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Cheers to Us – March 16, 2016


On this penultimate to St Patrick’s Day we had a theme of “Phoenix” : The Greek Mythical creature which lives for 100 years and then dies in a burst of flames only to rise to new life from it’s own ashes.  Our Toastmaster for today, Hamid pointed out that such a creature is common in many cultures and gave as an example the Persian story of The Simurgh.

Part of the reason for the choice of the Phoenix as the theme for today’s meeting was that the Agfa Cheers club seems to be going down in flames with several members declining to renew and many of our executive concluding that they have given all they have to give in the way of commitment to the cause of reviving the club.  It is with that situation in mind that Bud, our club Coach is spearheading a speechcraft sponsored by Agfa Cheers to run in the David Johnston Research and Technology park and drawing on the people working in that area for fresh energy to cause Agfa Cheers to “rise from the ashes” of it’s current down cycle.  Bud paraphrases the Samuel Clemons quote, ‘Rumours of our death are greatly exaggerated’.  More on this upcoming speechcraft in future blogs.

Since one of our speakers had to bow out to take care of her spouse and the other had an insurmountable migrane, Bud stepped in as a speaker and delivered a Tall Tale speech for his Competent Communicator # 4 speech.  The Hike, had us hearing about Bud’s friend who was turned into a person-sicle while trying to skinny-dip in a pool of a mountain stream.  Bill evaluated Bud’s speech pointing out the rhetorical devices Bud used such as similes, metaphors and hyperbole.  He also shared that Bud could have used body language to more effectively portray the scene (but since “Your Body Speaks” is the #5 project, perhaps that can wait.)  Bill liked Bud’s introduction of the idea of Super-cooled water as a device to explain how someone could live through being made into a human popsicle.

Next Bud led the Table Topics by asking members to try to persuade us that genetic manipulation to achieve the form of some (currently) mythical creatures would be a great idea.  The group felt that Andrew did the best job, selling us on the benefits of having the legs of a goat on a man in order to be able to climb mountains more effectively and we awarded the Best Table Topic ribbon to him.

Our guests, George, (who served very well as our timer) and our Area Director Doris,  reflected on their experience for the meeting and we concluded the meeting in good time.


Cheers to Us – March 9, 2016

Systematic Approach

It was September 2001 and I was just starting a new business providing leadership and sales training for corporate clients.  I had just completed a workshop and the participants had completed the evaluation forms that seem to be standard after workshops.  As I read through the feedback, I realized that there wasn’t a single thing in any of them that would help me improve my presentation skills.    I needed something more.

Years before, I had heard about Toastmasters and I decided to check it out. I remember my first meeting like it was yesterday.  The friendly reception by members around me, the inclusive nature of being invited to introduce myself and take part in Table Topics.  I was sold.  If you had a similar experience in your first meeting,  then you know what I mean when I say that I knew Toastmasters could help me take my presentation skills to the next level.  I joined right away to start that journey.

I discovered a well-thought-out, systematic approach to developing my presentation skills and I found that my people skills were getting honed as well:  listening skills, critical analysis, providing feedback and meeting organization were all enhanced just by taking an active part in meetings.

You may also understand what I mean when I add that I knew I would never get anything out of this systematic approach to self development if I didn’t stay actively involved in it.  Just knowing it existed wasn’t enough.

Over the past 15 years, I have seen people come and go in Toastmasters.  Some left because they had achieved what they set out to do, some moved away or had the priorities in their life shift but most . . . . just faded away.  It sneaks up on you.  You miss a meeting or two and before you know it your life has sucked up that hour or so a week you had set aside for self improvement and suddenly (it seems) there isn’t time for it.

In over 35 years that I have been involved in one way or another with self improvement programs,  I haven’t seen another with all of the elements this one has.  That systematic approach is just the start,  mutual support and encouragement is strong as well and the opportunity to practice your skills with an encouraging and supportive audience takes this to the next level.

If you are someone who has let the busy-ness of the world steal Toastmasters from you, don’t let it happen!  Go to Easyspeak, if you have been assigned a role, confirm you will be there.  If you have no role yet, take a vacant one. Come to next week’s meeting and do yourself the good that you intend!

Cheers To Us – February 24, 2016

One Day At A Time

The Weather Channel won the day this week, keeping people away fro the meeting with the threat of evil weather.  Of course, the driving wasn’t bad at all so all those people missed two excellent speeches.

The theme of this week’s meeting was One Day At A Time.  Toastmaster Andrew wasn’t referring to the old TV show of that name but rather to the struggle we all face at this time of year to make it to the nicer weather.

He introduced our Grammarian Mohammed who gave us the word pursuit to include in our efforts for the meeting.

