Annual Contest

Transformers Toastmasters Meeting number 576 (can you believe that so many meeting have already been held – makes the club between 24 and 25 years old – time to investigate our history!) on Monday, 22nd February was given over to our annual contests. Three contests were completed and competed! – bad grammar! Contestants competed in three contests: the International Prepared English Contest in which the winner advances to the Area contest, the winner of which advances to the Divisional Contest and so on to the District Contest and eventually to the International Contest in Florida; the Impromptu Contest and Evaluation Contest, the latter two completing at District level.

District 74 Secretary and Immediate-Past Division H Governor, Graham Nicholls chaired the contests for the evening. We had visiting Toastmasters from SpeechQuest and Rivonia Toastmasters to assist with judging the contests and keeping time and Willem Gous of Rivonia presented the demonstration speech for the Evaluation Contest. After the opening formalities of the evening a recess was called during which the contestants and judges were briefed and everyone piled into the snacks for nourishment or to calm nerves.

And then they were off!

The first contest of the evening was the International Prepared English in which John-Peter Gernaat, Ryan Ebedes and Glenice Ebedes competed. John-Peter repeated his speech of last week on water, its structure and how it is influenced by its environment implying that our body, which consists largely of water, and therefore our wellbeing, is influenced by the nature of our thoughts and our words. Ryan regaled the judges and audience with an informative and entertaining speech on the nest-making adventures of the social weaver bird (Philetairus socius). It creates one of the architectural wonders of the world together with some 500 of its fellow when it constructs its social nest. Glenice recounted the adventures of one their “Journeys” into the wilderness to enjoy and photograph wildlife. Such journeys are not without their own adventure when fuel runs low and the next town seems beyond the reach of the remaining fuel, flat tyres need to be changed and unplanned detours are taken to town that no longer appear on maps because they have recently undergone a name change. Worst is when a battery that has taken you a deserted watering hole goes defunct with no help in sight and wild cats making a push-start very risky. Journeys like these build strength and character and Glenice urged her audience to take journeys of their own. This speech was well deserving of second place.

After a short recess, Willem presented his demonstration speech entitled “Don’t assume anything yet!” His opening lines were directed at insulting members of the audience. He then went on to explain the typical reaction that such insults might engender; how people respond violently to criticism. He used wonderful metaphors like “spit spraying like muzzle flashes” and “being bloodies by well aimed words”. He provided useful advice that would rapidly defuse such a situation if the insulted party simply asked: “Why do you say that?” and continued to question to offender until the situation was fully explained. Taking the general situation into the intimacy of personal relationships he asked the response to the question: “Do you still love me?” from a spouse or lover. This is a question fraught with danger but again Willem provided sage advice. Willem joined Toastmasters in November last year and already speaks like a seasoned veteran. He did write, direct and act in play for his thirtieth birthday as entertainment for his guests and a musical for his thirty third birthday – a man who challenges himself for the fun of it.

It was the turn of Evaluation contestants, Mary Byrne, Kay Kotelo, Glenice and John-Peter to evaluate Willem’s speech. Mary won this contest and certainly is one of our best evaluators. Glenice came a competent second by providing a balanced evaluation of the good points and areas of improvement.

Last contest for the evening was the Impromptu Contest in which Mary, Kay, Glenice and John-Peter competed. The Contest Chair gave the competitors the word “window” on which to speak. John-Peter spoke about eyes being the windows to the soul. Glenice sat through a boring meeting only to find the plate of snacks after the meeting crawling with cockroaches so that she hurled the platter out of a window. Mary explained the unusual design of the windows of her house that barely allow air to enter in the swelter of summer heat. Kay spoke about windows of opportunity and whether striving for such opportunities are worth forgoing the good things in life. She studied to become a Chartered Accountant in order to open windows of opportunity in the future but had to forego all the joys of student life. Kay won the contest with this speech and Mary came second.

