Once again, we had twenty-five people with us for our meeting, including several guests. Jessica is interested in improving her public speaking skills and Liesel’s goal is to be able to do a TED talk with confidence. Several people talked afterwards about what they had enjoyed: Chineto liked the range of topics and use of language; Sylvain commented on the variety of perspectives and styles in the group; Marian appreciated our diversity; and Amaltée says that the club provides an excellent way for us to get to know each other. Yes, we agree! – Nothing new here to us ‘old’ members, but it is lovely to hear newcomers comment on all this.

What was new, however, was the idea that the meeting should be more purposefully educational. Jan proposed and hosted this session, inviting members to share their expertise, and both Oana and Martin rose to the occasion by talking about “Logging Around” – blogs and vlogs – and “My Approach to Writing Speeches” – how to find inspiration and inspire others. (More about these later.)

Ana’s toast also focused on the subject of blogging, with a tribute to a talented friend and a reminder that the reader, as well as the writer, has to work: the audience needs to read to understand the purpose of the piece. Danielle even managed to stay on topic for the joke of the evening: the blogger who wrote about the emu and the penguin…. but it didn’t fly.

Paula, joining us for the fourth time, presented her introductory speech. She has public speaking and leadership goals and is hoping to learn from the many knowledgeable club members. In return, she hopes to bring some fun to the group.  

Cindy’s table topics, which followed, covered a variety of interesting subjects. Sylvia told us about her favorite aspects of spring, such as the Italian Easter Monday tradition of picnicking outside the town. Nelum talked about the factors to be considered when deciding if we should continue the traditional spring and summer hour change (spring forward, fall back). Sylvain shared his belief in the value of hugs, so necessary to us as human beings, and led a virtual group hug. Jessica responded to what she termed the ‘million dollar question’: what is she most looking forward to as we get out of the pandemic? – Her wide-ranging answer included a hug. Amaltée wants to visit family when travel is permitted, as she has not seen her thirteen- and seventeen-year-old sisters for the past two years. Ana, considering the post-pandemic world, notes that Zoom has allowed her to continue enjoying TMP: now living in Zurich, she will be happy to eat out once again but sad she will not be able to join us…

After the break, we moved into evaluation. Bob praised Oana for a “great speech.” He noted her dramatic style, from her appearance to the way she started seated and then rose to demonstrate bottle opening. He described her as  ‘professor with attitude’, enjoying her slightly mocking tones and suggesting she could go even further to explore this. She would, he felt, be able to create a fabulous parody. Practical advice included a warning about audibility issues when moving away from the computer. 

Alex, evaluating Martin’s speech, cited several strengths. He commended the opening, a great hook, in which Martin promised to reveal secrets to good writing, and he added that by specifying the number, six, he gave the audience a framework. Martin’s practiced delivery showed command of pace and pausing which added emphasis and better comprehension. “A standard thing for Martin,” he claimed, was the evocative use of language, with effective alliteration and the ability to paint pictures in words. As advice, Alex suggested that if the speech is designed to inspire, it might be better to focus more on the audience – although he admitted that he now felt inspired to write!

Tricia evaluated Siobhan’s speech, “Culture Shock”, to assess the extent to which earlier advice had been used. She noted improvements in the use of gesture, a cleaner background, and the memorization of the speech to allow better eye contact. To demonstrate a point, Tricia showed a screenshot of Siobhan in action, and advised her to rehearse by filming herself to check for distracting movements and jerky cadences in speaking. 

The general evaluation of the evening was provided by Suzanne. She noted that the group had been ‘well behaved’! (How do we usually conduct ourselves?!) She praised Tricia for being ‘perfect’ in the face of connectivity issues, Bertrand for presenting a word of the evening at the last moment, and Jan for his personal responses to each speaker. 

Jan concluded that all attendees were the evening’s winners. Sylvia, Jessica, and Ana were nominated for the table topics, Tricia as evaluator, and Siobhan as speaker (by default, the other two excellent speeches having been disallowed because of time issues).

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