The Nightmare of the Toastmasters timekeeping lamp

We once again had a very funny and entertaining meeting on the 13th of December. With a bit of gingerbread brought by Jeff we set a kind of Christmas atmosphere. During the round-table we all talked about the highlights of this year which for many people included things as travel, job changes and of course winning awards at Toastmasters meetings!

Li did a great job as the Toastmaster of the Evening for the first time and began by explaining the meeting to our guests. Mauro delivered a joke about a bear and a very creative rabbit who were each granted three wishes by a fairy. The word of the evening was brought to us by Jeff who taught us that “peruse” is a great way to state that you are “looking something over”. Martin E. gave us the three very appropriate phrases that sum up Christmas by an unknown author: “peace on earth, goodwill to men, batteries not included”.

The table-topics theme that was set by Hyejin was motivated by the experience that her parents who do not speak English could now use a translation device, so knowing foreign languages becomes less important. This inspired her to let us go to the future and let us go back and say what was important now in 2011 but not important any more in 20 years.

Stefan stated that the iPhone was really popular once, but of course concluded that it was not important any more as Android device really came out and surpassed the iPhones. Katharina told us that the train-car traffic system is not used any more as poor people are using flying cars and rich people are making use of beam machines.

Zoe informed us that in 2031 a healthy lifestyle is strongly promoted and McDonalds and Burger King are just relics of ancient times. Erich surprised us when he told us that oxygen could not be replaced so easily and people still need it to breathe. A great relief was given to us by Arne when he told us that the Toastmasters timekeeping lamp is not actually in use anymore in 2031, so this nightmare was removed.

After the break, René gave us a great educational about using a camcorder as a feedback device. We are now using this great tool to record our own speeches, so we can look at the video on our own and see with our own eyes how great we are!

Then Calvin gave his ice-breaker speech in our club. Following the title of his speech “Wherever I lay my head is my home” he told us about his family, his travel and moving throughout the US a lot and that he considers himself a journeyman. He has worked in various jobs and finally began the actual journey to becoming an educator and gave us the inspiring thought that fear is just “false illusions appearing real”. What a great ice-breaker!

The second speech of the evening was given by Martin S. whose task it was to “organize his speech”. He clearly laid out his three points when introducing us to “the science of happiness”: Giving yourself permission to be happy now from the inside even as you are feeling sad things, the subjective happiness scale from 1 to 10 that you can easily change for yourself just by changing your posture and finally the now exercise in which he demonstrated to us how it is done with a breathing exercise and made us very happy.

In the evaluation section that was led by me, Jeff and Martin E. gave two very competent and helpful evaluations of the two speeches. Thomas provided a detailed account of our grammar, Helen counted our usage of filler words and Volker took care of the time and the Toastmasters timekeeping device.

This was actually our last Toastmasters meeting of 2011. The next meeting will take place on the 10th of January. I wish you a happy Christmas or Holidays and a great start into the new year!!!

Toastmasters Thanksgiving

In our special theme meeting for Thanksgiving our Toastmaster Jeff had done great preparations: We had candles, yummy original pumpkin pie brought by Calvin and a great spirit. With an attendance of 15 people in total we happily welcomed our two guests Helen and Wolfram and also Stefan from the German club who visited us for the first time!

During our round-table talk we all discussed what we are thankful for. We have found out that a lot of people are thankful for Toastmasters, being able to buy what they want, education, their family and having a happy life!

Jeff then gave us some great information on how Thanksgiving is conducted in the US. He explained the history of the holiday starting in 1621 and told us that feeling thankful also helps people to feel better.

Calvin gave us the very fitting word of the day “enspirit” which is like enspire and is also related to building such a great team as in Toastmasters! It was well used in that evening. Mauro continued with the joke of the evening in which an employer had a great surprise for any employee that would roll a 6 with a dice.

In his thought of the day, Martin disclosed that his knowledge on Thanksgiving primarily from TV shows and movies. He found that Thanksgiving is a day of meeting people and consequently quoted Johnny Carson: “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.”

Our Tabletopics-Master Günter had prepared a theme that also reflected on being thankful. His first question went to Li who had to speak about what his favorite holiday is and why. Li said he generally liked all holidays because he had the day off and did not need to go to school. However, as a child, spring festival was his favorite holiday because children receive cash from their grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives.

Calvin was asked to talk about the obstacles he had to overcome. He began by talking about getting up and talking in front of people and getting noticed by them. Also he mentioned the challenge of being a role model for younger people and concluded that this helped him become a better person.