In summary:

International Prepared English was won by Ryan Ebedes with Glenice Ebedes coming second.

Evaluation Contest was won by Mary Byrne with Glenice Ebedes second.

Impromptu Contest was won by Kay Kotelo with Mary Byrne second.

The thanks of the club goes to our visitors for their participation and assistance in making for a successful Club Contest.

In our Hall of Fame we learned that our Chief Judge for the evening and Distinguished Toastmaster Keith Bowen had participated in the Midmar Mile swimming race, and not for the first time. Visiting Toastmaster Willem Gous is about to become a father for the first time.

The evening was brought to a close by our Vice-president Education, Ryan Ebedes presenting everyone with a slab of Whole Nut Chocolate. I guess one has to be a nut on a certain level to compete in contests for no reward except personal achievement.

Club members will be off to Raid George, the Traveling Gavel from Hatch Toastmaster on 23rd February.

The next club meeting will take place on Monday, 8th March and as always guests are very welcome to attend.

History, Water, Zebras and Shoes

Transformers Meeting of Monday, 8th February provided a full programme with great information and variety.

Our Toastmaster of the Evening, our club President Ruth Taylor, regaled us with the history of Toastmasters. The prepared speeches ranged from water and health, creating success from small ideas, the history and good work of Meals on Wheels to the history of shoes. Quite a spread!

Everyone associates Toastmasters with Ralph C. Smedley! Smedley was an educationalist and worked as a teacher even while studying. After graduating he started working at the local YMCA in Bloomingdale, Illinois. He discovered that there was a need for training in speech and formed a club where the boys took turns in presiding and speaking. The speeches were evaluated and so the young men learned leadership skills and speaking. The club only lasted a year after Smedley moved to the YMCA at Rock Island, Illinois as General Secretary in 1910. The same thing happened with the speakers clubs he formed in YMCAs at his next two appointments. In 1924 he formed a Toastmasters Club in the YMCA in Santa Ana, California and a year later he assisted the first non-YMCA group to start a club in Anaheim, California. These are still clubs number 1 and 2 of Toastmasters International. As our Toastmaster for the Evening pointed out the survival of Toastmasters Clubs is dependant on people – the members of each club. The aims of Toastmasters has not changed since inception: to teach people to speak (with confidence) and to teach leadership skills, through the practice of doing both. At Transformers we add to that the aim of having fun in the process.

Keith Bowen, Distinguished Toastmaster, member of Cabinet and Toastmaster since 1995 reminded us that in previous years the practice had been to follow the Loyal Toast with a Toast to Toastmasters International, after which the Toast of the Evening was offered. He elected to offer a Toast to TMI as Toast of the Evening, reminding us of the bond that exists between all Toastmasters and the friendliness that we have come to expect whenever we meet or have dealings with another Toastmaster.

Rod Taylor was asked to respond to the Toast and provided an excellent example of a response. He enthused about the Toast and carefully explained the finer points of offering an appropriate Toast.

Word of the evening by grammarian and lexicologist, Glenice Ebedes, was “cultivate” and received nine insertions into the discourse of the evening.

John-Peter Gernaat presented the first of the prepared speeches of the evening. In his project 7 speech of the Competent Communicator manual his requirement was to demonstrate that he had researched his topic. In his speech entitled: “Your body of Water” he highlighted some of the anomalous properties that enables water to sustain life, such as the ability to rise in the trunks of trees against gravity and tens of atmospheres of pressure. Research has shown that water molecules relate to each other to form structures and these structures act as memory cells recording the influence of everything with which water comes into contact. When cryogenically frozen water droplets form crystals when the water is pure, wholesome or a positive word or sentiment has been spoken to water. If a hateful word is spoken or water is ill-treated, becomes polluted for example, no definable crystal forms. Our bodies consist of about 60% water and therefore the health of this water and probably our overall health is influenced by our thoughts and words and the words and intentions of others.

