Laura (Toastmaster of the Evening) selected the theme of home and Amelie picked welcome as the word of the day, so with “Welcome Home!” Josep (President) launched the 2023-24 year.
Members in the restaurant and online were joined by eight guests. Lars heard about us through personal recommendation. Mansour knew about Toastmasters and then discovered TMP was the oldest English speaking club in Paris. Iulia consulted Google and Facebook, both of which recommended TMP. Saurabh followed the first non-sponsored Google link and found us. Artificial Intelligence brought Karim. Kakoli and Capucine confessed that they had been meaning to come for some time but have been too busy until now. All of them, like Josie, hope to improve their public speaking which has become, in Iulia’s words, a ‘must-have-skill’.
Lars reminded us of that pit of dread we have all felt when we know we are about to be called upon to speak. Facing fears and stepping outside the comfort zone is, he argues, the place of growth – so where better than Toastmasters? He requested we vote him into the group where, he notes, there are, as yet, no Scandinavians!
Suzanne’s toast reminded us of the nuances of “this charged word”, home – bricks and mortar but also where the heart resides, a place of both dreams and of bills… and Benoit encouraged further thought in the table talks. Paula and Vicki recalled undertaking major restructuring work, Paula moving on after completion but Vicki making the house her home, ’the place that would make her really happy.’ Lars told us of his small set of very cheap ratchets and Allen keys that is now an indispensable part of his home. Tricia, asked about home set-ups across cultures, drew upon her experiences in New Zealand, Australia, the US, and Franceto suggest that cultural differences are most noticeable when it comes to food, as evidenced in the size of kitchens, the number of appliances, and eating habits. If Vincent were to set up home in the wilderness, he would return to French Guiana to sleep in a hammock in the rainforest, surrounded by animal noises. Suzanne predicted homes of the future – either on water with cleaner air (no space on land for cars or airports) or in high-piled cement stacks on top of each other. Either way she advises us to purchase blow up canoes and bullet-proof jackets “for the crazies out there”!
Margot’s “Present is a Gift” was welcomed by Mohammad as her first real speech outside the icebreaker. He praised her generally relevant topic, coping with stress, her organization – introduction, three tips, and a conclusion, and her good eye contact with only minimal use of notes. He advised her to use only tips that she can support (Margot confessed one had not worked for her) and suggested she should try a more lively opening such as questioning.
Martin told Patrick (”How Francis Ngannou Inspired Me”) that he had lived up to the mission of vocal variety and range of body language. He noted that Patrick had captured our attention at the start of the speech MMA by clapping his hands together and praised his ability to use his eyes to convey emotions. He enjoyed the clever analogy of a fight to suggest Patrick’s struggle to overcome career challenges. He urged Patrick to furnish necessary background information – explaining acronyms such as MMA and adding details that make the story richer and more meaningful (e.g., the champion started his career penniless and on the streets).
“This is one of those evaluations I don’t look forward to giving,” Bob said after “Trial by Fire”! Because Larry’s speech was already so good, it was easy to commend him for his naturally great voice, his excellent use of gestures, his enjoyable humor, and the fact that he ‘didn’t miss a beat when there was disturbance in the room. However, making recommendations was challenging! As a very experienced speaker, Bob was able to give some insightful advice (including a reminder that speakers should complete the top of the evaluation form!). He recommended using one arm rather than two for gestures in order to avoid “chicken wing” flap and suggested Larry could play to his strengths, such as adding to the humor or creating dialogue.
Alex’s general evaluation concluded that it was a very successful night. He praised the table topics, speeches, and evaluations, commented on the ease with which speakers dealt with waiters moving around , and noted that the internet connection had allowed people not only to attend but to participate. He gave a couple of pointers for improvement – remembering handshaking and applause before and after presentations, and avoiding side-talk and interruption. His conclusion expressed what everybody seemed to be feeling – it was great to be back!
The night’s ribbons went to Suzanne (table talk), Larry (speech) and Bob (evaluation).
Josep, our new President, summed up: “What an evening!” and challenged us: If we start as well as this, what will our meetings be like by the end of the year?