The meeting that was a first and a last – the first ever hybrid TMP and the last meeting before the summer break… the first face to face meeting since the pandemic and the last meeting where Vicki is president… the first TMP for guests Sophia, Laura, and Soptavik and hopefully not the last!
Vicki opened the meeting with thanks to the people who made it possible – Jan and Alex who provided technical support, Robert Johnstone who was on hand to ensure that all went well, and Oana who not only investigated the best tech equipment but also found it half price.
Congratulations were given to members who had been successful in completing Pathways – Martin, Jan, Oana, and Vicki. While on the subject of congratulations, kudos to the evening’s winners – Jan (table topic), Laura (evaluation), and Vicki (speech).
Toastmaster of the Evening Oana chose summer as theme, the invincible summer that we should be able to find within ourselves even in winter. Marc-Antoine toasted conviviality: if healing is the opposite of loneliness, we can heal from the crisis through the conviviality of Toastmasters. Danielle’s word rhapsodic was so much in keeping with the general mood that it was used by almost all the evening’s speakers. Jan’s pun (the windmill that refuses to cool someone because it’s not a big fan!) cleverly became a dramatically told anecdote about summer hiking.
Martin’s summer-themed table topics drew wonderful responses. Danielle explained what she loves about the season (including her very impressive tan!). Silvia told us where she would go (as far as possible – Hawaii!) if she could go anywhere this summer. Peter, invited to talk about his strongest childhood memories, mentioned baseball, beaches, climbing hills, and canoeing, but felt that childhood needed redefinition to include all time before retirement. Vincent talked about the summer sports he loves, especially swimming. Jan, asked what he dislikes about summer, described it as a bit of a bully who was full of promises which he didn’t fulfil. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”: Marc Antoine compared his girlfriend to a permanent summer. Robert suggested that Gershwin got it wrong – in summertime the living isn’t always easy: in Australia, where he grew up, winter provides beach time weather. Siobhan described the scents of this particular summer, which seem more fragrant than usual.
Jessica’s Icebreaker was the first official speech of the evening. Nelum, evaluating, concluded that we had been introduced to “the very kind and very polite character of Jessica Kiing.” She noted that the speech followed a clear structure that included what distinguishes Jessica as well as her weakness. Although Jessica became somewhat distracted when the green card was shown, Nelum complimented her on a strong first speech.
Laura was tasked with giving feedback to Alexander’s “New to Networking”, which she described as “beautiful and touching”. Alexander’s openness was effective: from his opening line, that he was about to become unemployed, the audience all identified she claimed, as we have all been in this position at some time, and he took us through his thought processes. She suggested that, although his conclusion was good, he could have used it to demonstrate the topic of networking by using the audience as useful contacts.
Vicki’s “President of Toastmasters Paris 2020-2021: An Experience of a Lifetime” was evaluated by Paula, who enjoyed hearing such an experienced speaker able to take the audience through a plethora of emotions. She congratulated Vicki on both her speech and her presidency.
Paula’s criticism was that the speakers, Vicki included, had not taken account of the Zoom audience and there was little or no eye contact. Tricia, the evening’s general evaluator, suggested that in future we should treat the camera as a member of the audience. We will also have to find best camera position (waiters occasionally blocked the view) and sort out sound issues.
However, everything else was a hit! The last meeting of the season typically has fewer participants, claimed, but as the evening progressed, people got more into the swing of what Toastmasters should be, and the (now unaccustomed) applause became more enthusiastic. She decided that it was the most convivial final session she had attended, with a great meal, discreet waiters, well-chosen table topics, and a wonderful atmosphere.
Even a zoom participant concluded that the evening felt completely different from the online sessions. For me, it was like moving from 2D into 3D or the experience when my family finally exchanged the black and white for the color TV. You knew it was the same thing and yet so much better, so much more fun, so much more ‘real’!
President of Toastmasters Paris 2020-2021: An Experience of a Lifetime
Vicki presented the last speech of the last meeting of the 20-21 season. It was also the last time she would attend as president of TMP.
Vicki opened her speech by demonstrating her pride in the club, to the bundle of ribbons and banners on display, “tangible proof of this club’s success year after year after year.”
Vicki’s obvious pride in the club was balanced by her personal humility. She did not feel she could follow Danielle, previous president, and did not believe she was actually ready to take on the role. Moreover, she became president just the time that she was undergoing surgery on her back. She was forced to be totally dependent on others and spent the whole of July in rehabilitation. Belittling the gravity and pain, Vicki joked that this was needed “to stiffen her” for the task ahead. Being elected president gave her reason for recovery, or as she joked, “a reason to walk tall.”
Despite the challenges posed by 20-21, Vicki looked to the positive. It was a tribute to the club, she maintains, that we were able to maintain our camaraderie and warmth, which we did, under her leadership.
TMP’s forty-fifth birthday exemplified this. Vicki boldly invited Toastmasters International president Richard Peck and then went one step bolder by asking him to be general evaluator of the evening. The man who oversees more than 16,000 clubs agreed to serve, and Vicki recalled feeling like an orchestra conductor, an exhilarating experience which finally made her realize that she was a leader.
So, she launched herself into leading “a very talented group of people,” and moved to the next challenge, revising the website. As usual, Vicki gave tribute to others: “Thanks to you,” she said, “we now have a new face to show the world.”
Vicki’s speech received warm applause and the speaker’s prize. How fitting that it was presented at the first meeting back in the restaurant, and in the exciting new hybrid format, a credit to her indomitable persistence and tenacity.
Throughout this past year Vicki has demonstrated powers of leadership she perhaps never realized she possessed. While Covid challenged personal interaction, Vicki organized special events and socialization. She welcomed suggestions, encouraged active participation, and gave feedback. She created a supportive environment through collaboration and cooperation, communicating plans, seeking opinions, and developing teamwork. She did this with true generosity of spirit, without drawing attention to the fact that often our success has been due to her work!
During this time Vicki continued to work on Pathways, with the goal of leadership in any situation. Given the situation in which she found herself, one can only credit Vicki with courage and resourcefulness. Physical illness, global pandemic, and the impossibility of actually meeting as a club –she would surely have coped with plagues of frogs and locusts, too.
We’d probably be seeing them on the menu.
Thank you, Vicki!