René had the challenge of giving a spontaneous speech about Cicero’s believe that thankfulness is the parent of all virtues. He carefully weighed the facts that on the one hand a lot of people interpret gratitude as a wish to receive more, but also stated that it might be right because nobody brags about not being thankful, so it might be true.

Yafang spoke about who she would invite to a Thanksgiving party and what would happen there. Thinking quickly on her feet, she invited all of us first! Then she would also invite some famous football players and have a party with a sports game, Chinese food and at the end of the party she wants the new NBA season would begin.

After the break we continued the meeting with three prepared speeches. Martin began with speech number 2 from the Competent Communication Manual “Organise your Speech”. He talked about situations in which you need quick answers and the basics of ready wit. This was structured into the three elements strong analysis, humor and reaction to an attack. In his very funny speech in which he served as a live example, he gave us the hints to ask for solutions, assume your opponent is worse than you and don’t explain yourself and did a great job on that!

Perrine let her “body speak” in the second speech. She talked about her trip to an agricultural show where she had the roles of a farmer, the daughter of a farmer and herself on a special mission. She vividly demonstrated to us all the great things such as a potato harvester, new tractors with cool seats. She told us she was working as an international spy stealing secrets on new tractor technology, but she soon found out she was not the only spy in there.

The third speech on that evening was given by me. I did the project “research your topic” and talked about how I looked on Google and was shocked that you could only find Toastmasters with search terms as “public speaking”, but not leadership, communications or presentation skills. Following up with the creation of our new website, I demonstrated what I found on Search Engine Optimization so that people will be able to find us better.

René served as the General Evaluator and introduced the three evaluators Günter, Katharina and Jeff who all gave some great and useful feedback. Yafang kept track of the time during the meeting and ensured we would stay in it. Li gave his detailed report on the Ahs and other filler words that were used by the participants. Katharina also gave the grammarian’s report and pointed out good examples of the English language and gave some advice for improvement.

Awards went to Li, Perrine and Jeff. It was another fun evening with a great atmosphere. I would like to thank everyone and especially our Toastmaster Jeff for making this possible. Hope to see you at the next meeting, please sign up on Easy-Speak!

An Evening of Life

Fellow Toastmasters and honored guests,

We had another great meeting on the 8th of November, not only considering the fun and quality, but also the attendance: I counted 22 people, so we had a full room once more! We were happy to have our 5 guests in total: Chia, Coe, Jan, Marc and Michael. Then in the round-table talk my question about everyone’s favorite time of the day received a lot of different answers with a lot of cool facts.

Rolf as our Toastmaster of the evening had set a theme for the evening as “an evening of life”. René’s word of the day “enthusiasm” which literally translated means “god within” fit very well to that. Martin gave us another traffic joke with two guys in a car where the driver learned from his mother to always run over red lights, but suddenly stops at a green light. Li’s thought of the day was to “always look on the bright side of life” even when fear regarding the economical or political situation is dominating press articles.

Mauro displayed his creativity as a Table-Topics-Master when he first let each of us prepare a question and a word on two different sheets of paper. He would then pick one of the questions as the Table-Topic and a word which had to be used by speaker when answering the question. First was Günter who had to use the word “nature” to answer the question “what is time?” In his spontaneous speech he explained to us that you cannot travel back in time, but that the secret to immortality is being close to a black hole as time is much slower there.

Faustina’s impromptu speech answered the question “can a heart really die?” from multiple viewpoints. She stated that a heart can be broken if you are heartbroken, but on the medical side a lot of “inventions” (the word to be used) really help keeping a heart healthy.

Our guest Michael from Toastmasters in Ulm was up next to give an unprepared speech about “Reality” and “What is important to you?” He started out by mentioning basic human needs to survive such as oxygen, temperature, water every 3 days and food, but soon moved on to say that he needs people around himself.

Tony had an interesting way to handle his Table-Topic question “What would you do if you knew you could not fail” with the word “success”. He talked a bit about how it is important to be successful in America while handing out Halloween candy to everyone and bribe the audience.

Finally Katharina talked about “Fruit” at her “Favorite holiday destination”. She mentioned that she really likes Jamaica and remembers how there was a lady on the beach every morning selling fruit and announcing her offer very loudly.

