On a mission to Mars

What is a Toastmasters Club doing on a mission to Mars? Could it be in search of the Mars Bar in order to toast? Actually Transformers Toastmasters held a debating special on Monday, 24th May to determine which of two teams had the best credentials for such a mission.

Our meeting saw a good turnout of members and a wonderful number of guests. (It is interesting when we concentrate on growing our club the guests flock in.) We had two return guests, Nontu Made and Leratho Molefe. They were accompanied by a first time guest, Nkgadi Mogotlane who brought a friend from the Eastern Cape who had been exposed to Toastmasters in a transition year after high school. Three guests from Price Waterhouse Coopers came to investigate whether Toastmasters was the place to improve their public speaking skills: Guy Steele, Jonathan Godden and Mike Krzychylkiewicz.

The entire evening was somewhat different to normal meetings. As Glenice Ebedes said when she proposed the toast of the evening: we usually toast an idea, an ideal, a concept or an absent personage; but we had the opportunity to toast someone famous, within our circle, and present. Ryan Ebedes joined Toastmasters in February 2006 and gave his first speech, the ice breaker where one speaks about oneself, about birds. Outgoing, friendly and forthcoming as Ryan is, he seldom speaks about himself, but his passion, birds, has taken him to being judged the best speaker of a prepared speech in District 74 (southern Africa). The preparation for this speech reflects a quote from one of his mentors, Gary Player, who said that the “more you practice the luckier you get”. Ryan drew on the depth of experience in Transformers to hone his speech at every step from presenting it at our club to winning the best speaker contest in our club to Area, Division and finally District level contests. As a club we heartily toasted Ryan.

Mary Byrne responded to the toast by confirming that Ryan went to the level of weighing up the use of every word in his speech and once the speech was perfect on paper delivering it perfectly and flawlessly in front of his audiences. Great speeches don’t come without great preparation.

We had the privilege of listening to Angelica Smallwood, our newest member, delivering her icebreaker speech. She entitled it “Dreams” and gave us an eloquent picture of how her life’s choices have all been taken in the furtherance of her dreams. As the third daughter she stood out from birth. Her sisters both bear the initials SLS and she was named Angelica Joy (AJS). Her upbringing taught her that her gifts and talents should be shared with others. When she learned financial literacy she discover ed her dream – to help others become financially literate. After completing a year at Harvard Business School she felt the need for international experience and came to South Africa. Although her Harvard class in currently graduating without her, she is pursuing her dream. In her speech, Angelica showed that she has the makings of a proficient speaker.

Faruk du Pont presented his second speech in as many meetings. His Competent Communicator project 2 speech entitled “Why as humans we need to communicate”, investigated the power of the spoken word. Faruk packed his speech with information and some salient points to record are that spoken communication activates a different part of the brain to reading. As a result we process information better when we hear it than when we only read it. Faruk pointed to the depth of consciousness required in verbal communication because a word spoken without due consciousness can hurt deeply. The hurt caused by something said can cause a far deeper and more lasting wound that a physical lashing. The focus brought to spoken communication through Toastmasters can aid one beyond public speaking.

The debating special in which two teams of five speakers each alternated in persuading the judges that they and their team were best equipped to undertake the first mission to Mars.

The Red Team was led by John-Peter Gernaat and they presented their case dressed in red and wearing a plaque around their necks with a photo of the Red Planet and a declaration that the speaker was going to Mars. The other team members were, in speaking order, Keith Bowen, Jim Powell, Angelica and Glenice Ebedes.

The Green Team led by Cheryl-Lynn Langley arrived dressed in an assortment of odd white jackets (at least one looking like a straight-jacket) and odd looking foil caps that one team member proclaimed kept microwaves at bay while Cheryl-Lynn insisted they enabled telepathic communication. The remaining team in order of speaking consisted of Mary Byrne, Faruk, Jonathan Godden and Rod Taylor, each one a respected captain of a spaceship.