Ryan Ebedes, completing the second project from the Entertaining Speaker advanced manual, entitled his speech: “Unveiling your Zebra”. He showed us a lovely, but non-descript photo of two wildebeest and a zebra and then went to provide an entertaining tale as told by a mother elephant to her calf as to why this zebra hung out with the wildebeest. The gist of the tale is that the zebra’s mother was killed by predators and that the young thing ran until it found the wildebeest herd where it was then fostered. Suddenly the non-descript photo gained a life and the viewer formed an emotional attachment. Authors have written successful books about a simple idea: a seagull that wanted to improve its flying skills became “Jonathan Livingstone Seagull” for pilot Richard Bach and a boy who thought he was a wizard became the Harry Potter series for J K Rowling. Ryan challenged each of us to unveil our simple idea that might become a mighty success and for his superb speech won the trophy for best speaker of the evening.

Cheryl-Lynn Langley completed a project from the Persuasive Speaker advanced manual that she entitled: “Will you?” Providing a history of the origins of Meals on Wheels in the United Kingdom after World War II to help people left destitute by the war and the good work done locally by selfless volunteers, she asked whether we would all subscribe to a monthly debit order of a mere R25 per month to feed one person for the month. This was clearly a well rehearsed presentation and speech and the plea left us in no doubt that this was a cause worth everyone’s support.

The final prepared speech of the evening was presented by a visiting Toastmaster from Accenture Toastmasters, Angela Murphy, in completion of project 5 of the Competent Communicator manual. Her speech entitled “Shoes, glorious shoes” demonstrated her passion for shoes and provided titbits of the history of shoes from various countries. Geta sandalsJapanese wooden geta sandals make a sound as the wearer walks. Couples always buy their shoes together to ensure that the sound of the two pairs of shoes is not disharmonious when the couple walk together. Pointed toes for men’s shoes in France once represented standing in society - the longer the toe the higher one’s standing, prompting the Church to raise an official complaint because worshipers could no long kneel comfortable due to the length of the points of their shoes.

Table Topics, chaired by Angela, provided great fun as each of four speakers was given a historic news headline relating to shoes to transform into a tale. We heard from Mary Byrne how the Pointy Shoe Gang was caught by accidentally leaving an ostentatiously pointy shoe at a crime scene. Glenice Ebedes extolled the features of penguin shoes that create happy feet. Jerry Goodman reassured concerned women that high heeled shoes were not about to be discontinued and was awarded best impromptu speaker for the evening. Finally, Keith Bowen explained that a new Nike Tennis Shoe would be the only apparel to be worn at a Greek-style Olympic contest.

The evaluations of the prepared speeches and a general evaluation of the evening were of a very high standard and very informative to the speakers and audience. Glenice was awarded best evaluator of the evening.

Club member news is that Glenice has resigned from formal employment to pursue a passion in landscape design. Club President, Ruth, has again been requested to lecture at the University of Johannesburg to journalism students of the role of a sub-editor.

Club members will be off to Hatch to collect George, the Traveling Gavel.

Important News: On 22nd February Transformers holds its Club Contest Evening with three contests on the programme: English Prepared (entrants must have completed the 6th project of the Competent Communicator manual), Impromptu and Evaluation. The last two contests are open to anyone. Guests are very welcome to attend this evening and although the programme for the evening is not the usual it will illustrate the level of public speaking that can be achieve through Toastmasters.

Social Networking

Toastmasters is a typical example of a social network. According to Wikipedia a social network is a social structure made of individuals (or organizations) tied (connected) by one or more specific types of interdependency. We are tied, I believe, by the desire to excel at public speaking and learn leadership skills in the area of running meetings and clubs. And in the old-fashioned manner we assemble in one room and converse directly with each other for the duration of our meetings.

