What a great way to start the month! – a real regeneration of the spirit, to use Paula’s word of the evening. Two guests joined us for the fun. Anne Pawle is a former member of TMP. Although her writing projects currently take precedence over Toastmasters, we would love to see her again! Laura, who was only able to join us in time for one of the speeches, was impressed and wondered if she was up to the group: Vicki reassured her that everyone has this reaction at first. (I certainly did!)

Laura’s theme of time urged us both to look back (memories) and also to look ahead (dreams). We are doing this as we are now moving into our final month, time to look towards next year’s TMP regeneration: the election of a new committee –

President: Oana Nitescu

Education: Tricia Sampson

Treasurer: Vincent Champion (Champion by name; champion by nature: it is Vincent’s third year to undertake this important role)

Membership: Paula Araijo

Secretary: Siobhan Berry

PR: Laura Fortin

Please consider volunteering for the empty slots: Sergeant-at-Arms, membership, and webmaster. (As John F. Kennedy said, ask not what TMP can do for you – ask what you can do for TMP.)

Vicki’s toast encouraged us to think further about time by using the chat box to come up with phrases about time (time for ….) before toasting: Time for a fun meeting! And kudos to Ana, who managed to make even the joke relevant with a story about a time traveler.

Nelum’s table topics picked up on the theme. As we age, what do we look back on as the unforgettable ‘firsts’ in our lives? – Oana remembers first love, being elected TMP president (a very recent first!), and seeing Paris streets empty for the first time ever. Anne, asked how she defines time personally, divides her life into three sections: her birth on the first day of the Second World War, her schooldays, and her work in UNESCO and beyond, exploring cultural differences. Peter talked about how much regeneration we are experiencing in the rapid changes of things around us, while Bob argued that the people he knows, including himself, don’t seem to change very much at all! Cindi reflected on movies and series that deal with time, suggesting her personal favorites, and Vicki advised her ten-year-old self (and us) to confront and overcome fear in order to achieve our dreams.

Bertrand spoke about “Freedom, Liberty…and Cyber Security”. Tricia commended him for his ability to talk about a subject he does not master, his personal objective. His well researched presentation, she said, “scare[d] the b’jingles out of us!” He is a comfortable speaker able to use the signpost language to inform the listener about the direction the speech will take. She suggested that he might want to repeat the speech, recommending that the purpose is more intentional, giving the audience ways to protect themselves against hacking. As usual, Tricia provided clear, practical advice – for example about how to save time by screenshotting links in advance.

Silvia’s “Time to Act” was praised by Alex for its excellently structured opening which drew the audience into the topic – facts, then questions which demand the listener’s opinion. He commended her pace and use of pauses. He acknowledged that she had researched the subject fully. However, he argued that the speech was a little too dense with facts and suggested that listeners need more visual prompts, such as Silvia’s excellent image of New York and London under water. Alex warned that the brightness of the screen can make it hard to see the speaker’s eyes, and he illustrated this by donning reflective dark glasses.

Suzanne’s Icebreaker – revisited and rejuvenated, as she is rejoining TMP  – introduced her to us as an entertaining speaker with a love of puns and absurdities. Martin enjoyed the title “An Immigrant’s Tale”, and although the speech became “a series of disjointed jokes” rather than the story suggested by this, he found much to commend. He appreciated Suzanne’s dry humor and her straight delivery as well as the variety of facial expressions used to display changing moods. He commented on the originality of the piece, reflecting that it is hard to write material like this. He recommended that she pay attention to jokes that might not be understood – references to products that not all cultures recognize, or the apparent weight loss caused by changing from American to French measurements – and argued that sometimes she needs to use a more emphatic punchline.

Suzanne has remarked that this second Icebreaker was very different from her first and that her style has matured. One of the joys of Toastmasters is seeing skills grow. This was obvious in the use of Zoom. Bob managed the polls (apparently) effortlessly and responded to two unexpected requests – to add a last-minute poll and to record speeches. Vincent’s explanation and demonstration of timing was one of the neatest and cleanest we have had. Silvia’s reaction to interruptions during a speech – pausing briefly before continuing without missing a beat – was highly professional.

And perhaps – just perhaps – there were fewer cries of “You’re on mute!”

We are learning. Over time, we are being rejuvenated!

Award winners: Vicki (table topics), Suzanne (speech), and ? –  (evaluator).

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