from Mahatma Gandhi the theme of the meeting was set. In Poorana’s absence, Oliver took over the role as presiding officer and welcomed the guests Anna-Lena and Prince who had dialed in again. Oliver’s first task was to vote in Eloisa, our new member. She was asked a couple of questions and the team voted her in. Welcome on board, Eloisa! Since this was the last meeting of the current toastmaster year the new officer’s team was also voted in: Most of the officers are going to stay in their functions: Poorana will continue as presiding officer, JP will be the treasurer, Oliver stays VP Education, Martin VP Membership, Sybille continues as secretary. Jeff takes on the role as VP Public Relations together with Craig and Amrith assumes the role of Sergent at Arms. Thanks to all officers for keeping the club running with their special commitment.

Jeff, as Toastmaster of the evening, very briefly explained the structure of the evening and welcomed Craig as Grammarian, who also presented the word of the day, well-being. Erjon took up the role as timer again and JP functioned as General Evaluator.

The word of the day “well-being” seemed simple, but was presented in its manifold facets and frequently used in the course of the evening. Amrith shared with us a joke that really happened in his working life: His boss asked him: You are from a different cultural background. Could you tell me a joke from your home? Amrith answered: I am very busy at the moment, can I send it later, I have no time now. The boss’s answer was: That’s hilarious. Send me another one please.

The table topics questions were related to health and were well chosen by Oliver:
All things are poisonous. Only the dose makes if it harms or heals. Eloisa shared her view on this question.
What does health mean to you? For Amrith good social contact, especially talking to his family contributes to his health.
Mark Twain cynically says that to stay healthy is to do things you are uncomfortable with. Craig shared with us the notion to enjoy the food we eat, even if it is not so healthy. We should try to balance what we eat but always enjoy the food.
Your health is an investment not an expense. Prince pointed out that the best investment is investing in happiness.
Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors. What do you do to cheer yourself up. Anna-Lena agrees that laughing and being in a good mood improves well-being giving some examples.

We had one prepared speech this evening. Fangfang working with innovations led a research tying to find out the top innovation killers. “Why does innovation die out in corporations?”. She presented her brilliant findings with great slides and found that ineffective cross-functional communication and command-control structures are the main killers.
Her speech was evaluated by Sybille.

As a bridge to the evaluations part of the meeting, our Toastmaster of the Evening (Jeff) left us with the following information: “Birthdays are good for  your health.  Studies have shown that people with more birthdays live longer.” In the evaluation session the Grammarian Craig gave a very entertaining and memorable report on the usage of the English language of this evening. The General Evaluator gave feedback to all functions and table topic speaker and praised the efficient time management of the evening.

The award session was short, since there was only one speech and one evaluation. The best Table Topic speaker of the evening was Craig – again a hilarious and entertaining speech. We were all proud to hear from Oliver that our club has received an award as “Select Distinguished Club” this Toastmaster year, in spite of the difficulties caused by having  to meet online.

(A big thanks to Sybille for this great recap!)

Our next meeting is in three weeks, on the 13th of July, we would love to have you join us!Best wishes to you all, Jeff

Here is a snapshot of the evening:

The power of language [Meeting Report of 2021-06-08]

Dear friends,
What a great theme for Toastmasters – knowing the strong impact language on our lives.
Again we had the pleasure to welcome guests from various countries, Anna Lena Brown, Vasilij Nakhin and Karen Hennessy took part in the meeting. The guests were warmly welcomed by our president Poorana.

Sybille functioned as toastmaster of the evening and took up the theme citing a quotation by the author Betty Eadie: “If we understood the power of our thoughts we would guard them more closely. […] In our thoughts and words we create our own weakness and strength.”

Sybille explained the structure of the evening and introduced her team, Martin as General Evaluator, Erjon as Timer and Craig as Ah Counter.
The word of the day “silver-tongued” presented by Sybille, was well used during the evening and easy to remember.