The proliferation of mobile technology and accessibility to the internet has spawned a completely new meaning to social networking. People are able to broadcast their thoughts, actions, feelings, photographs and even their credit card purchases to anyone who is interested. And there is no lack of interest in other people and their lives. The upsurge in reality TV from news channels to competitive games (Survivor, The Amazing Race, Idols, etc.); sport to makeovers of every description and unfaithful partners is evidence to this fascination in other people.

Transformers meeting of 25th January explored this phenomenon of social networking; not out of idle curiosity but because of the marketing value that social networking has for Toastmasters. Everyone with a passion for something – public speaking in our case – will want to share this passion with like-minded people and attract them into the network for the purpose of sharing. This website is the main source of the information that Transformers Toastmasters has to share with members and visitors alike, besides the direct sharing that occurs at meeting. The question is how to attract interested people to this website and the meetings. Social networking, both in real conversation and virtual conversation, is a large part of this answer and internet and mobile phone social networking tools and applications should form part of every Toastmaster’s array of conversation media; at least in the humble opinion of this author.

Our meeting was rather small in number of attendees, but certainly not in quality and enthusiasm of contribution and participation. Two prepared speeches from the Competent Communicator manual were presented and both were in fulfillment of project 7, requiring the speaker to research a topic of interest to the audience and clearly support points and opinions with specific facts, examples and illustrations gathered through this research. Ruth Taylor spoke of the subject of ADHD because she has an adopted son who suffers from this condition. She provided a history of the interpretation of symptoms that are now classified as ADHD, which were originally ascribed either to poor parenting or poor diet. Having researched the subject thoroughly for very personal reasons she was able to illustrate her discussion on the symptoms and the reality of living with a child afflicted with this condition with personal examples while drawing on her sources of research. Her plea to her audience was for understanding that ADHD is not an illness but a condition that requires acceptance and understanding rather than a desire to be rid it.

Rod Taylor chose to focus on the proliferation of fear around terror and point out how simple it is to commit acts of terror, even on a very large scale, using freely available household products obtainable from the local garden and hardware shop and plant material available in massively lethal doses in public places. Rod’s well researched and illustrated speech placed a bit of a damper on the convivial atmosphere of the meeting up to that point. (Convivial was the word of the evening selected by grammarian and lexicologist for the evening, Mary Byrne. Due to the convivial nature of the major part of the evening the word received fair usage by most of the speakers.)

The table topics were a lot of fun. Keith Bowen, Table Topicsmaster for the evening, presented five speakers with a pseudonym that the speaker was required to either use to create a persona for online networking or to describe as someone they had encountered online. John-Peter Gernaat was the first impromptu speaker and created a persona with the name “Tory-dactyl” (a name once given to Margaret Thatcher) who was on the look out for personal information of unsuspecting victims that would then appear on an open website. Mary became an elfish “Pixel-Lad” who connected all the dots to form a greater picture for others to ponder. Jerry Goodman had the misfortune of finding himself in a chatroom where “Fahrenheit 451” whom he was chatting up turned out to be a man and not a woman. Rod revealed that under his suave exterior hides a lecherous old man who chooses the pseudonym “Miss Marple” to offer beauty advice to unsuspecting young girls. Finally, Ruth threatened to seduce everyone with her output as “Radio Chaos” resulting a complete dearth of listeners on all other radio stations. Rod received the award for best impromptu speaker of the evening demonstrating which form seduction conquers.

The prepared speeches received thorough evaluation by John-Peter and Mary respectively. Mary in her role as grammarian gave praise to the general high standard of grammar through out the evening. John-Peter, as toastmaster of the evening was pull up for “I would like to … introduce/call upon/etc.” instead of just doing it, a common error that many people are prone to through an inappropriate fear of appearing aggressive.

Under the heading “Hall of fame” Mary reported having survived Secunda ….. an ordeal that anyone unfamiliar with this industrial town would not easily understand, but please accept it was an achievement worth the mention!

The next Transformers club meeting will take place on 2nd February and everyone is most welcome of which our guest of the 25th January eagerly attested.

