Club Meeting on 26 Feb 2019

Inducting our new member – Benjamin

“Reach for the Stars” was the theme of the meeting, which prompted many interesting ideas from various speakers.

Toast

Our meeting commenced with a thought-provoking Toast by Chris Tso, on the subject of why success in one’s life should not just include material success, but also spiritual success. He pointed out that by knowing how we relate to our world, and others, more resources and opportunities become available to us. And we become better able to fulfil a greater purpose.

Word of the Night

The Word of the Night, offered by Clare Fraga, visually impacted with an illustration of the word CELESTIAL. We were invited to use it in our talks and in Table Topics. This word has an inspiring connection to heavenly bodies, which was briefly discussed after her presentation.

Laughmaster

Following on, we were given a short “drama” by Rowlanda, the evening’s LAUGHMASTER, on why modern packaging “sucks”! You often can’t open the thing you have brought home. This was illustrated by a fierce piece of plastic containment of an Oral B electric toothbrush. She demonstrated how even cutting through the plastic was a challenge, and ended by stamping on it!

Table Topics

TABLE TOPICS is always a good way to hatch ideas on your feet, and is a great way to deliver a short impromptu talk, with opening, body and conclusion, spontaneously. Matt Anderson presented us with some complex scenarios, for instance, travelling to the moon, selling the travel package to a would-be buyer, addressing a graduation class, and choices to be made once fame in show biz has found YOU!

Meeting Roles and Responsibilities

After the break, of lollies and drinks, we were given an overview of “Meeting Roles and Responsibilities”, presented by Johnny Manolelis. He reminded us of some of the things we forget to do, such as handing the gavel back to the Chairman, which helps the meeting’s flow and order. There was encouragement as the various roles were explained, and the different slants some clubs place on some roles. As we had many visitors, some returning for a second visit, they would have seen for themselves just how many opportunities there are to experience Toastmasters from inside out, trying out the various roles, and growing as a result. Saying “yes” is how growth occurs. Don’t be afraid to try things, he urged. Toastmasters teaches so many skills, and as we embrace them, our confidence metre soars.

The Icebreaker

Benjamin Zhu, our newest member, and inducted the same night, gave a deep and tender talk about a dear friend, suffering from cancer, and how the impact of that has affected him. He opened with an explanation about what Chinese New Year means to Chinese people the world over, and how they go out of their way to contact family and friends at this time. A couple of quotes stood out: “Life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it”. Positive thinking, he said, can turn things around, lifting our spirits, helping us to cope better with great difficulties. He closed with a quote by Norman Vincent Peale: “change your thoughts, change your world”.

Food Product Development

Vicki Mina followed with her talk about FOOD PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, outlining how the consumer drives the demand, wanting healthy options, alternatives to be offered for dietary and religious observances, how products are changing (not always in a good way) and how the profit motive is driving the corporations to ever new heights of imitation of standard products – (Coca Cola, for instance), coffee machines for the home, and the clever little pods – a long way from heaping spoonfuls of ground coffee beans into a percolator.

Club Meeting on 12 Feb 2019

The meeting opened with Shirley Childs as Chairman. We welcomed eight guests who arrived. After an action packed meeting, we inducted our newest member, John Inglis (pictured).

Toast

TO TOAST EMERGENCY SERVICES WHOSE WORK IS OFTEN UNSEEN AND TAKEN FOR GRANTED – front line brave people – Hills has highest number of volunteers from one area in Australia – in time of emergency – fire, flood, high winds, they are there.

Word of the Night

The word of Salubrious, used by many speakers afterwards.

Table Topics

Vicky Mina hosted the Table Topics session, explaining to visitors how making short speeches to answer an impromptu question is a great preparation for the real thing – thinking on your feet, while having a structure with a beginning, middle and end.

Some of her questions related to Valentines Day. Other questions were general. Visitors who participated spoke confidently.

Speeches

“Getting over the Hump”, Mel Colgar – speaking about public speaking as a constant labour of love – practise practise practise, speaking to oneself, the chair, the whoever will listen, even if they run away… keep practising. It improves your confidence, which imparts confidence to the audience. She used personal stories and humour.

