What is the most vivid dream that you can remember? This was the question posed by Toastmaster of the Evening (and club President), Ruth Taylor to everyone who participated in any formal capacity at our meeting of 10th May. As a result everyone was introduced with the revelation of this most intimate secret – dreams are very intimate and we usually do not reveal them to others! The thought that it would be wonderful to have an interpretation of dreams was expressed several times during the evening.

I dream from time to time that I can soar through the air without aid simply by stretching and lifting my feet off the ground. The sensation is phenomenal.

The toast of the evening was given by John Russell who spoke among other things of a mechanic in remote Botswana who discovers the solution to problems with vehicles he offers to repair in his dreams at night. John offered the toast to “dreams, visions and obsession”.

The word of the evening reflected dreaming in a wakeful state. It was “aspire”, with all its variations including “aspiration”, which is “to long, aim or seek ambitiously”. We join Toastmasters because we aspire to improve our public speaking skills. The aspiring Toastmasters and guests used the word four times when they had the floor.

Our meeting was graced with two guests, Angelica, who has visited us a couple of times before and we hope will join us as a Toastmaster, and Lerato, who was our guest for the first time, as well as a visiting Toastmaster from Blantyre Toastmasters Club in Malawi, Dr. Matthews Mtumbuka, who is here to complete in the Division H contest on Wednesday, 12th May.

Three prepared speeches were delivered. Our newest member, Faruk Du Pont, presented his first ice-breaker speech telling us about his life and himself. We are always privileged to learn so much about our new members through their candour in their ice-breaker speech. He was born in Mozambique but his parents felt there were more opportunities in South Africa and emigrated here. His parents had hopes of him becoming an engineer or an accountant, but he had other ideas. These ideas changed with age. When he saw how happy it made people whenever their motor car was repaired after the inconvenience of it breaking down, he decided that mechanic was his life’s goal. Later this was replaced by pilot and dreams of many countries. Finally be has become a forex trader. In his own time he delved into the deeper meaning of life. Faruk demonstrated that he already has many qualities that will make a great speaker.

Keith Bowen presented a project 9 speech from the Competent Communicator manual – persuading the audience. Keith’s speech entitled “The part you can do” encouraged us all to install a solar water heater. Our geysers are the single largest consumer of electricity in our homes and therefore of the money we spend on electricity. Yet, we live in a country where the sun shines most days and its warmth is free. The saving on electricity will repay the solar water heater in three years – without the Eskom rebate that most companies work back into their price anyway. The aging power infrastructure and overall lack of generating capacity that both lead to cold, early morning showers – the result of power blackouts – can be mitigated with your own solar water heater. So even if you have to shower in the dark, you shower with hot water! A pretty persuasive argument.

Finally, our visiting Toastmaster from Blantyre honoured us with a speech entitled “Turning Moments” in practice for the Speech Contest two evenings later. His speech was very personal and told of moments in life as a child that were turning points. He had us all captivated as he recalled an illness that required his mother to take him on a four hour walk to reach competent medical assistance and a four hour walk back home. The strain of the journey aggravated the pneumonia and during the night his condition only deteriorated. His mother’s love took her to find a herbalist in the middle of the night, whose remedy provided relief within an hour and has prevented a recurrence to this day.

We had an enormous amount of fun with the Table Topics under the guidance of Ryan Ebedes as Table Topics Master. He asked five people speakers to represent South Africa and face five questions from visitors to the World Cup Soccer event. The prepared questions were as silly as any ignorant visitor might ask and the responses from the ‘ambassadors” often led the poor questioner up the most amusing garden path. The questions were:

Whether there were ATMs in South Africa; to which Mary Byrne give complete assurance.

How visitors should deal with elephants in our streets; to which Keith Bowen responded that they are well trained and even offer magnificent rides.

Is a licence required to hunt kangaroos; that flummoxed Cheryl-Lynn Langley a little but she assured the asker there are hunting opportunity aplenty in South Africa.

Climbing Kilimanjaro; to which Rod Taylor offered the splendour of the Drakensberg Mountains.

How does one determine north; to which John-Peter Gernaat gave a number of natural phenomena that would always guide the visitor to find north no matter where they were.

