First timers flourish with Toastmasters

With mixed emotions, I attended my first Toastmaster Conference weekend in Glasgow which was held on 11-13 November 2011. I have been a member of Toastmasters for 3 months so the thought of stepping outside of my local club, the Lewisham Speakers, and venturing into the wider arena of Toastmasters International at District level was a bit daunting.

My nervousness was unnecessary. On arriving at the conference which was held in the Crown Plaza hotel, I was greeted at reception and directed to the ‘First Timers Welcome Party’ where I met other Toastmasters from the UK and Ireland who were also attending their first Toastmaster convention. One of the exercises involved a packet of Loveheart sweets. Each of us picked a sweet and then spoke for a minute on what was written on it. It was a great warm up and introduction to the fun weekend events.

On Friday night, I attended a story telling workshop lead by Andrew Brammell, who is a past D71 Humorous Speech Contest Winner. Wow, what a performer. Prior to joining Toastmasters, I held the view that speeches were dry, dull and dreary – not so! Andrew took his audience on a dynamic roller coaster ride during his workshop. He discussed a few techniques of how to create a scene and how to incorporate story telling techniques into speeches. He finished by performing an small snippet from his book entitled “Stumpy Sanderson’s Scrapbook” which included drama, suspense and humour. A great workshop.

On Saturday Paul Walsh, current Division B Manager led a memorable workshop: “Master Memory Techniques”. For those of you who forget strangers’ names seconds after being introduced or freeze in the middle of their Competition Communication speeches, this workshop taught us techniques to enable us to develop ways to give speeches without notes and to remember people’s names.

Saturday afternoon led us into the much awaited Divisional Humorous Speech Contest. Competition was fierce. I was thoroughly entertained, I haven’t laughed for so long for ages! The Judges, after much deliberation and, I am sure, much wringing of hands declared Ola Aralepo the winner of the Divisional Speech Contest 2011. His speech entitled “What part of I don’t need a TV licence don’t you understand” had the audience rocking, but also gave the message that TV’s are a theft of time and creativity.

However, the conference was not just education, education, education. On Friday night there was a fancy dress contest followed by Scottish Ceidhl dancing and on Saturday night a gala dinner following by entertainment from a band called the Riffreshers.

I left the conference knowing that I had made a good investment in my personal development by attending. I had an opportunity of seeing the bigger picture of Toastmasters International. Also, through networking I have made new friends.

Flavia Gordon

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