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.

Transformers Survivor 2009

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor 2009

The 2009 Transformers Toastmasters Survivor is ………..

We walked into a room that looked a little different to the usual Transformers meetings. We were greeted by a large earthenware pot poised on a table to right of where the podium usually stands and a slide projector and screen in the place of the podium. “Please write your names as large as possible on this card and hand it back”, was the instruction given.

The meeting started as usual but looking around the table it was evident that something was afoot. Many of the assembled group of 12 (9 members, 2 return guests and 1 new guest) were wearing unusual hats and brightly coloured attire. Call to order, introductions and the loyal toast were followed as usual by a toast for the evening. Cheryl-Lynn Langley toasted all South Africans as survivors for making it through this year of economic turbulence and the usual crime, she having been robbed the previous night. Glenice Ebedes offered the response. The scheduled prepared speech for the evening was postponed for logistical reasons.

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Survivor Host Ryan Ebedes
Our toastmaster for the evening, Ryan Ebedes, adopted the title of ‘Survivor Host’ and explained the rules of the game of Survivor in which we were all about become participants. The first round of Transformers Survivor 2009 was open to everyone, and everyone participated. The purpose of the round was to demonstrate proficiency in the use of visual aids. Easy, you might think. However, our Survivor Host had created slide presentations of meaningless, but fun and colourful, pictures, graphics and quotes for the speakers to weave into a story spontaneously as the slide show unfolded. No preparation!

Here is a sample presentation. See whether you can invent a story to entertain your audience as the slides follow one another (starting with the Survivor logo).

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Round 1 Impromptu slide show

Names were drawn from the earthenware pot.
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Einstein .....
First up: John Russell; with the first slide depicting Albert Einstein with tongue protruded, he bravely commences a speech on the Laws of Relativity only to find the next slide stating E=MC3.
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
My uncle .....
Second up: John-Peter Gernaat who thought he’d beat the system by introducing his family and adapting the story as the quirky slides unfolded. Cheryl-Lynn spoke on success and brain power and somehow had to find a way of including a picture of a Bay Watch babe into the formula for success. Rod Taylor masterfully introduced the concept that the world is best understood through science which is not Mickey Mouse (to a picture of this lovable cartoon character).
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
... from the graph....
Faruk DuPont tried his best to offer a factual talk to each slide while
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
My son watches too much TV!
Ruth Taylor demonstrated the effect watching TV has on her son. Glenice manoeuvred Nemo through the teeth of sharks and Solani Bvuma deftly expanded on personal growth through life experience. First time guest, Jéan Joubert, turned the tables on the topic and used the presentation as an example of how to prepare a speech with visual aids: well done!
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Extract yourself from difficulty
with humour...
Jim Powell explained the use of humour to extract oneself from difficulty and last of all
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
You choose rebirth.
You can die and not be reborn...
Mary Byrne explained rebirth from the time of recession as a matter of choice.

What fun as one after the other the speakers were caught out by unexpected images in the presentation that required very quick thinking to integrate them into a flowing speech. Seven contestants survived to the second round: Keith, Cheryl-Lynn, Rod, Ruth, Solani, Mary and John-Peter.

Round 2 required the contestants to demonstrate vocal variety and body language in the most unlikely of scenarios: Noah, about to seal the ark against the rains that have already started, is confronted by a pair of late-comer animals at the foot of the gang plank. In a 2-minute speech the speaker had to alternate between motivating for this pair to come aboard and against such a decision at the ring of a bell. Cheryl-Lynn had to argue for saving the ostrich; Ruth really did not want a pair of tarantulas onboard; Mary capsized the ark with a pair of elephants; Rod was faced with rotting sheep’s wool; Keith wanted to prevent the elephants being consumed by boa constrictors (trust you have all read/seen “the Little Prince” by Saint-Exupéry); Solani fended off flesh eating piranha and finally, John-Peter had mosquitoes buzzing around his ears – why couldn’t they just fly on in? The photos don’t do justice to the antics of the speakers.

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Ostriches ... No!
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Tarantulas .... pretty webs, but ...

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Boa constrictors might swallow elephants...

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest

What do we do with the shorn wool?

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Three finalists.
Only three contestants made it through to round three: Cheryl-Lynn, Mary and John-Peter.

Well that sorted out the top three: could have handed out the chocolates and gone home……..

Round 3 required the contestants to demonstrate the best use of props. Speaking to an auditorium of archaeologists each contestant was asked to open a box that contained an unknown artefact and to present same to audience as the archaeological find of the century!

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
.... excavated on Planet 3 ....
Mary presented her artefact to a Martian audience as a find from Planet 3.Transformers Toastmasters Survivor ContestCheryl-Lynn cleverly had her audience touch and feel the artefact she had unearthed to show how weird humanity had looked way back when.
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
... artictic skill ....
Lastly, John-Peter demonstrated the artistic skills of an advanced civilisation that pre-dated Great Zimbabwe.