“You’re So South African”, Clare Fraga – What is this, why does her boss keep saying this? Clare developed talk around speaking styles, and talked about the style of Donald Trump versus Barak Obama. What are the four styles: analytical, direct, etc. South Africans, like Australians, tend to be very direct, conversational style, structured, engaging hand gestures that kept us following intently.

“Going Forward”, Johnny Manolelis – He talked about mentoring, and the importance of asking for someone’s opinion. In the beginning, he would adopt a similar style to Julius Caesar, who was quoted as saying, “I came, I saw, I conquered”. He thought he knew how to give talks, until he learned wisdom and realised how little he knew!

“Sweet and Sour”, Rowlanda Orchiston – She shared a surprising true story about an expensive grand piano ending up in a rubbish dump (the sour) that ended up repaired and restored to the Cable Beach Resort.

Club Meeting on 29 Jan 2019

The meeting was well attended for the theme night: “Australia Day”, and there were eight visitors. It was an enthusiastic gathering, with all guests expressing their interest in how Toastmasters works as an organisation. They noted both the formality, in the way of the running of the agenda, yet also the freedom of expression, humour and friendliness of the members.

Assignments

Our Toast carried the theme of how we need to change ourselves within, rather than change the date, as has been reflected in the media of late. In a country of the future, where there is more acceptance and humanity, we would be forever changed. Our society would progress and reclaim its energy (paraphrasing the words of the father of Australian music, the late Peter Sculthorpe.

The Word of the Night was a super duper: SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS… Try saying that quickly! Our new member, Rachael Lin, who was inducted last night, produced this excellent word, and explained its meaning and character, as a song in the original “Mary Poppins” musical. It was used, with delight, by several speakers who followed her.

Prepared Speeches

Our four speakers had prepared their speeches with great attention to content and delivery.

First up was Vicky Mina, who spoke about New Year’s Resolutions, and the technique used to ensure there is only one goal at a time, in focus, which makes achieving it far more reachable.

Second was Jagath Peiris, whose content covered the importance of the mentor in the life and progress of a public speaker. He gave personal examples, and spoke about a friend who had made a big difference in his quest to improve his delivery.

Shirley Childs, whose experience over many years, of mentoring others effectively, through giving a vast number of speeches herself, gave us a word, not as long as the above SUPER PLUS, but a soft Latin derivation, ‘spirare’, which means “to breathe”. This topic was well researched, informing us that our ability to mindfully breathe in and out, choosing to put attention on the breath of life as a means to bring peace and calm to our speaking delivery, but also to our everyday life.

Finally, Johnny Manolelis chose his arresting moment, using a hand of bananas to illustrate an important point. The bananas were there to describe a lightbulb moment he had had while observing quick witted chimpanzees in Taronga Zoo, who used a different way of peeling their fruit. He realised this moment was telling him we can change the way we think, and inject positivity and better outcomes into our lives. “Inspired to Change By a Chimpanzee” brought home to us the message that was also a theme given throughout the evening by several speakers.

Conclusion

With so many new visitors and members, the meeting set a good and optimistic tone for the beginning of 2019.

Christmas Party and Final Meeting for 2018

In a different setting our club organised an end-of-year celebration of a year of notable growth, welcomed visitors and enjoyed each other’s company, surrounded by decorations and balloons, to brighten up the large space. There was good camaraderie during the evening, and our visitors relaxed, along with members, as the evening unfolded. Johnny Manolelis took the role of Chairman, conveying a chirpy mood, as we admired the Christmas tree and listened to a soundtrack prelude of “Beatles Baroque”.

The Prepared Speeches

First up were the two speakers, who were well prepared.

Our first speaker, Rachael Lin, amazed us with a poignant Icebreaker speech about her experiences living in Australia, having left China twenty years previously. She described her 2018 year as being a watershed in her life, and one fraught with drama and problems. She shared it openly and with candour, the enormous challenges of starting a business selling pianos in Parramatta, after abandoning a concert pianist path, coupled with personal issues taking up a great deal of her time.

The second speaker, Michael Fong, gave us a bird’s eye view of early married life and the amusing events that shaped the first year, following the wedding. He took us on a romp through the disasters that happened, as events and disguises obscured communication between his wife and himself.

The two speeches were a good scene-setter for kicking off the second half.

The Potluck Dinner

We ate a Christmas feast, welcomed friends who’d shown up to celebrate, and shared some of our favourite dishes.

Santa’s Table Topics

The mood was upbeat as we gathered around Santa (Ross Richards in daggy Santa Aussie clothing – thongs, shorts and tinsel – just what makes Ross comfortable!) to share in Table Topics. As the gifts were given out to each of us, we unwrapped the package, and were asked to speak about the gift and what we would do with it. Although this did not prompt a great flow of words, as a present-receiving exercise, we enjoyed it and the comedy of “what should I do with it?” Maybe next year we will have to report back on what we ate, (chocolates), played with, used, maybe hid in a cupboard, or jigsawed!!

Club Meeting on 4 Dec 2018

Human was the theme for our meeting. And it was the most human meeting we’ve had. We laughed. Made mistakes. And surprised ourselves with our spontaneous creativity.

We had Table Topics in the first half of the meeting. This was where Johnny Manolelis gave each speaker an opinion, and the speaker had to speak in favour of the opinion for 30 seconds, and against the opinion for the remaining 30 seconds. And Johnny would clap at the 30 second mark to make this clear. For example, questions asked were “It’s very important to be right”, “Men are more important than women”, and “You are the wisest person on the planet”. We had surprising well thought out responses, considering it can be challenging to deliver an impromptu speech and completely change your mind midway.

Then we had three prepared speakers in the second half of the meeting.

Your Communication Style

The first speaker, Jagath Peiris personalised his talk in an open and revealing way. And his self honesty and analysis of how he gives direction and support to his work team was disarming and engaging.

He covered the points for successful communication, speaking about being direct, goal oriented and inclusive in the way he approaches his relationships. Being decisive, and yet not overly pushy, has enabled him to build excellent bonds with colleagues, family and friends. He spoke about how he has learned to empower others, building trust and respect. He acknowledged the changes that have come to him through his personal development in Toastmasters.

Your Leadership Style

The second speaker, Mel Colgar, delivered a creative and fluidly paced presentation, posing such questions as: “can I lead teams that are different, and think differently from the way I do?”, asking herself what is her style, and acknowledging the need to adapt to the team that you are leading, instead of being dictatorial and having impossible expectations. She suggested changing one’s style from day to day, if necessary, for harmony and personal growth.

Making a Difference

Our third speaker was Clare Fraga, who shared her passionate research on CLIMATE CHANGE. She opened with some hard-hitting facts, such as the heating of the planet to alarming levels over the last 35 years, the greenhouse gases from industry, extreme weather conditions, and melting ice caps.

All facts we have heard before, but because it was delivered in an uncompromising style, well-researched and balanced, we “caught” the message, receiving the call to make our voices heard and draw attention to the greatest crisis facing mankind. She concluded with the thought that we can make a difference, as long as we believe it is possible. Certainly, being mindful of our footprint, particularly in Australia, which is fourth on the list of the world’s biggest polluters.

Club Meeting on 20 Nov 2018 – Evaluation Contest

This was our evaluation contest, held yearly at club level, and enables Toastmasters members to refine their skills as evaluators. A good evaluator gives feedback that helps others grow, and this requires good listening skills, analytical thinking, and empathy. It’s an important skill in leadership and all aspects of life.

The Test Speaker

The evening began with the test speaker, Allan Lawson, who is a member from another club, and was not known ahead of time. He came well prepared, with props that promised to make the sounds of clashing wire, suggestive of his intriguing topic: “The Conspiracy Theory”.

He led us to think his message might be about the Moon Landing Conspiracy Theory, for instance, but took a completely different, and humorous turn. He introduced his idea: that wire coathangers are taking over in the market place over the known, loved and more clothes-friendly wooden coathangers.

We were treated to his amusing slant on why wire coathangers are so loathesome; they are assembling en masse in our wardrobes, and are taking over! He could have been talking about an army of wire aliens, and we were intrigued by this novel and creative way of presenting such an idea. The authentic bandage on his forehead made it appear as though they had leapt out and attacked him.

The Evaluators

The competitors were: Clare Fraga, Johnny Manolelis, Mel Colgar, Ross Richard, and Jagath Peris.

Here are the results. Congratulations to our winners. The 1st place winner will represent our club at Area level in February 2019.
1st place: Clare Fraga
2nd place: Jagath Peiris
3rd place: Mel Colgar

Prepared Speeches

In the second half of the evening, Jenny Li lead off with her Icebreaker speech. Her title, “Misfortune generates happiness and happiness breeds misfortune” immediately intrigued us, as conundrums always do. Especially when it’s an ancient saying. Jenny covered this idea by sharing a number of anecodotes and glimpses of her personal life. Take for example, very fortunate lottery winners who, unfortunately often go broke not long after. The lesson was clear. “Happiness does not depend on what happens outside of you but on what happens inside of you”.

The second prepared speech was Rowlanda’s topic: “Keep it Simple, Sweetie”. This was a very prop-oriented and visual talk, explaining that her Parisian handbag, although beautiful on the outside, with its iconic design, posed a problem for locating items, as the lining is black, causing everything to sink to the bottom and hide! Two-sided caricatures were used, and these enabled the audience to connect the message with the imagery.

Club Meeting on 6 Nov 2018 – The Speakathon

We had a Speakathon night, where eight speakers gave high quality talks on diverse topics. This was also a great opportunity to practice evaluations and apply the GLOVE method as taught recently by Shirley Childs. This way of doing evaluations involves observing gestures, language, organisation, voice quality, enthusiasm/energy/emotion, and finally, listening for the special “wow” factor.

Finding My Group

The first speaker was Demi McDonald, who gave her Icebreaker speech which was received with interest. She spoke about her upbringing in the USA, in a city with the highest crime rate and gang activity. This strongly shaped her life, bringing her to the point of deciding to leave the city and get an education. Eventually, a university degree and thinking big meant she was able to get a top job, come to Australia and find a group of people to share her passion and values.

Marketing Your Business

Mel Colgar engaged us all about her research on how to market her business as a physiotherapist. She entertained us with the hypothetical question: “what if you need a walking stick?”. Then, in an entertaining way, asked a few members of the audience to imagine themselves with walking issues, and whether they “need” a walking stick. This demonstrated one of the marketing principles “know your potential customers”.

Are You Your Best Mentor?

Chris Tso spoke about the importance of mentoring, reflecting back on the beginning of his time in Toastmasters when he thought he could “go it alone”. He subsequently learned that he was floundering, without an experienced member to guide him. This meant he was giving talks that were less than positive. The mentor held up a “mirror” to him, of how much better his presentation could be, if he made some changes. He spoke about the raft of changes that came, as a result of working constructively in building better talks. The results speak for themselves.

Trophy Kids

Matthew Anderson posed the question: “What sport would you choose for your kids?” He explored this topic in depth, showing the contrast between glamour sports, which involve fame and money and, often, burnout, in contrast to the sport of cooperation: Ultimate Frisbee. This particular sport requires teams to seek the spirit of the game, showing respect for each other, and fostering a culture of positive personal development. Responsibility is learned early, and this means awareness of each other, rather than the cult of personality and self-absorption, often seen in many other popular sports.

Conflict is Part of Life

Mark Paton posed the thought-provoking question: Conflict is Part of Life. He spoke about the good outcomes that can come when conflict is addressed, leading to a better culture in an organisation, and better decisions being made. When conflict is not addressed it can tear a team apart and affect morale. He spoke with conviction about how using collaboration works to revitalise an organisation, rather than ignoring, smoothing over, using force or compromise.

Defending the Unpopular

Eran Halevi gave a well-researched speech about how we can provide job opportunities and increased living standards for everyone, so that no one needs to live in poverty and everyone has a fair opportunity to become wealthy. He used humour to ask us whether we need a minimum wage, and presented statistical arguments about why having a minimum wage might actually be doing more harm than good. He encouraged us to celebrate diversity, instead of demonising income-inequality… and to embrace an environment that encourages the rich and entrepreneurial to invest more in the economy. His humour and thought-provoking questions created interest in a subject that is not always grasped easily.

I Am Side-Taking

Hannah Lee gave an Icebreaker speech entitled “I am Side-Taking”. Her off-the-cuff approach gave us insights into her as a person that took us right back to her arrival as a baby, describing herself, back then, as a fighter. She went on to speak about taking a stand, and not being afraid to fight for what you believe in. After getting into scrapes at school it was a teacher who spoke with impact to her about the need to make only two choices: am I a winner, or a loser? She made a ninety degree turn that day, as a young person, understanding herd mentality, and choosing to back away from the hidden snare that leads people to make wrong choices. Her message throughout was, “If you don’t choose, someone else will choose for you and you’ll probably lose. So… don’t be a fence-sitter. Take a side and be a winner”.

There is Magic in the Air

Finally, the eighth speaker, Johnny Manolelis, announced his intriguing topic, which had us all waiting for what would prove to be Magic in the Air! He became the magician, introducing the talk with an energetic rendition of an Olivia Newton-John song from Xanadu. We were reminded what real magic is: the driving force that leads us to create amazing almost-miraculous events in our lives. It is the power to believe that WE CAN DO IT. We create our own reality by how we think. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”. There was even a well polished magic trick at the end, using two plates on a table cloth, covering little pieces of bread. Some disappeared with the quick sleight of the hand… of the magician!

A fine way to end an evening, being reminded of our potential, and our powerful inner voice.

Induction of New Members

Just when we thought the meeting was about to end, we had another surprise. We inducted two new members: Jenny Li and Deme McDonald. It’s great to see two very enthuastic people become part of our close-knit and yet diverse family at West Pennant Hills.

Club Meeting on 23 Oct 2018

Halloween was our theme this week. Johnny proposed a Toast with a skull-imprinted cup which looked menacing. Christopher delivered a Word of the Night, “automatic”, which had everyone’s phone automatically ringing at the same time, with a voice on the other end asking them to use the word. It was a meeting with tricks, and we delivered.

Table Topics

Table Topics, hosted by Eran Halevi, continued on this theme. He asked us eight questions that drew from our personal memories and opinions of Halloween. Here were the top three:

  • Parents tell kids not to take candy from strangers. Why is this an exception in Halloween?
  • If Toastmasters had a Halloween party, what would you dress up as?
  • Halloween is American tradition. Why celebrate it in Australia?

Of Ships, and Shells, and Sparkling Sea

The 1st speaker, Rowlanda, talked about the importance of one’s imagination, believing in the power we all possess in accessing what creates our reality, and what created the Opera House. She tracked the key figures who shaped its creation, charting it all as a drama… an opera in itself. She got the audience to imagine Jorn Utzon working on his winning entry, in 1956, and closing by mentioning the use of a didgeridoo player on the sail of the Opera House, at the opening of the Invictus Games. All reminders of the wonderful creativity we all have.

Do Not Privatise the ABC

The 2nd speaker was Vicki, who spoke about a subject clearly a passion with her. It was on the independence of the ABC. She covered its excellence in so many areas, whether in sports, current affairs, childrens’ programmes, drama and entertainment. She pointed out how fortunate we are to have a national broadcaster that is focused on keeping independence, high standards, and remaining in public ownership…. unlike the United States’ commercially swamped public broadcast system which has lost its ability to remain the force it once was. She spoke with affection, appreciation and carefully researched material that struck a chord with everyone.

Authored by Rowlanda Orchiston. Edited by Chistopher Tso.

Humorous Speech Contest on 28th September

speech-contestants

“There was movement at the station, word had got around”…to enjoy ourselves, laugh, and spill laughter everywhere. It worked. Everything seemed funny, even though it was a freezing night.

