HYBRID IS HERE!

The second meeting of the year was another first as hybrid was launched. The excitement of the restaurant-goers was audible and visible, and even for those unable to attend in person, the Zoom evening was a joy  (personal testimony!).

It was good to welcome six guests, both ‘real’ and ‘virtual’. In the room were Morgane, Victor (who had heard Oana talk about the club so often he just had to come), and Daniella, who has been interested in our club for the last year or two. Online we had Anäelle and Naja, who told Zoomers before the meeting that she had been invited by a former member, and who appreciated our attention to vocabulary and grammar. Our final guest was the VIP Iana, a Toastmaster since 2018 who has just taken up the position of Area Director.

Oana, who has since been warmly praised for her handling of many disparate tasks (president, webmaster, and table topics guru), gave an assured welcome speech introducing the theme of liberty and announcing club news. Silvia is opening a Toastmasters club at her workplace, and Peter has offered a bottle of champagne to celebrate the member who brings most newcomers on board. (Breaking news: Jan’s plans to host a session at his place of work looks as if he may leap to an early lead – the competition is on!)

Alex gave the evening’s toast, which was unfortunately missed by the Zoomers, but, as he said when we were reconnected, “It was wonderful.” Peter gave the word of the evening, churl, and Jan the appropriately-themed joke, a story about the lady including a pun (for which he apologized!) liber-tea…

Oana had some provocative questions for the table topics. Claudia cited her U.S. experiences in defining the American dream. Martin’s most disturbing thought came from a nightmare involving disastrous customer relations. Alex, with an extra thousand dollars a month, contemplated moving to Canada. Ana would travel to develop a good philosophy for life, and promises to return to the group in twenty years to present it. Iana, challenged to say who she is beyond titles, argued that in one day we are all many people as our roles change constantly. Silvia contemplated her last lie, probably “I’m fine,” which she suggests we all say rather than admitting our true feelings. Siobhan argued that the definition of ‘success’ is not the socially accepted picture of wealth and power, but is more likely to be tied to family, relationships, or education – or indeed joining Toastmasters. Jan will be ugly and live forever, giving himself time to become used to this state, rather than attractive with only a year to live, and believes the world should be a place where people are not defined by beauty.

Paula, whose speech was designed to gain feedback for future use, talked about meat alternatives. Chihiro complimented her subject choice, which was researched and of interest to all of us. She praised the clarity, confidence, and pacing of the talk. Chihiro challenged Paula to avoid reading notes, experiment with gestures or images, and build up the conclusion.

Vicki, evaluating Cindi’s “New Seasons, New Beginnings”, commended an appropriately chosen subject for this time of year, appreciated the reminiscences of good TMP times in the restaurant, and enjoyed the musical references in the conclusion. She suggested that the content could be improved by using details and specifics to develop ideas further.  

Ana responded to Nelum’s “Treasure your Liberty”. She noted the topic chosen in alignment with the evening’s theme, and appreciated the clear distinction Nelum made between liberty and freedom. She drew attention to the use of personal stories with their increasing tension, and felt that the first two gave a sense of perspective to the third, about liberty in Covid times. She argued that Nelum could invest more passion and personal involvement in her stories, and that, particularly on Zoom, exaggeration is required.

Evaluating our use of grammar, Silvia was fulsome in praise of good usage, quoting memorable phrases from several speakers. Guest evaluations of their experiences were also positive. Morgane saw the club as a place where people listened actively and supportively to each other, Victor claimed he kept forgetting he was a guest, and Daniella enjoyed the welcome she received. Anäelle claimed she’d had ‘a big smile’ all evening, and Naja appreciated our attention to vocabulary and grammar. Although Iana (of course!) knew about our club, this was her introduction to the warmth of our meetings in the restaurant, and she testified that we had achieved the Toastmasters goal, to provide a safe environment in which people can learn and grow.

Martin’s general evaluation was similarly appreciative. He had praise for Oana’s blend of “gracious authority and charm”. He applauded Vincent’s preparation, meeting the challenges of hybridism, and his ability to retain an even good temper. He thanked Suzanne for hosting the Zoomers as they arrived online, as well as the unknown person or people who had generously acted as sergeant-at-arms while the position remains unfilled. Alex’s efforts were termed “superhuman” and Oana was praised for her table topics, requiring human experience rather than specialist knowledge.

Moving forward, Martin noted that there are a few ways we can improve the virtual experience: we need guaranteed communication between the room and Zoom (WhatsApp messages were used successfully on this occasion) and all speakers, guests included, must use the podium.

Martin voiced a general feeling when he paid tribute to the club members – alive and responsive! Finally, he lauded the reinstatement of ribbons, presented this evening to Jan and Siobhan (table topics), Nelum (speech), and Ana (evaluation). Martin concluded that the display of our collection of awards is a reminder that TMP is the most highly decorated club in Europe!

Oana, who brilliantly orchestrated this season’s first hybrid meeting, encouraged members to bring guests and win the bottle of champagne offered by Peter and reminded us that our next meeting is October 5th. To our dear readers, if you are tempted to discover the warmth, conviviality, inspiring speeches and evaluations, please register as a guest at https://www.toastmastersofparis.com/vt/guests.php

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