After the evaluations of the prepared speeches and the grammarians report, Ryan Ebedes set the stage for the Transformers Debate Special that will that the place of Table Topics at our next meeting on 24th May. Two teams of five speakers will persuade the audience that their team has the best credentials to undertake the first manned journey to Mars. Each speaker will have 2 to 3 minutes and alternatively speakers from each team will speak. Ryan asked for speaker who randomly drew the team they’d represent. The teams selected team leader who have gone off to motivate their teams.

We therefore invite as many guests as will come to be an audience to this Debate Special on 24th May. Guests are always welcome at our meetings.

Area H3 International Speech Contest

Tuesday, 13th April saw members of Accenture, Golden Gavel, Hatch, Nedbank and Transformers Toastmasters clubs gather at Accenture to compete, or support the contestants, in the annual International Speech Contest for Area H3. Area H3 Governor, Andrew Timberlake hosted the evening. A number of other Toastmasters had been called upon to officiate at judges, tally counters and timekeepers.

There was quite a buzz in the room as Toastmasters greeted friends or were introduced to new members and caught up on news from other clubs. Snacks and drinks were available before the contest began and started the evening on a very sociable note.

There were four contestants participating in each of the three contests: the International Prepared Speech Contest, the Impromptu Speech Contest and the Evaluation Speech Contest.

After the formalities and the briefing of contestants and officials the first contestant took the floor. The officials and audience were treated to four excellent speeches and I can only imagine the judges had to evaluate the finer points of public speaking to determine a winner. Three of the speeches were in some way autobiographical while the fourth, by Ryan Ebedes, was about creating something of value in life using the life of the sociable weaver bird as a metaphor.

The impromptu speakers were given the word “flair” as the topic of their speeches. The flair with which these four speakers constructed a speech on the fly was astounding. It certainly is worthwhile attending contests to listen and learn from accomplished speakers.

A powerful demo speech for the Evaluation Speech Contest was delivered by Martin Foure about a near disaster that he had experienced on a mine that was brought back into vivid memory by a newspaper report some years later when a cage went crashing 2km down a shaft at gold mine killing almost 150 miners. Although the topic and title – Death Touched My Shoulder – were both morbid, Martin fashioned a spellbinding speech that had everyone on the edge of their chair (and made concentration on timing very difficult). The four evaluators were given ample material for a constructive evaluation.

After the Contest Chair, Richard Riche, had introduced the contestants, allowing the judges time to finalise their adjudications, we were presented the winners of the three contests:

Impromptu Speech Contest:

Second – Mary Byrne from Transformers

First – Erich Viedge from Golden Gavel

Evaluation Speech Contest:

Second – Mary Byrne from Transformers

First – Adele du Rand from Golden Gavel

International Prepared Speech Contest:

Second – Sudhi Thakurdin from Hatch

First – Ryan Ebedes from Transformers

Congratulations to all the winners but especially to Ryan and Mary who represented Transformers so ably.

Ryan will be competing (and Mary if the winner is unable to) at the Division H Contest on 12th May to be held at Ernst & Young.

Everyone is welcome to come along to Transformers to meet these accomplished speakers in the warm and friendly atmosphere of our club meetings. Next club meeting is on Monday, 26th April at 18h30 (for 19h00 sharp) at the tennis pavilion of the Morningside Country Club. Give John-Peter a call for more information.

Together Beating the Drum

The drum has its origins in Africa where it is symbolic of communication. The drum announces the important events in life: birth, death, an imbizo and sends messages across distancesDjembe drum more rapidly than a messenger could run. The drum can be called upon to make many different sounds and many different beats and each has its own meaning. And metaphorically speaking every Toastmaster has his or her unique tune. We try to express ourselves in words but th ese fall short of the “music” we would like to express. Toastmasters helps us to express more of our music.

The toast of the evening built on a quote from Henry Ford: COMING TOGETHER is a beginning. KEEPING TOGETHER is progress. WORKING TOGETHER is success. People working together accomplish more than the sum of their individual efforts. In response to the toast by John-Peter Gernaat, Jim Powell expressed how Toastmasters is so unlike the corporate world where people expend energy in opposing the common goal, while Toastmasters come from divergent backgrounds and interests for the purpose of improving communication and despite their differences work together at this goal. Word of the EveningThe word for the evening was synchronous: happening, existing or operating at exactly the same time. This word was first coined in 1669. It was used six times during the evening.

