‘Drastic’ – that could sum up our most recent online Voice of Wales meeting.

We always have a word of the day at our sessions and the idea is to try and use it in whatever role we are undertaking on the night.

Whether it is a two-minute impromptu speech, a seven-minute pre-prepared speech, an evaluation or one of the other roles undertaken on the evening we have to try and work in that word.

Drastic was the word chosen by our grammarian whose other function is to spend the evening looking out for good uses of language and phrases.

The meeting structure helps us to become adaptable and responsive to a wide variety of speaking situations and to think on our feet.

There are many techniques for speaking when occasions like this arise and we get to practice and refine them in the safety of our club meetings.

This is just one example of the way in which we work and it provides not only a challenge but a great deal of fun.

The Voice of Wales is ranked in the top ten of clubs in the southern half of the UK.

While we have a number of experienced and award-winning speakers amongst our members we also have a number of people who are in the early stages of their Toastmaster International journey.

Toastmasters is an international not for profit educational organisation which promotes public speaking and leadership skills.

It has an online learning programme which provides a series of programmes each one designed to develop speaking skills in a particular direction that suits individual needs.

We have adapted our meetings to work online and we are refining our skills at doing this all the time.

With the current lockdown and the restrictions on group meetings looking likely to last for some considerable time into the future now is a great opportunity to join us – from the comfort of your own home.

We meet at 7.15pm on the second and fourth Thursday each month.

It is free to come as a visitor – so why not give us a try.

For more information contact Marcus at : mgrodentz@aol.com

It’s not a drastic action to take.

Adapt and change

In these uncertain times we are all having to adapt and change the way we do things.

Voice of Wales is no different and we have just completed our first online speakers meeting – and a great success it was too.

Was it different – yes.

Did it lack a little in atmosphere – well yes.

Did we all enjoy it nevertheless – unreservedly.

We started with an explanation of how the new protocols would work and the dived straight into our impromptu speaking session.

This is where someone in the audience gets asked to speak for up to two minutes on a subject that is picked for them ‘on the spot.’

In our physical meeting this means you normally get a minute or two thinking time as you walk to the front of the room to ‘take the stage.’

Online we didn’t have this luxury.

So it was a whole different challenge that we had to rise to.

We had two visitors coming to the club for the very first time. One of them took part in this section of the meeting and won the award for giving the best ‘off the cuff’ talk.

It’s brave putting yourself forward to speak in a room full of ‘speakers.’

It’s even braver doing that in a totally new environment.

We had prepared speeches from Darryl Osborne and Alistair Driscoll taken from their online learning programmes.

Darryl is on Level One of the Presentation Mastery option and his criteria was to present a talk on any topic. He chose a motivational story about the journey of life using a metaphor of a long Trans-Siberian train journey he undertook.

Alistair is on Level 3 of the Visionary Communication pathway and was tasked with developing a communication plan. His talk was about the process, benefits and impact of the plan. His content was around how to encourage members to take up club committee roles and the benefits of doing so to both the club and the individuals.

Everything in the club is evaluated  and it is that feedback which helps everyone improve and develop.

It was certainly a different meeting but one that we all thoroughly enjoyed.

If you would like to learn the skills of public speaking without leaving home come and join us at our next meeting. Keep in touch with us on our Voice of Wales facebook page.

That’s Entertainment

If you want a good evening’s entertainment – then come to a Toastmaster’s meeting.

While we all come to learn and grow we have a great deal of fun at the same time.

But more than that – we get entertained.

In the course of the evening we can have three or four prepared speeches from people who are progressing through their online learning programme.

Everyone is at a different stage of their journey. They are all developing their speaking styles in a way that suites them and they are all at vastly different levels of ability.

One thing they all have in common is that they are talking about subjects that interest or fascinate them.

At our last meeting Rick Cooper, one of our most experienced speakers, kicked off the prepared speaking section of the meeting with a talk to demonstrate his ability with the use of humour.

He started with a classic misdirection getting the audience thinking he was talking about something that was true but was actually a parody of a real situation.

A naturally engaging communicator Rick showed his ability with his use of the stage, his use of body language and vocal variety – and had the audience literally rolling in the aisles.

Marilyn Bryan-Jones is following the Effective Coaching pathway and her talk was about mentoring and the impact it had on her.