After the break we continued the meeting with the prepared speeches. First was Arne who gave his Ice-Breaker. He began by speaking about words and numbers and how they mean things to people who are usually satisfied to know someone’s age, the years they studied, the speed of their car, the salary and the golf-handicap. Arne continued by giving us more detailed information than that: He explained us that his name actually consists of 6 names, three first names and three last names. This stops him from going to the theatre as he cannot reserve seats with a last name of 33 characters the computers would fail. His speech was very funny and created a lot of laughter – it was a great ice-breaker!

René then gave his first advanced speech from the manual Storytelling. The speech was about a relationship between a Squirrel and Chipmunk which took a bad turn when the Squirrel mentioned his passion for jazz and the Chipmunk did not know what that is, but just said she liked it too. Because the Chipmunk suspected that Jazz could be something dirty, and her mother was against the Squirrel anyway, they broke up. Later, she discovered what Jazz really is and the morale of the story to ask if you don’t know something.

In the evaluations section led by Jeff, Li gave his first evaluation for Arne’s speech and did a really great job, recounting how people enjoyed the speech by telling us how often we laughed. I evaluated René`s speech, Calvin proved his listening skills by giving the Ah-Counter’s report, Thomas once more demonstrated his great knowledge of the English language in his Grammarian’s report and Hye Jin thoroughly took care of the timing.

Awards for best table-topics speakers went to Günter and Michael. It was a great meeting and so will be our next: Jeff is preparing a thanksgiving theme meeting for the 22nd of November. I am looking forward to having you there!

Showing up at Toastmasters meetings is 80% of life ;-)

Fellow Toastmasters and honored guests,

After greeting our three distinguished guests Zoe, Jan and Dirk, we started our meeting on the 25th October with a round-table talk on what everyone would like to see on a Toastmasters Club homepage. I got a lot of great input, thank you very much! Our Toastmaster of the Evening Tony then swiftly took very much care of staying in time, so that our schedule would not become an epic fail (word of the day by Arne).

Jazzmin provided the joke of the evening about the rivalry between England and Ireland with an Englishman, an Irishman and a beautiful girl on a train. Calvin gave the thought of the day by Confucius: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work”.

The spontaneous and impromptu speeches were led by our Table Topics Master Jeff. His theme was aphorisms and sayings which the speakers had to comment on. First up was Rolf talking about “if life hands you a lemon, make lemonade”. He explained to us that this quote is about seizing opportunities and really seeing what kind of juice the lemon contains for us.

René’s impromptu speech concerned Woody Allen’s quote “showing up is 80% of life”. René strongly agreed on this issue as people who just try things don’t have that much competition and that you should just try and see how good you really are! For example at public speaking 😉

Pradeep spoke about the aphorism that “not those who have the most are the most happy, but those who are most thankful”. He explained that rich people have to look after a lot of things and worry a lot. Very poor persons on the other hand have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain and they really value even small things.

Günter was very happy to talk about a quote by Tagore “God respects me when I’m working, but he loves me when I sing” as he had just visited a Tagore museum in India. He expressed his agreement to the statement, saying that work gets you respect from society, but there is more to life than money and singing definitely gives him particular pleasure.

After the break our public speaking session continued with the prepared speeches. Yafang started by giving her ice-breaker. She explained her own character by telling us a story about a small dandelion seed which left home, said goodbye and flew far away. It then found a small nice place for itself. After explaining how she is the small dandelion seed being curious, independent and long-term oriented, she used the great rhetorical device of singing for us at the end!

The second speech was given by me on the topic of body language in order to let my body speak. I talked about gestures that could convey authority and conviction with the purpose of climbing the career ladder. Third came Martin E.’s competition speech “Cycling in the City” which he is going to gave at the Division Contest in Bensheim on Saturday, and won him second place!

Our final speech of the evening was Martin S.’ ice-breaker. He talked about the decisions you have to make in your life, especially career-wise. We learned how he stayed on his path without asking whether this helps his career and after having been a teacher at night school and a normal teacher before finding out that he really wants to be a psychotherapist.

Tony also took over the role of the General Evaluator and introduced our great evaluators Jeff, Katharina and René. Martin E. received a special evaluation by Calvin, Jeff and me on specific issues to improve his speech even further for the competition. Pradeep gave the report on our usage of filler-words, Thomas displayed his knowledge of the English language by giving a very detailed grammarian’s report with a lot of positive suggestions and Calvin took care of the timing.

René won the award for the best Table Topics speaker, both Yafang and Martin S. were decorated as our best prepared public speakers and Jeff won the best evaluator award. Our next meeting will take place on the 8th of November with more practice on rhetoric, I hope to see all of you there!