For the last meeting of the year, we were saddened to hear that Peter could not join us, having had a fall. Our thoughts were with him: the evening is not the same without our historian and ever-popular ‘grumpy grammarian’!

However, we were joined by several guests –

Jaymie, with us for the third time, presented herself to the group. She arrived in Paris three and a half years ago with a visa and camera – but no plan and no French! – but after a while felt she “was losing my voice and almost myself.” She believes that TMP will help her regain her confidence. In return she can offer us speeches, hard work, organization, and the skills of a professional photographer.

Patrick, now working in Paris, has to make presentations in English, and a Toastmaster from Boston recommended that TM is the best way to improve communication skills. Amir from Lebanon has sought us out, acknowledging that he probably should have done it a long time ago! Larry is a seasoned Toastmaster: having been a member for the past three years in Florida, he hopes to sign up here in Paris. We hope that he chooses our club – and hope to see all our guests in the next (academic) year.

The meeting coincided with fête de la musique. Far from being Nero fiddling while Rome burns, Vincent chose global warming as theme for the night. Acting as president in the absence of Oana and Tricia as well as Toastmaster of the Evening, he explained that that the situation is now too serious to ignore. He noted the unnaturally high temperatures we have recently witnessed and urged everyone to engage at some level, as we can’t wait for politicians. Nelum’s toast included testimony to the problem while offering hope that we can still turn things around.

Cindi, volunteering a joke for the evening – impromptu – told us about the man, miserable on the evening of his wedding anniversary. So miserable was he as a newlywed, he confides how he wanted to kill his wife, refraining only because of the threat that he’d get a long jail sentence. “But,” he added, “I’d be a free man tonight!”

Jessica provided several interesting, theme-based table topics. Paula told us about the effects of environmental damage on coral in the Red Sea which she has seen when snorkeling. Were Jaymie a millionaire, she would splurge on the purchase of a floating sea-home designed to reduce energy consumption by relying on solar power, and she would use the rest of her fortune to invest in the environment. Vicki noted that in an over-populated and still growing world, it is natural for people to want to live their best lives, but each individual has the capacity to make a difference. Eliza would prefer to live in a cold, dry place than somewhere hot and humid, as there are more solutions such as hot drinks and warm sweaters. A life on Mars with either Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos is so unthinkable that Larry would prefer to pull of his own oxygen mask… but he decided that, regardless of who lives there, the idea of being forced to live on Mars is a disaster. Martin, a self-confessed pessimist, thinks there is no way out for us now, and presented an image of the final man on earth, “the last grabbing hand” reaching for a McDonalds as the last molecule of oxygen drains from the atmosphere… an unforgettably grotesques and chilling image.

Caroline’s Icebreaker introduced her to us, as Anäelle pointed out, with details about her Dior job (at least partly like The Devil wears Prada!) and her personality (enjoying using her communication skills to make people react the way she wants). Anäelle also commended Caroline’s effort – already – to speak without notes. She made a few suggestions: always give a title, use transitions to develop ideas, and add a strong ending.

Suzanne’s “Why Jokes Fail across Cultures – A Lesson for Business” was evaluated by Laura F. She liked Suzanne’s style, where serious well-researched points were interwoven with light, comical phrases. She praised the opening, which explained very clearly how jokes work (set up and punchline). Another strength was the weight of research, but Laura wondered if this could be made lighter by interspersing the references throughout the speech rather than in a solid bock. The final recommendation was that Suzanne’s sophisticated language might be a hindrance to an audience, better used in writing than orally. Laura ended with a joke of her own – that to Suzanne, “Humor is no laughing matter!”

Noting Suzanne’s topic (why humor fails across cultures), Siobhan was rather daunted at the idea of trying to tell a “story designed to entertain” to such a culturally mixed audience! Martin, evaluating, enjoyed the dark humor, indicating the places where comic notes were introduced as the story unfolded. However, he recommended the need to paint a stronger picture of characters to make sections of the story clearer.

It is rare for a timer to make his way into the general evaluation, but Alex noted that Benoit, holding this role for the first time, was able to teach us something: not only are the timing cards available in our supplies, but there are also sheets on which times may be recorded.

The evening ended with the announcement of the Toastmaster of the Year, Vicki. She was praised for her hard work, willingness to take on the unpopular jobs, and her ability to spot talent and encourage service in others. She thanked the club in a speech that one of our guests praised as the best of the night!

Congratulations to the evening’s winners: Paula (table topics), Siobhan (speech), and Laura (evaluation). 

Happy holidays, everyone – and don’t forget to sign up for next year.



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