On 22nd February Transformers holds its Club Contest Evening with three contests on the programme: English Prepared (entrants must have completed the 6th project of the Competent Communicator manual), Impromptu and Evaluation. The last two contests are open to anyone. Guests are very welcome to attend this evening and although the programme for the evening is not the usual it will illustrate the level of public speaking that can be achieve through Toastmasters.

New Year’s Resolutions

Our first meeting for 2010 – and may it be a year of great eloquence and growth in confidence to everyone reading this – was held at the Morningside Country Club on Monday, 11th January. A small and enthusiastic group of members explored the theme of New Year’s resolutions.

The year started off very well with two members returning after an absence of many months. Kay Kotelo had a baby about 7 months ago and Jerry Goodman simply went into hibernation after completing a year as Vice-President Education in July.

It appears that New Years resolutions date back to 153 B.C. when the Roman god Janus was placed at the head of the calendar, January. He is portrayed as a god with two faces; one looking forward into the New Year and the other looking back into the year past. Janus became know as the god of resolutions. A tradition of giving gifts for good luck started in Rome when 1 January was assigned as the start of the New Year. The New Year and with it the exchanging of gifts, however, moved about a bit with Christians in the Middle Ages changing New Year to 25th December and then to the day of Annunciation, 25th March before Pope Gregory XIII returned it to 1st January.

Our president proposed the toast of the evening, not to resolutions but rather to a helpful way of keeping resolutions: to bite-sized chunks. Jerry responded to the toast, true to form, by resolving to “find a better place to hide the bodies” during 2010 and suggested that we should forgive ourselves for our failures.

The first of the prepared speeches was given by Kay in fulfilment of the second project towards a competent communicator. Her New Year’s resolution is to “shut up and get rich”. Her speech entitled obesity was a heartfelt plea to everyone to be aware of obesity and to adjust one’s lifestyle to prevent this chronic, worldwide problem caused as much by culture as by the media’s promise of an instant solution. In his evaluation of this speech, John-Peter Gernaat praised Kay for not only presenting a well structured speech but adding delightful humour and vivid word images. An example was Kay recording that she had been 33 kilograms overweight in the past and on reflection realised that this had been her weight at age nine so that she was a whole 9 year old overweight.

The second prepared speech by Rod Taylor fulfilled the requirements of the 6th project for a competent communicator. Entitled “The last 6 ball”, Rod compared the adventures and successes in his life to a game of cricket. Small achievements being equivalent to a single run while the success of catching his wife, Ruth equivalent to a resounding six. We had intimate glimpses into the private person in some of Rod’s achievements as well as sharing the disappointments of some of the “dropped balls” of his life, such as refusing an opportunity to crew on a Cape to Rio yacht race. Rod, by the way, does not make New Year’s resolutions believing that the time to act is NOW. Keith Bowen had ample scope to heap praise on Rod for an excellent speech within the requirements of this project, but was able to offer some guidance on gesture and body language.

The Table Topics, handled by John Russell, required six speakers to chose from an alphabetical list of the ten most popular New Year’s resolutions corresponding to the rank number they has elected. The impromptu speeches were either so good or so poor that a three-way tie resulted for the best impromptu speaker of the evening shared by Ryan Ebedes, Jerry Goodman and John-Peter Gernaat.

In the grammarians report, John-Peter was able to present an admirable list of well used expressions and word images. The word for the evening, like New Year’s resolutions, did not stick and ‘tenacity’ or ‘tenacious’ was only used by three people on five occasions.

Rod completed the core of the programme with a general evaluation of the evening.

The next meeting of Transformers Toastmasters will take place on the 25th January and everyone is most welcome. Transformers is also looking forward to the 22nd February which will be our 2010 Club Contest Evening with three competitions: English Prepared; Impromptu and Evaluation taking place. Only the English Prepared contest has prerequisites for entry (completion of project 6 for competent communicator), the other contests are open to everyone.

Looking forward to seeing guests are our next meeting.