Three prepared speeches featured on the programme; the first was a Competent Communicator project 1 speech by two times Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) Rod Taylor. It served a wonderful example of an autobiographical speech for those listening. Rod spoke as if giving a eulogy. He began with his parents who married when he was already 6 months in the womb and had as older sister. At school he tried boxing but a future England champion was in another house and thought the better of being constantly beaten and took to the water where he excelled, first in shorter distances but later settling into the unassailable champion of the longer distances. He was an adventurer by nature and by age 17 had explored the Alps and had participated in a trip to Iceland to measure adiabatic winds. A scholarship permitted him to read chemistry and he received a lucky break when in his first job he had the opportunity to commission an extraction plant while his manager was off. His adventurous nature took him to South Africa where he married and had two sons who have produced grandchildren. He joined Toastmasters shortly into his married life as a charter member of a new club. Sadly his wife contracted cancer and after a short reprieve succumbed to the illness. This led Rod to forming his own company in the field of training and after 15 years of bachelorhood met Ruth at Toastmasters only to see her marry another man. He did not have to wait long, however, until he could make Ruth his and having reached the present ended his speech with his untimely death. Buyer beware!Jim Powell, who became a member only recently and completed his second project two week earlier, seems determined to speed his way through the Competent Communicator projects and delivered the third project speech. The objective was to construct a speech with a beginning, body and conclusion and ensure a clear flow of the message from one point to the next. He used a real experience of being telephoned by a sales company informing him that he had won a prize but needed to attend a presentation with his wife in order to retrieve the prize. The presentation promoted a timeshare holiday and before he knew it had signed, only to be frustrated each year with the booking of a holiday, until he surrendered the timeshare points for no financial return simply to be rid of them and the frustration of having to settle for a resort in a different part of the country, sleeping fewer people and at an unsuitable time. This was a prime example of the axiom: buyer beware!

John-Peter Gernaat delivered his project 9 speech of the Competent Communicator in which he had to persuade his audience to adopt his point of view. He demonstrated to his audience how there is untapped income hidden in the consumer items we all buy weekly and monthly if we chose to purchase directly from the manufacturer through a network of clients. Companies who market their products through these prosumer networks reward clients who help to build the network and use the money other companies spend on marketing to pay out bonuses. These bonuses can quickly exceed the total of one’s own purchases if one actively works at growing the network. His speech gained him both best speech and most improved speaker awards for the evening.

Mary Byrne provided an education session entitled “Evaluate to Motivate” on the task of evaluating a speech. The purpose of a speech evaluation is to provide immediate feedback that highlights the good aspects of the speech and the delivery of the speech while providing constructive assistance on those aspects where the person could improve or try a different approach.

Table topics provided the usual opportunity for quick creative thinking and great amusement. The aim was to deliver the story of a popular nursery rhyme or fairy tale backwards.

Jim saw to it that Little Red Riding Hood was spared her ordeal by getting grandma to beat the wolf up and turn him into a floor decoration. John-Peter put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Ruth Taylor seemed to get Jack into a never ending cycle of beanstalk growing. Glenice Ebedes turned the three little pigs on their heads because the brick house could not survive the Haiti earthquake while the house of sticks was blown away by the wind. The house of straw, however, provided a soft bed for all three when it collapsed. Mary roasted three billy-goats gruff and was awarded best impromptu speaker of the evening.Toastmaster of the Evening

The awards for best contribution of the evening went to Solani Bvuma who took the role of Toastmaster of the evening for the first time. She brought the theme of the evening and the meaning of the drum into vivid context.

The best evaluation award was given to Ryan Ebedes for his evaluation of John-Peter’s speech.

The next club meeting will take place on Monday, 26th April at the usual venue. The theme for the evening resonates with the public holiday that follows and is “Freedom”. All guests are welcome. We are a friendly and fun club although we take the task of Toastmasters seriously.

Living with Purpose

Monday, 29th March Transformers made their contribution to Toastmaster’s Day (27th March) by each member being encouraged to “bring a friend”. The result was a turnout of sixteen members and guests and a full programme of five prepared speeches. Word of the evening – indifference – cannot be ascribed to the members of Transformers.

The theme for the evening – Living with Purpose, selected by Kay Kotelo, who took of the role of Toastmaster of the evening for the first time, was based on “A Short Guide to a Happy Life” (2000) by Anna Quindlen. “Think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live it with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.” Not a bad maxim to live by. Quindlen is an award winning journalist turned author with a string of awards and honorary degrees to her name and has many quotable quotes ascribed to her. “The truth about your own life is not always easy to accept, and sometimes hasn't even occurred to you,” is another worth some thought.