The guests participated very well in the table topics session and delivered vivid speeches to Oliver’s four questions aligned to the power of language:

1. “Do you think speaking different languages is a punishment or a bliss?” Poorana definitely sees it as bliss. Learning a language is like entering a new world and adds to the richness of life, making people more open to other cultures.
2. “How comfortable is it for you to travel into another country when you cannot speak the language?” Amrith talked about his experiences when he first came to Germany – he very much felt fear, shame and hopelessness. Which has of course changed in the meantime.
3. “In many films the sound is translated into German. Do you prefer to read or watch films in the native language?”. Anna Lena explained her reasons for consuming publications in the original language.
4. “What was the strangest idiom you came across when you learned a new language?”.  Juan gave examples of idioms when she learned German, like “es ist mir Wurst!”.
Great speeches had been delivered the award of the best Table Topic speaker of the evening went to Poorana.

After the break two prepared speeches were delivered.
“What do you do when you feel lost?” Fangfang shared with the team a lost moment in her life. She said that when we drive, we can rely on GPS to find our way. Unfortunately, there is no navigation system in our life.
Fangfang’s speech was evaluated by Jeff.

“My money mentor” was the title of JP’s speech. He went to school for 13 years and studied three years for this bachelor degree in business information technology. Here, he also learned economic subjects like accounting and controlling. But did he learn to take care of his own finances? In his speech he gave us the answer to this question. JP’s speech was evaluated by Oliver.

Martin, the General Evaluator of the evening explained the importance of evaluations for the development of the club members. He also pointed out the sandwich technique – mention the things that went well, give a few hints for improvement and then highlight what the evaluator liked best. Martin 
 gave valuable and motivating feedback to everyone participating in the evening.

As Presiding Officer, Poorana concluded the evening asking for feedback from the guests. The awards were given to Oliver for the best evaluation and JP for the best speech of the evening.

A big thanks to Sybille for this recap!

Our next meeting is on the 22d of June, we would love to have you join us! Best wishes to you all, Jeff

Here is a snapshot of the evening:

Colours [Meeting Report of 2021-05-25]

Poorana, our club President, opened the meeting with a warm greeting to all, and especially to our guests: Eloisa from Paraguay (lives in Mannheim now), Karen from Cancun, Mexico, Marcel (also living in Mannheim) and Prince, who has been a Toastmaster for over 20 years and lives in Luxembourg. All the guests were visiting for the second time . We again had the pleasure to vote a new member into the club: Marion. She jumped right in and did a great job as our Timer.  Welcome Marion!

Martin lead us through the meeting with his usual calm presence as Toastmaster of the Evening. His quotes on the meaning of color added to the theme of the evening, as well as his Word of the Day: “Gaudy”, which means especially colorful. His joke about someone who couldn’t find their shirt because it was in “camouflage” colors brought some wry  smiles to the audiences faces.

Jeff contributed the Thought of Day, encouraging us to dare to be more colorful in our attitude:

“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up.” Allen Klein

Fangfang lead the Table Topics with the theme of personality types and color: Blue for the logical type, green for control, yellow for vision, and red for interest in people. The four contestants (Marcel, Marion, Eloisa and Karen) used the opportunity to share some personal information about how they see the world, both touching and informative.

We had three prepared speeches tonight:

Juan did her Icebreaker with the title: Be Myself. Congratulations for taking this first step, Juan!

Jeff completed his Level 1 in his Pathway Visionary Communication. His theme: Is it really better to give than receive? What research tells us about the power of kindness to boost our happiness.

And Poorana won the Best Speech Award for his lively and entertaining speech: Are you curious?

Our three Evaluators all did an excellent job in underlining the speaker’s strength and finding concrete suggestions for improvement. Fangfang evaluated Juans Icebreaker, Oliver Jeff’s speech, and special thanks to our guest, Prince, who evaluated Poorana’s speech.

Our guests gave the feedback that they really appreciate the supportive, warm atmosphere in our meetings.