She spoke with passion and feeling about her love of netball and of the woman who had seen potential in her and had coached her through to international standard. A talk in which we learned a lot about her and which won her the award for the best speech of the evening.

Paul Hamer was our third speaker and is working through the Dynamic Leadership pathway. As an educator he spoke about the importance of   curriculum reform and the positive impact it would have on generations of future students.

We had a lot of fun with the impromptu speaking section of the meeting where members are chosen at random  to talk on a topic given to them by the ‘Topic Master/Mistress’ for up to two minutes.

Everything at the meeting gets evaluated and that feedback is an invaluable part of the learning process for everyone in the room.

At a Toastmasters meeting learning is fun.

But it is always entertaining as well.

Come and give us a try.

It’s free to come as a visitor.

We meet on the second and fourth Thursday each month in The Sessions House, Maryport Street, Use, NP15 1AD

7.15pm for a 7.30pm start.

Variety is the spice of life

One thing never lacking at our regular meetings is….variety.

Our last meeting had three set speeches from the International Pathway education programme.

One, from Marilyn Bryan-Jones, was animated and very funny. Marcus Grodentz gave a thoughtful and heartfelt talk. Ian Edwards on the other hand entertained with a cleverly constructed talk that hid the punchline until the very end.

Public speaking is a skill and like any skill it has a number of component parts.

Whilst we are all learning and refining those skills we are not being turned into clones of each other.

The programme has the scope to allow each member to develop their speaking skills retaining their own style and manner.

And that means our meetings are always fun and entertaining and full of surprises.

It has been great to have had a number of visitors recently and even better that two have decided to join.

Progress is at your own pace and you can take it as fast or as slow as you wish. New members are given a mentor to help guide them through the early stages and help them with speech preparation.

Our most recent visitor is getting married in May and wants to be more assured to give his wedding day speech.

Another member is already feeling the benefits of being more confident and self -assured in dealing with senior managers in a new job role which is taking him to meetings oversees.

Whatever the reason that might bring you to our door you are assured of a warm welcome and a fun and entertaining meeting.

Our next meeting is at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start on Thursday January 23rd. We meet at The Sessions House in Usk.

Come and give us a try.

One of the best

Voice of Wales is one of the best speaking groups in the south of the United Kingdom.

For that we have to thank our founder Jan Collings.

This was done eloquently by David Sands when he demonstrated a ‘speaking in praise’ speech by honouring the club’s founding member.

One of the benefits of joining a Toastmasters International club is that you get many opportunities to practice speaking.

Along the way you also get the chance to practice specific types of speeches.

David spoke about Jan the person, her work in setting up the club and its growth over the past decade.

It now rates as a top-class group and we have much to thank and be grateful for to a very special lady.

Marilyn Bryan-Jones is undertaking the Effective Coaching learning pathway.  In a project about understanding your leadership style she spoke about her work as a netball coach with young people and how she not only teaches the skills of the sport but has to manage the aspirations of parents.

In a talk entitled ‘Does loyalty have a price or a worth?’ she explained in her natural exuberant style how she manages those sometimes, conflicting interests.

As one of the club’s senior members Rick Cooper is working on an optional Pathways Mentor Programme.

His talk ‘Holding the ladder’ described how he is helping a newer member work through the learning programme. With a great use of metaphors he painted a brilliant verbal picture of the role of a mentor and the satisfaction of seeing that person gain confidence and grow.

The impromptu speaking section of the meeting is always great fun. Led by Matt Davies with his own brand of dry humour it had a distinctly Christmas theme.

Topics ranged from a continuing belief in Santa, to desired Christmas meal guests, secret santa presents, best memories and favourite presents.

Speaking for up to two-minutes on a topic that you have had no time to prepare for is a skill in its own right. But it is often something thrown at us in real life situations.

This part of the meeting is always lively and we learn a lot from watching the way in which some of the more polished speakers approach the task.

There are definite techniques that you can employ in these situations which make impromptu speaking far more comfortable.

Why not make a visit to our club one of your new year resolutions?

Our next meeting is Thursday January 9th, 2020 in the Sessions House in Usk at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start.

It is free to come as a visitor.

Breaking the ice

One of the great things about the Voice of Wales is the breadth and depth of our members and the variety of backgrounds from which they come.