By audience vote the final results were:

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor ContestThird prize: Mary Byrne

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor ContestSecond prize: John-Peter Gernaat

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor ContestAnd the Transformers Survivor for 2009: Cheryl-Lynn Langley.

This pretty much means that an annual contest has been added to the Transformers calendar.

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Winning the raffle.
Chocolates were handed out all round and the prize winners received more chocolate. - And I’m certain very little of this made it home, let alone to the Festive Tree. - The first prize was a Lindt Christmas Father. Group photos were taken and a bottle of bubbly was raffled off. Then normalcy returned as the gavel returned to the club president to wrap up the evening.

Under Hall of Fame, Glenice reported her first 2 paying assignments as an events photographer. Well done.

Toastmasters’ year runs from July to June. This was the last meeting for the calendar year but marks the mid-point in the Toastmasters year. The first meeting for 2010 takes place on Monday, 11th January at the Tennis Pavilion of the Morningside Country Club and everyone is welcome. If you would like to attend as a guest to investigate Toastmasters give John-Peter a call or drop him an email (just click Contact Us/Map/Directions in the grey box alongside). The committee of Transformers wishes everyone, Toastmasters, guests and casual readers of this website, a wonderful and safe festive season.

Transformers Toastmasters Survivor Contest
Transformers Toastmasters Survivor 2009

Obama the communicator

Barack Obama won the US Presidential election on the basis of his ability to communicate rapidly and honestly. The turning point of his campaign was a speech he delivered on 18th March 2008 at Constitution Centre Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in response to the attention given to controversial remarks made by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor and, until shortly before the speech, a participant in his campaign. The speech's title was taken from the Preamble to the United States Constitution: “A more perfect Union”. Responding rapidly and decisively to a situation that could have scuppered his presidential race, resulted in the words of chief speech writer becoming prophetic: "This is why you should be president."

Toastmasters teaches the ability to think rapidly on one’s feet and respond to any situation. The Table Topics are typically an occasion where quick thinking is required. On this particular evening our Sergeant-at-Arms was called upon at the last moment to offer the toast of the evening.

An intimate gathering of six toastmasters and two guests was held on Monday 23rd November. Last minute apologies resulted in the toastmaster for the evening taking on the role of timekeeper as well and no one evaluating the use of words, grammar and idiom for the evening.

The toast of the evening was to the Spirit of South Africans in light of the soccer world cup that is now fast approaching.

Transformers Toastmasters Oxytocin
Oxytocin (ball-and-stick) bound
to its carrier protein (ribbons)

Siyabonga Ndlovu presented his second prepared speech in fulfilment of the second project of the Competent Communicator. He spoke passionately about the benefits of a hug, exhorting everyone to adopt the habit of showing affection and causing the release of oxytocin: the hormone of love and bonding.

John-Peter Gernaat used his voice to fulfil project six of the Competent Communicator: this project requiring vocal variety. He enthralled his audience with a narrative of an encounter with a black mamba on a quite Sunday afternoon while going out to feed a collection of endangered parrots. Although entitled “Snakes Alive!” the mamba ended up dead and measured in excess of 2.3m. No the usual Sunday afternoon encounter….

The Table Topics Master had us guessing at the meaning of obscure words. In most cases, unable to guess the meaning, the speaker invented the most implausible story. Taking the cue from Barack Obama’s “We can” slogan Faruk DuPont explained what we do when “We can rowel”. In fact we rowel with the waves of live and prosper! (I’ll leave the intrepid reader to Google the true meaning of the words for themselves.) Siyabonga explained that locusts sawder fields of grain with their hind legs: over- flattering the locust’s destructive ability. John-Peter unfroze the word regelate by enjoying reggae late into the night. Jim Powell flensed insects from his aeroplane by flying through the clouds, leaving the grubby work of stripping blubber to the Norwegians. (Sorry, can’t resist cryptically alluding to the real meaning of the words.) Mary Byrne sang the praises of Dilbert as the King of Knapping or catching 40 winks with eyes open.

The highlight of the evening was an educational session by Mary Byrne on the purpose of offering Speech Craft to the public. Speech Craft teaches the skills of Toastmasters, i.e. the skills of public speaking: structuring a speech, use of body and voice, in a concentrated form and the participants have the opportunity to prepare at least three speeches to hone these skills. Speech Craft courses permit Toastmasters clubs to raise funds for their clubs.

Well deserved awards for the evening went to Siyabonga for most improved speaker, John-Peter for his impromptu speech, Rod Taylor for his evaluation of Siyabonga’s speech and best contribution to Ryan Ebedes for regaling us with the highlights of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

The year is rapidly drawing to a close. All members and past guests are invited to our year-end function on Sunday, 13th December. Confirmation of attendance is required and should be sent to Keith Bowen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The final Transformers meeting will be held at the Morningside Country Club on Monday, 14th December and everyone is warmly invited to participate in “Transformers Survivor 2009”. So don’t sit in front of the TV watching Survivor, come and participate and become a survivor yourself. Guests are warmly invited.