Making others feel important (Meeting number 584)

That was the theme of the evening and, I think, what we as Transformers Toastmasters Club managed to do at our last club meeting of the Toastmaster’s year. We hosted three visitors from 4th Dimension Toastmasters Club, one visitor from Golden Gavel Toastmasters Club, two guest of our visitors and two gusts of our own and a guest who was expecting a meeting of Sandton Toastmasters Club. The visitors from 4th Dimension and Golden Gavel came to support Christa Roux of 4th Dimension who was presenting the tenth and final project of a Competent Communicator. Our club President, Ruth Taylor, who is on leave with her husband, Rod Taylor, missed a meeting that must rank among the best of the past year.

The toast of the evening, offered by Keith Bowen, was to the coming of age of public transport which has been fantastically upgraded and is functioning smoothly for the World Cup. Mary Byrne agreed in her response to the toast, mentioning the success of the Gautrain.

Making someone feel important is one of the best ways of “Making friends and influencing people” according to Dale Carnegie. Really listening to someone is makes them feel important. This is one of the skills that Toastmaster of the Evening, Cheryl-Lynn Langley, reminded everyone Toastmasters teaches. Eye contact is another way of making someone feel important; besides if you have eye contact, your listener can’t see your knees knocking with nerves behind the podium. Interspersed with the speeches of the evening Cheryl-Lynn advised that honest compliments make people feel important, as well as receiving compliments graciously. As King George V said: “Teach me neither to proffer nor receive cheap praise”. Benjamin Franklin gave as his secret that: “I will speak no ill of any man and good of every man”.

Our programme listed four prepared speeches. First to speak was Lerato Molefe with her ice-breaker speech, the first of the Competent Communicator projects. Her speech entitled, “New Beginnings” took us from the new beginning of her birth to the new beginning of given a first Toastmasters speech. Born in Edmonton, Canada she was the first child. The arrival of her sister coincided with her father completing his studies and a return to Botswana where her father dies three years later. With a large extended family to support the two sisters and mother, she flourished. Her studies took her to the United World College in New Mexico followed by law school and a Masters degree. Her first job as a junior attorney in New York was another new beginning. Although she thought she had arrived to settle, the opportunity of moving to the law firm’s Paris office presented itself after two years. Having left the United States new options presented themselves and the opportunity of returning to southern Africa. This was not a return but a another new beginning with new challenges, not least learning to drive and owning motor vehicle insurance. As Mary Byrne said in her evaluation of this speech, Lerato spoke with entertaining confidence and rightly deserved the award for best speech of the evening.

The second speech was given by Jim Powell in fulfilment of the fourth Competent Communicator project. In his speech entitled “Broken Brain” he spoke about the illness of depression. He pleaded that his audience should accept that the brain be viewed like any other organ or appendage of the body and when it is broken it requires repair. Depression is not something that the sufferer can “snap out” of. He presented vivid word pictures of the experience of depression with descriptions like: “the blazing sun has no heat; the richest red rose is grey and without perfume”. He described that the only hope for the sufferer is when those around drop “pebbles of love” into the dark chasm slowly filling the black hole, allowing the sufferer to inch back into the light – until the next black hole open up. With 20% of the population suffering clinical depression once in their life, he brought the reality home that 4 of the 20 people in the room would know depression. This speech was awarded with the most improved speaker award for the evening.

The third speech, by Solani Bvuma was also a CC 4 speech. She opened her speech entitled “Let Africans lead” with an African quote paraphrased that until the lion can write his own history only the tale of the hunter will be told. In a powerful speech she urged Africans to stop being apologetic and allow outsiders to re-write their history. The World Cup was given to Africa through the intervention of a foreigner, Sepp Blatter, but Africa has brought a new experience to this event through Ubuntu. We have rewritten the standards for hospitality for the World Cup. She closed her speech by rephrasing her opening quote, urging the lions of Africa to write and record the history they have created in 2010.

The last prepared speech of the evening was the CC 10 speech of our visitor, Christa Roux. In a moving speech entitled: “Just do it” she urged her audience to ignore the advice of what is reasonable and follow a goal, however ‘unreasonable’ it may seem. In an opening quote she stated that: “the reasonable man adapts himself to the world while the unreasonable man expects the world to adapt itself to him. Progress therefore is dependent on the unreasonable man”. She listed numerous people who had refused to listen to reason and pursued their own vision: Bill Gates who in 1975 envisaged a computer on every desk, JK Rowling who’s Harry Potter book was rejected by dozens of large publishers and Walt Disney who was fired from his first newspaper job for lacking imagination. She went against the expectations of her society, her peers and the financial stratum of her family and after attending a technical high school entered university to study electronic engineering. She walked to university wearing through the soles of a pair of shoes in two weeks without loosing her positive drive. She received a full bursary that enabled her to complete her studies without debt and has been working in the career of her choosing for six years. Her life would have been very different had she listened to the reasonable advice of those who loved her. She encourages everyone to adopt the Greek muse of victory, Nike.

John-Peter Gernaat gave his personal experience of the past 17 months and the achievement of Competent Communicator as an educational session to encourage newer members of Toastmasters to persist. He challenged all Toastmasters to review the goal that brought them to Toastmasters and will continue to drive them to achieve higher levels of speaking and leadership proficiency in Toastmasters.

The Table Topics Master for the evening was our visitor from 4th Dimension, Danny Roux, who cunningly asked whether anyone related to a specific person or event of the last two week’s World Cup event and then had Ryan Ebedes explain how Ronaldo learned his skills; Mary explain why William Webb Ellis decided to pick up the ball to run with it (rugby); Richard Riche, visiting from Golden Gavel, explain how it felt to be wearing the Bavaria sponsored orange mini-skirts; Glenice Ebedes explain why her tourist resort banned all mention of the World Cup; Angelica Smallwood explain how she would improve the game of soccer and finally, visitor and soon to be Immediate Past President from 4th Dimension, Kirsten Long, explain to the incoming President what she would do for a pair of World Cup tickets. Glenice’s tale of sitting in the midst of beer-splashing Mexican fans in a freezing Polokwane stadium driving her to welcome visitors to a warm, soccer-free resort in Soweto won her the evening’s award for best impromptu speaker.

On A Point allowed our visitors to extend invitations to the dinners at which their club committees would be installed and invitations to present speeches, evaluation or to take roles at their club’s meetings.

After the awards for evening were presented, where Mary was recognised as best evaluator and Cheryl-Lynn for her contribution as the Toastmaster, the meeting was brought to a close.

Our next meeting will be the inauguration dinner held at Mike’s Kitchen in Parktown on Monday, 12th July at 18h30 at which our new committee will be installed by Division H Governor, Jenny Shiers. Guests are very welcome.