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.