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.