The Red Team drew the lot to begin the debate and Keith explained that the team had an integrated approach with each member speaking on their area of expertise. His responsibility would be to draw geothermal energy from beneath Olympus Mons to power the new settlements on Mars that would be supplemented with methane energy. Furthermore, as expert programmer, his immediate task was to keep IT systems operational and to overcome new requirements without the delay of waiting for feedback from Earth.

Mary, the geotechnical expert on the Green Team, proposed to shuttle horse manure between Earth and Mars to green the Red Planet.

Jim explained the implementation of a social and political system that would allow the participants to vote for the decision makers – as in Switzerland.

Faruk explained that the Green Team had technology that reduced the travel time between Earth and Mars from nine months to four weeks.

John-Peter showed a mineral unique to Mars, called teleskite, that has the properties of optic fibre. Mars is criss-crossed with bands of rock rich in teleskite that will be used for communication. The Red Team has the patent on the technology that interfaces with the teleskite highways of Mars. The clincher is that this technology was installed by a Mars lander and the Red Team have intercepted local communication on Mars and deciphered the local language. This gives the Red Team the advantage of being able to interact with the Martians – visible or invisible.

Jonathan explained how he carried the genetic code, as explained in the movie “Total Recall”, to provide Mars with water. All he needed was his Garmin to locate his water machine (Using which satellites circling Mars?).

Angelica, as the transportation expert of the Red Team, explained that she had already established a Martian engineering team that was well on its way to perfecting travel at the speed of light around the planet using the teleskite communication technology to keep on course.

Rod explained that the manure they were transporting to Mars would be used to create fields of kryo-culture, plant food capable of growing in the -63 to -120 degree Centigrade ambient temperature of Mars. Furthermore, despite the eloquent exposition by Jonathan for making water, the Green Team would use catalytic hydrocretinol to manufacture water. This process creates a carbon sponge as by-product that would be used as chemical fertilizer for the kryo-cultured plants. To celebrate the achievements the Green Team would establish the original Mars Bar, while to protect themselves from the high dosage microwave bombardment that hits the surface of Mars, their telepathy caps doubled as microwave reflectors.

Glenice provided the Red Teams answer to ‘greening’ the Red Planet: the American Greenback being valueless would be used to carpet vast tracts of Mars. To retain the original character of Mars, however, most vegetables and flowering plants would be red in colour.

Cheryl-Lynn wrapped up the Green Teams debate with a full explanation of the ridiculous silver caps that they all wore (tried to wear, because they kept falling off) as tools for mental telepathy.

The vote of the judges (based, I hope, on the quality of the speeches and not the validity of the argument presented) went to the white-dressed, silver capped, Green Team. The reward for winning the debate was a personal Mars Bar.

The Hall of Fame acknowledged the great achievement of Ryan in winning the International English Prepared Speaking Contest for District 74 (southern Africa). But this was not Ryan’s only achievement for the year: it is his technical expertise and diligent administration of the Transformers website together with the content provided by several authors during the year that has won Transformers Toastmasters the Top Website in District 74 for a second year running. Ryan and Glenice are the photographers whose pictures bring the text to life on our website.

The club wished Ryan and Glenice a pleasant Comrades Marathon run this weekend.

The next meeting of Transformers takes place on Monday, 14th June. All members of Transformers are requested to invite t hree guests to this meeting.

The last half hour of th is meeting will be given over to the club’s Annual General Meeting at which the club officials for the next year will be confirmed. (These officers have already made themselves available so there is no need to fear being picked on at the meeting.)

All members should come along to cast their votes and guests are always welcome at our club meeting to learn how Toastmasters offers the best programme to improve public speaking and experience the sociable atmosphere in which this programme is presented.

Club Annual General Meeting


Notice is hereby given that Transformers Toastmasters AGM will take place at the club meeting of 14 June 2010. All club members are encouraged to attend.


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.