What that means is that every speech given at the club is very different and while we are all there because we want to improve our speaking skills we also get to hear and learn about some fascinating subjects.

As part of Toastmasters International we learn by following one of several online educational programmes – each one tailored to develop our skills in different ways.

One thing they all have in common is that each programme starts with an ‘Icebreaker’ speech – designed to tell us something about the member concerned.

It’s a great introduction because the new member just has to tell us something about themselves – a subject they should know really well.

And as it’s the first time they have had to do a ‘prepared’ speech all the members stand up to give them enthusiastic applause and encouragement.

Law graduate, Daisy O’Hagan, plans to become a barrister and her icebreaker gave us an amusing trip through her time at university and her plans to travel and the area of law in which she plans to specialise.

Matt Dudbridge is in the early stages of the Leadership Development programme. His talk about dog training took us through the basic, intermediate and advanced stages of working with his dog Mabel.

Working with an ‘invisible’ dog he was able to demonstrate great skill with his stagecraft and use of body language.

John Christie is an advanced speaker with many years of experience. His talk had to demonstrate research on an unfamiliar topic.

Not only did he tell us about 3D printing but he showed his skill with using visual aids by bringing along some examples of objects he had made – including a Welsh dragon.

There was a funny and entertaining impromptu speaking session with members being asked to talk for up to two minutes on subjects as diverse as:

  • Justifying to his wife why he should spend Saturday afternoon with his friends at a rugby match.
  • Why telling the truth is better than telling a lie.
  • The benefits of alcohol abstinence.
  • Why it’s Ok to look at your mobile phone when talking to someone.

Speaking in front of a room full of strangers can be daunting for many people and it can  take a great deal of bravery to do it.

Which is why members were delighted when a first-time visitor did exactly that and volunteered to take one of the impromptu speaking slots.

Not only that by the end of the evening he had decided to join as a member.

 It’s free to come as a visitor and we would love to welcome you.

Our last meeting before Christmas is on December 12 at 7.00pm at The Sessions House in Usk.

By the end of the evening you might decide that you’d like to join us too.

It ain’t hurting enough yet

An elderly lady was sitting in her rocking chair on the front porch of her house in the Deep South of America.

Beside her lay a hound dog which every few minutes let out a small yelp.

“Why is the dog doing that?” asked the woman’s grand-daughter.

“Oh, that’s because he is laying on a nail,” the old lady replied.

“So why doesn’t he move?” asked the youngster.

“Well,” replied her grand-mother. “It ain’t hurting him enough yet.”

That was the brilliant introduction to a talk by Ian Edwards from the Toastmasters Presentation Mastery learning pathway designed to inspire the audience to a course of action.

The talk was a very different to Ian’s normally humorous style and demonstrated how Toastmasters does indeed help master the different approaches to speaking that are sometimes called for.

Catherine Williams gave a talk on the benefits of gardening and the positive impact that plants have on our lives. This was from the Innovative Planning learning pathway and the talk was designed to show how research went into the construction of the talk.

Taking an unfamiliar subject and crafting a talk that enables an audience to fully understand the content with clear transitions between the different sections is certainly a skill that is invaluable.

Bindu Cardoza demonstrated why she has played a leading part in the promotion of Toastmasters International. In a speech from the Persuasive Speaking manual she was asked to convince her audience towards achieving the vision of her mission.

Her message was one of equality for all and she gave a heartfelt talk about how Toastmasters International had helped her to blossom and develop and how it worked to do that for all its members.

Inspiring talks which help us learn, coupled with the opportunity for impromptu speaking, coffee, biscuits and friendly conversation make for a great way to spend a couple of hours.

Difficult made easy

Explain the offside rule in football to a five-year-old.

That was the challenge set to one of our members in the impromptu speaking section of our last meeting.

With only seconds to think the member selected to undertake this task tried to simplify this complicated subject. But in the end had to admit to the ‘youngster’ that he would probably be better served playing rugby.

Speaking without preparation can be fraught with problems and for many it leaves them virtually speechless.

The impromptu speaking section which starts our meetings is one which members all say they enjoy even if it does ‘scare’ them.

There are a variety of tips, tricks and techniques for speaking off the cuff and getting to practice them at every meeting provides great fun.