Toast of the evening was offered by Khaled Fourati, a first time guest to Transformers but a short-time member of Toastmasters in Ottawa, Canada some years ago. In his toast he gave a short introduction to himself in relation to Toastmasters and his toast was for mutual exchange. We hope to have Khaled as a new member in the near future. Mary Byrne in her response to the toast affirmed statements made by Khaled that Toastmasters is about learning both to speak and to listen.

Kay guided the course of the evening with grace and was awarded Best Contribution for the evening as a result. The prepared speeches she introduced fitted the theme of the evening as though she had primed each of the speakers. First to present, with the title “Die Young and Quick or Old and Slow”, Jim Powell explained that the brain, like the muscles of the body, deteriorates with lack of use. He cited an interesting study of nuns where those who had died below the age of 60 were described and physically and mentally inactive and mediocre contributors to life especially in later life. The nuns who died above the age of 85 had experienced only a slight drop off in physical and mental performance in later years and had healthier brains when examined. Jim’s message was to keep physically and mentally active, suggesting dancing as an exercise that requires mental engagement, and to save for a long retirement. This speech adequately met the requirements of a Competent Communicator project 2. By the way: Jim has a supply of quotes of his own that appear from time to time in our programme. His quote associated with Living with Purpose is: “Never enter your second childhood; don’t leave your first.”

Solani Bvuma fulfilled the requirements of a Competent Communicat or project 3 with a speech entitled “Rainbow Nation”. Her speech was radiant with imagery inviting a unity despite ethnicity, economic status or other difference in the symbol of the rainbow. In the Nguni languages the rainbow is a metaphor for hope and the future. This excellent speech earned Solani the award of Best Speech of the evening.

John-Peter Gernaat completed project 8 of a Competent Communicator with a colourful presentation to support a demonstration that physiologically laughter is nature’s antidote to stress. He concluded with a question to the audience: if laughter is the antidote to stress and stress has demonstrably increased in the last 100 years, why has laughter decreased in direct proportion?

Ruth Taylor attempted to persuade her audience, as required by project 9 of the Competent Communicator, that the fruit of the cocoa tree, the cocoa bean, is one of the most complete foodstuffs around and that it therefore made sense to eat chocolate in every situation. The cocoa bean is rich in anti-oxidants that protects against cancer causing free-radicals, rich in serotonin causing one to feel great and increases mental alertness. This was perfect persuasion for a chocolate binging Easter.

Rod Taylor also spoke persuasively, but in fulfilling the requirements of the Advances Manual in Persuasive Speaking project 5: the Persuasive Leader. As a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) it was hardly surprising that he spoke about communication and persuasively lead his audience to understand that communication is more than just the words that pass between the communicator and the recipient of the communication. If the words carried all the meaning then modern technology that effortlessly transmits words would solve all communication requirements. However, the visual aspect is the largest contributor to communication with vocal tone being the second and the actual words coming a lowly third. Successful communication thus relies on face-to-face interactions and it is precisely in this activity that Toastmasters has a very effective adult education programme.

Table Topics required the speakers to persuade the audience that their life has purpose. The audience were sitting is the life raft of a sinking ship with only one empty seat. The speakers had the task of convincing the occupants of this life raft that their life was worth saving. Cheryl-Lynn Langley had two community supporting businesses that required her to steer. Ruth was offering heart surgery for a seat. Jim modestly boasted that he would not lie about the reason he should be saved. John-Peter demonstrated how he could ease their stress through laughter. Mary Byrne had the key to the emergency supplied on the life raft and would only surrender it in death and would have been saved if the vote as Best Impromptu speaker is a measure of success. One of first-time guests, Joy, was a walking GPS who would get everyone home safely.

Thorough evaluations of the prepared speeches and the evening’s use of grammar followed. Cheryl-Lynn, as an evaluator of a speech and grammarian was awarded Best Evaluator. The award for Best Improved speaker was shared by Solani and John-Peter.

Members and friends are reminded that Area H3’s Area Contest takes place on Tuesday, 13th April and that Kay Kotelo, Mary Byrne and Ryan Ebedes will be competing. Please come along to offer your support to these three accomplished speakers.

Transformers next meeting will be taking place on Monday, 12th April at the Morningside Country Club and guests are very welcome. Come along and meet the friendly bunch that make up the membership of Transformers and find out more about Toastmasters without obligation.