Here is a snapshot of the evening:

The Tree of Life [Meeting Report 2021-05-11]

What a great and special evening. Our meetings have become very international. We had the pleasure to welcome Karen Hennesy from Mexico, John Nieradka from New Jersey, USA, Kevin Schafer from Pennsylvania, Georgia from Greece, Mr and Mrs Hutchinson from Dallas, and – a bit late – Prince from Luxembourg. What a global spectrum of guests. All of them were intrigued by the post in Facebook about this special evening. Thanks to Craig for taking care of these PR activities. What was special about the evening?

Working on the path “Dynamic Leadership #5-4” Martin’s  project was to lead a panel discussion. He has chosen the topic “Life’s great adventures – Lessons learned” and he had three panelists – Sybille, Poorana and Oliver – who delivered personal stories about their lessons learned in life.

The first part of the evening was structured in the usual way. The toastmaster of the evening, Oliver, explained the structure and gave various views on the theme, the tree of life. Juan took over the role as timer again and she has become very good in this role. The word of the day, noteworthy, delivered by Juan, was well used in the course of the evening. Sybille’s joke fulfilled it’s task and made the members laugh:

        A man who smelled like a distillery flopped on a subway seat next to a priest.
        The man’s tie was stained, his face was plastered with red lipstick, and a half empty bottle of gin
        was sticking out of his torn coat pocket. He opened his newspaper and began reading.
        After a while he turned to the priest and asked, “Say Father, what causes arthritis?”
        “Mister, it is caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol and a contempt for your fellow man.”
        “Well, I’ll be dammed!” the drunk muttered, returning to his paper.
        “The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologized, “I am very sorry. I didn’t mean to come on so strong.
        How long have you had arthritis?”
        “I don’t have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope does.”

As a thought of the evening Sybille read and interpreted the poem “Think like a tree” written by Dr. Karen I. Shragg.

The guests participated very well in the table topics and gave very open and candid speeches to Poorana’s  five questions aligned to the theme of the evening.

1. “My biggest dream in life?” Juan talked about her fears speaking in front of an audience and is happy to be with Toastmasters to fulfill her dream of becoming a good speaker.
2. “My biggest failure in life? Jeff mentioned his urge to be perfect when he was younger. Luckily this self image has changed and perfection is not a priority any more.
3. “My greatest source of inspiration”. John is a scout leader and gets inspiration from mentoring the kids.
4. “The greatest pleasure in life”. JP’s greatest pleasure is the time he spends with his wife. They had their first wedding jubilee just a few days ago.
5. “The biggest mistake I have ever done.” Debbie shared with us the decision not to focus on her career but to stay at home to raise her two daughters.
From the current point of view this has not been a mistake at all, since the reward and inspiration she gained from her family was greater than any further education could have given to her.
Great speeches had been delivered
and the award of the best Table Topic speaker of the evening went to Debbie.

After the break the panel discussion started. Martin started with the words life is a great adventure full of love, hate, joy, sadness, failure and success. Key ingredients through life’s roller coaster are experiences and life stories. The panelists talked about their experiences in life and the lessons learned.
Sybille shared with the group a change process she had to face and which – after the suffering was over – had many opportunities for her. Her message was to stay open to change, connect with people and spot the door opening for you and go through it.
Poorana impressed us with his story about staying true to his principles. He did that in a difficult situation which paid off in the end.
Oliver told us about his adventure trip in the US years ago. Even though a lot of things went wrong he would never like to miss this adventure. His message is to focus on the positive side and celebrate achievements.

The project was evaluated by JP in the sandwich technique – mention the things that went well, give a few hints for improvement and then highlight what he liked best. JP did an excellent job in evaluating this long project, which was very much appreciated by our guests when they gave their feedback of the evening.

To round the evening off, General Evaluator Jeff  gave valuable and motivating feedback to everyone participating in the evening.

As Presiding Officer, Poorana concluded the evening asking for feedback from the guests. The guests were extremely happy about the evening and our club is growing which is a good sign for the high quality Mannheim International Toastmasters is delivering.

Our next meeting is on the 25th of May, we would love to have you join us!

Best wishes to you all, Jeff

Here is a snapshot of the evening: