Beginnings, endings and, again, beginnings…

Last Thursday 7th June was an evening of beginnings, endings and new beginnings… from the “speeches” point of view!

Scott Kavanagh did an “icebreaker” from the Pathways series he’s just started (“Innovative Planning”). With the title “Worry” he talked about the fact he is a “natural born worrier” and about the elements which create worries in his life. He believes they have negative effects, but they can also have some positive ones.

He remembers an episode when he was learning to swim as a kid: they told him to go deeper, and he panicked because he didn’t understand the swimming pool was knee-deep.

Considering how he worries so much, he has been doing the “right” job for 10 years… that is the investor risk, which in short means “to worry on behalf of your client”.

Also, having a family with 3 kids means he will worry for his entire life.

To try to relax, he has recently started again an old hobby of his, that is painting miniatures; he is an avid reader, as well.

Public speaking is not easy, too, of course, but as he mentioned at the beginning, facing this will have a positive effect because he’ll help him to transform a worry into a strength.

Dan Haycraft, on the contrary, with “How you should do it” reached his tenth and final speech from the classic “Competent Communication” manual: he talked about how he was able to reach this result, that is finding, carefully choosing and matching the right heroes.

The first example he gives is “Chuck” Yeager, the pilot who beat for the first time the speed of sound. Everybody thought he wouldn’t have been able to make it, and two days before the event, he even broke two ribs. He didn’t reveal it to anyone, he was helped in closing the hatch of the plane, he was able to overcome any difficulties and break that record. After that moment, he could beat other records.

Like him, Dan took that attitude whenever he had to overcome some difficulties.

Another hero who inspired him was General Robert Lee. He was a soldier, and when the war broke, he had to face a hard choice: to stay faithful to the United States or to the state of Virginia? He chose Virginia. Then, he was defeated, he accepted it and after the war, he was very supportive to the reconciliation between North and South.

This attitude, too, helped him a lot, especially after the devastations caused by hurricane Katrina: he decided to be strong both physically and socially.

He states he didn’t prepare that speech to inspire anyone, but simply to suggest everybody should choose carefully their personal heroes. In doing so, they may lose in some situations, but in other situations they will certainly win more times than they think.

Finally, our most experienced John Wood introduced us with “It’s only Words” to the “Entertaining Speech”, from “The Entertaining Speaker” series of the Pathways program.

Telling a small, personal anecdote John starts to give examples of different types of “peculiar” words… words he noted in his “vocabulary notebook”, a habit he took when he was a boy train-spotter.

One of his current highlights is when the Oxford Dictionary lists the new neologisms, both the portmanteau words and the terms whose meanings have been “rebooted”. Even the “Washington Post” is taking some interest in this last aspect: in fact, they run an annual competition where the readers are asked to provide an alternative meaning to existing words.

Finally, a type of words which amuses him a lot are the definitions describing social groups, like the recent “gammon”, but what strikes him the most is realizing that the number of new neologisms appearing every year is almost as much the same amount of the vocabulary spoken by an average person.

In short, a great evening which makes us look forward to what we may be able to hear at our next meeting, on Thursday 21st June.


IceBreakers – Traditional and Pathways

At the 26th April meeting, we had two different types of “icebreaker” which helped us to get introduced to and know a little better two of our members.

First, Kevin Dickson, with his “Changes”, delivered his speech from the Competent Communication Manual, whose objectives are “Speak before an audience; use existing speaking skills; introduce oneself to fellow club members”.

His was a classic piece: Kevin started telling how he worked as a paperboy when he was 10 years old, and how that job in the UK was different compared to the idea we have when we see it in the US movies. Then, he described how he spent a lot of time outside with his friends. He grew up and continued to study; he went to Aberdeen for his Masters in Psychology; he did different types of jobs to support himself during that period; he moved back to Edinburgh where he started working for the NHS -a full life, where “change” was a constant element of it.

In the past he never had a chance to study or attend courses in public speaking and leadership, and now he wants to change that situation. That is why he chose to be here and take some risks learning new things, instead of staying safely at home.

The highly-experienced Moira Beaton, after the numerous speeches she has delivered, has started the new Pathways program, and she delivered her icebreaker speech, in the “Presentation Mastery” program, entitled “Risk!!”. In this case, the objectives are: “Deliver a speech on any topic as an introduction to the club using any style that appeals”.

She remembered how she delivered her first speech in 2004 only after 6 weeks she attended the club, and she was nervous because she didn’t know what they would think of her after hearing what she had to say. She looked back at her evaluation written in her original CC manual, and noticed she was described as a “risk-taker”.

Maybe it was because, when she was very young, she left for Syria travelling in a car with a husband, a dog and everything they had. It was the beginning of a very intense period: in October 1973 she didn’t leave Damascus when the Yom Kippur war broke out; in 1974 she went to the Saudi Arabian desert and was stung twice by scorpions, then she moved to Oman and moved again, to Cyprus with her husband and two children,2 years after the Cyprus invasion; there, she ran a hospital and a restaurant. Twenty-five years after she left Scotland, she returned to the UK, and she started to study again, this time law in Glasgow.

After that first speech in 2004, she did many other things and now she wonders where this new icebreaker will lead her – maybe to other 14 years of Toastmasters?

Post written by Omar Martini, Waverley Communicators

Breaking The Ice – Michael McLernan


It was not like the Inquisition. You don’t expect the Inquisition!

I had scheduled my Ice Breaker speech for the 19th June, giving me plenty time to steam towards it like the Titanic, and hope to be more successful than she in actually breaking the ice that lay before me.  I should have known better than to make the comparison even mentally, for out of the blue one weekend came an opening for that very Thursday. Too late to turn. I had to take it head on.

Actually, doggerel aside (which I strongly advise you not to use in your speeches!) it was terrific! I had been going to the club, Waverley Communicators, since January, had been voted in in March, and you could not find a friendlier group of people anywhere, nor a mentor better than mine.

The Icebreaker speech is the first of the ten speeches in the ‘Competent Communicator’ manual of developing yourself as a public speaker. The purpose of the Icebreaker is to showcase, to yourself and to everyone else, your existing public speaking skills. Most of all, it’s to introduce yourself properly to your fellow Toastmasters.

But after you’ve been to the club for even a few sessions, there isn’t much ice left to be broken – it’s all been melted already by the sheer warmth of the atmosphere. (To say nothing of the room temperature, the radiators taking the name ‘Toastmasters’ a little too literally!).[That’s been fixed! The Ed.]

On the night, I went to the front of the room, clutching my notes like a comfort blanket, and was greeted with a warm handshake, a wink and a mouthed ‘Good luck’ from club stalwart Eileen Scott, and turned to face an array of smiling faces.
For the first speech, you are allotted four – six minutes. In twenty, as Philip Marlowe said, ‘you can sink a battleship, down three or four planes, hold a double execution. You can die, get married, get fired, and find a new job, have a tooth pulled, have your tonsils out.’ Approximately five minutes to say all you need to say should be a doddle. I took six and a half. What can I say – I find myself interesting subject! The challenge is to make your audience interested as well.

But the secret of the incredible success of Toastmasters in turning out confident and eloquent public speakers is not just the course itself, excellent as that is. It is the close knit community spirit, and the desire of everyone there to help improve everyone else. After each speech, your evaluator and your mentor give you both praise and advice, so you know what you’ve done well, and what you need to improve. You can relax among your fellow Toastmasters, and because of that the words flow, and the confidence builds.
After just four months there I have found myself at home as I have in few other places, and would eagerly recommend it to anyone.

Are you still here? What are you waiting for? Come down to 28 York Place on Thursday 1st May and see for yourself.

Post written by Michael McLernan

Member of Waverley Communicators