It’s the way we start every meeting and it gets everybody ready for action as we never know who will be selected to speak.

What we do know is those who are going to present prepared speeches from their online ‘Pathway.’

There are a selection of different educational paths and each one will help develop speaking skills in the way that the member wants them to go.

It also means that on a club night we get to hear talks on a wide variety of topics.

Alistair Driscoll spoke about understanding your communication style. There are several and we all tend to favour and be stronger in one particular area.

Our President. Michael Wheatle, a keen photographer, spoke about the demise of good photography. How the digital age meant people could put in less effort when taking their pictures because there are now so many technical aids that can help enhance the photos.

Rick Cooper, one of our most experienced members, spoke about mentoring and how as a young soldier he had a sergeant who helped him make the transition from training camp into the ‘real world.’

Toastmasters helps develop speaking and leadership skills. It widens our knowledge because of the vast range of topics we get to hear and it plays with our emotions.

Talks can touch on a range of emotions from pathos to laughter as members recount stories and experiences.

But without doubt as we try, watch and learn we find that we are developing our skills.

But we do it in an environment which is not only safe, but great fun.

The floor is yours!

One of the things that literally terrifies many people is being asked to make some impromptu remarks.

There is a saying – “ Failure to plan is planning to fail.”

So for many people being asked to speak having made no preparation is a disaster waiting to happen.

That’s why at Toastmasters International clubs we spend part of our meetings working on impromptu speaking.

We call it Table Topics. Someone has the job of selecting the subjects to speak on and then members are selected at random and asked to speak on them for up to two minutes.

At our last Voice of Wales meeting David Sands had the job of selecting the subjects.

He chose a selection of events in and around Wales – some of which had already taken place and some of which were still to come.

Examples included a classical music concert and astronomy weekend; a seaside seafood festival; a stone skimming championship and the world bog snorkling championships.

Speakers had to describe what they enjoyed or what they were looking forward to.

There are tips and tricks that help speakers deal with such unexpected and testing subjects and it is always a fun part of the meeting undertaken in an environment that is friendly and supportive.

Marcus Grodentz did one of the evening’s prepared speeches on the topic of self-limiting beliefs. He is undertaking a course entitled “Presentation Mastery” and this talk had to demonstrate appropriate and effective use of body language  – given that a substantial part of our communication is non-verbal.

The final speech of the evening came from Rick Cooper, one of the club’s most senior members.

Toastmasters International provides a guided learning programme to help people refine and develop their speaking and leadership skills.

The on-line course is called Pathways and members can choose from one of a number of options that will help them tailor their speaking skills to achieve personal outcomes.

Rick gave an educational presentation to update members on how to obtain the best use of the online programme and finished off with an enthusiastic question and answer session.

Members never know what to expect at a club meeting – but they know it will be fun, interesting and varied.


Ask why instead of what – that was the advice from Ian Edwards one of the speakers at our last club meeting when he gave a talk about networking for entrepreneurs.

So many people, he said, when they get into conversations at networking meetings ask “What do you do?”

The result is that people tell you – at great length. They list everything!

But there is a different conversation to be had if you change the question and ask – why do you do what you do?

Listen carefully to the replies to this question because the chances are that people will still tell you what they do.

And if people can’t pinpoint exactly why they do what they do – then there is another question to be asked. That is, why do they do it?

It all comes down to WHY?

The trials and tribulations of being a manager and leading multiple teams led to an examination of the differing leadership styles in the next set speech by Alistair Driscoll.

Understanding group dynamics and adjusting your leadership style accordingly is a key skill for a manager who has diverse teams.

This was a fascinating insight into being a leader and what it takes to drive and motivate diverse groups to achieve key outcomes.

From ignorance to competence was the journey we were taken on by Rick Cooper who, as our third speaker, explained how to coach a new member in the complexities of one of the important club roles.

Enthusiasm alone is not enough. He explained the learning curve that we all have to go through as we take on the challenge of learning new roles and skills.

He also explained that it had to be a two way process with the coach getting as much fulfilment and enjoyment from the process and the person being taught.

The fascinating thing about club nights is not only are we learning the art of public speaking.

We do it in a fun and friendly environment – and we get to hear a wide range of talks on subjects that are as fascinating as they are diverse in nature.