Vicky’s speech about “Three Things You Didn’t Know About Me” were delivered with bounce, and we discovered Vicky to be a hidden artist. Her best punchline came naturally after it was all over, and the Presenter was “interviewing” her: “I once designed t-shirts, and several people at the school fete asked me for plain ones”!!!

Hannah amused us with tales about her four year old and toilet antics. Dad was the preferred assistant in the business of toileting, and Mum had to beat a retreat! Some might have been wondering how a bright little girl would handle Toastmasters, were she invited. She would deliver a smart broadside, and level us all out! Mmmm! We all know children have it all over us for honest uncontrived humour.

Christopher spoke knowledgeably about computer science, how so many are beating a path to a career in that field, and that not all is glossy and wonderful. Being an engineer and starting a billion $ tech company may seem hot stuff, but you need to have much much more than just programming skills. Sacrifices are the nuts and bolts, AND hiring good people. He amused us with his poker-faced delivery, on a subject he knows, inside out, delivering the punchline that: “programming is addictive; the best programmers have mental disorders, and you probably won’t become a billionaire.” A salutary warning that needs to be aired, to all those wanabe IT-hungry-for-career young people out there. One had the feeling he was saying: “get out and smell the roses – breathe!”

Rowlanda’s winning speech was entitled: “Got a Match?” which involved switching characters and personalities. From a young hip JB Hi-Fi Executive to Russian cigar-smoking Matchmaker, we were amused to see clothing thrown off, as “Yentl” walked in. She issued forth all her skills as a matchmaker to the room in heavy Russian accent, while puffing on cigar during pauses in her narrative. The message: try something different, as a way of finding your mate, and ditch on-line dating! Yentl’s way is better…come and see me for an interview!

And the winners are…
1st place: Rowlanda Orchiston
2nd place: Christopher Tso

Club Meeting on August 14th

It is always a bright moment when the room fills up, camaraderie begins, and something new is in the air. As the theme was “Charlie Chaplin”, (very old) and someone was dressed as the much loved comic, it became the question: will his famous antics permeate the meeting in 2018?

Table Topics

And so, in the one minute impromptu section, the Table Topics Master stood up with her cane, bowler and in white face, to introduce the questions. All were centred around inventions being used at the time of Charlie’s booming film career. Some were obscure, never heard of, and strangely phrased! But at least it got people into the mindset of the 1920’s. A black and white photo of Charlie in repose presided over the meeting, his sleeping form surrounded by a bevy of beautiful girls, decked out in evening flapper dress.

Speeches

Then the Toastmaster of Speeches, Hannah Le, introduced the speakers.

First up to speak was Faye Tang. She always manages to keep peoples’ attention because of her stance, words and message. Her subject was education, and how fortunate she feels to have come to Australia where the whole thrust in instruction is for children to enjoy learning, rather than the pressure-cooker methods used back where she grew up, in China. Deep was her feeling for this topic, and this came across strongly.


Photo during Faye Tang’s speeech

The second speaker was Mel Colgar, who had everyone straightening up in their seats as she spoke about posture. Being a passionate physiotherapist, this message is a pressing one, as we sit for much longer than our parents and grandparents did, with resulting bad posture, lots of backaches, and risks to our health. Being well reminded, we became pinned to an imaginary board strapped to our backs (a visual image of a room full of Toastmasters in strait-jackets is a comic one, ha ha!).

Christopher Tso addressed us, with his customary dry wit, on the subject of running a business, and the pitfalls that crop up in communication. As always there was plenty of content that was interesting, even for people not in the business world, and it set the scene for how commerce is conducted in a hi-tec world.

Then Johnny Manolelis spoke, on a subject he too was passionate about. He startled us with a surprise “hook” to get our attention, a feigned negative, then switched it to talk about the need for kindness in the world. The mantra: “change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” was what we went away with, and this is an arresting message, to keep ringing in one’s head. Best to write it on the ‘fridge’ where it can be seen when taking out the milk (of human kindness, if you’ll forgive the pun).

Closing

One of the attentive visitors that night joined the others in agreeing it was an enjoyable and very educational night. And this person with the “pen” would rather be learning at Toastmasters than sitting in front of the “box” on a Tuesday night!