Since our Viewpoint master was unable to attend, we eschewed that part of the meeting and moved straight into the speeches.  To begin that part of the meeting, Hamid gave us an information packed presentation on medical technology today in his speech The Future of Surgery is NOW.  A power point filled with images of surgeries past and present served as a great enhancement to this presentation praising the advances that surgical healthcare has made.  This was project # 4 in Hamid’s Competent Communicator manual – How To Say It and Hamid did a good job of inserting metaphors, Similes and triads into his speech while avoiding medical jargon.  Then Mohannad started his second run through the Competent Communicator manual with an icebreaker.  Since most of us are familiar with his background, he introduced Agfa Healthcare with his speech Agfa Healthcare: Who, Why and What.  This speech also made colourful and illustrative use of power point with images of the equipment provided by Agfa but also some of the institutions served by that company.

Andrew served as Hamid’s evaluator and praised his use of language plus pointing out where Hamid could have inserted an alliteration.  He also noted Hamid’s use of previously learned skills.  Then Bud gave Mohannad feedback on his speech, referring to his great information and organization of it while suggesting that his introduction could have made use of a personal anecdote to draw in the audience.

Bud also noted Mohannad’s use of powerpoint to enhance his presentation.

After this was the Table topics portion of the meeting.  Bud had taken on the Table Topics Master role for the meeting and due to the smaller number of meeting participants, proposed having a debate.  The two sides debated the resolution that: The presence of modern technology in medicine is a good thing.

Andrew and Hamid argued persuasively that modern technology has extended life while Mohannad and Mohammed proposed passionately that extending life is a passing thing regardless.  Since there were an equal number of votes on both sides, the debate was a draw (but fun anyway).

Mohammad was serving as both our Timer and as our Grammarian and in the latter role, he lamented that no-one had pursued the word of the Day (Pursuit).  As Timer he lauded our ability (for the most part) to stay within the time’s set up for the meeting.

Club announcements included yet another plea for as many members as possible to show up for the Area 62 contests which will take place at Agfa Healthcare on March 4th at 7:00 pm.. Come out and watch Andrew show other clubs how evaluation is really done while Bud attempts to move on to the Division level of the International Speech Contest.

Cheers To Us February 10, 2016

Road Rage

Many of our members had other places to be for this week’s meeting so there were only 5 of us there.  We had an excellent meeting anyway with members in multiple roles.

Our Chair John, gave us the theme Road Rage.  Since he commutes from the GTA daily, I’m guessing he is exposed to frustrations in driving more than most of us.

Mohammed took the role of Viewpoint presenter without having any time to prepare.  He did a good job using the theme of the day to present the viewpoint that Road Rage, while understandable should be avoided for safety reason.  John took the contrary position that Road Rage is a good and necessary part of keeping your sanity in a world where people are rude as a standard part of their driving.

Terrifyingly, John was thought by the group to have made the better case.

Our timer, Bud did double duty as Topics Master and got each of us to do the impossible – a one-minute icebreaker.  Each of us gave a one minute synopsis of our lives up until now.

Then we heard Andrew do the # 3 speech from the Advanced manual on Story Telling – The Moral of the story.  Andrew told us about his parents tendency to seek his help in matters technological and then promptly forgetting what he has told them.  The moral of his story was that you should give overly detailed instructions in writing to such people and then refer to them in future conversations.

Bud took on a third role and evaluated Andrew’s speech.  He pointed out Andrew’s story telling and relating of personal experience was first-rate but encouraged Andrew to re-read the suggestions that Toastmasters provide for this project and try to incorporate some of the things that he missed (like making it a story whose purpose is to arrive at the moral and possibly to ad a “twist” in to add some additional entertainment value) into future speeches.

Announcements included a reminder that We (Agfa Cheers) are the hosts of the upcoming (March 4th) Area 62 contests and announcement of a trophy dubbed The Stuffed Bug award (pictured here) which will be presented to the club with the most members and guests present.  It was observed that many times, the host club wins this award so let’s invite everyone we can think of , family, friends, co-workers and let’s have Agfa Cheers bring home the hardware!IMG_20160204_132713

Cheers To Us February 3, 2016

You are standing in the wings of the stage as you hear the Chair of the Competition announce,  “The next competitor for the World Championship of public speaking is . . . .” and he says your name.   Yes that could be you. I would love to win the World Championship of Public Speaking and join the ranks of such people as Darren LaCroix, Jim Key, Craig Valentine and Ryan Avery (all personal heroes for me).  The first step to that path is the Club International Speech Contest.  Agfa Cheers held our International Speech Contest this week.  Three of our speakers who had completed at least the first six speeches of their Competent Communicator Manual, stepped up in front of the audience and gave the best speech they knew how to do.  Bud asked us if we have the time (for really living), Andrew told us not to spend time on Fantasy Football


Third Place winner John Tran with Contest Chair Mohannad Hussain


Runner-up (2nd Place) Andrew Skelton with Contest Chair Mohannad Hussain

, and John warned of the dangers of Road Rage.










They were three excellent speeches but as the movie Highlander continually reminded us, “There can be only one”.  Our winner, and moving on to compete at the Area 62 contests, was Bud Brown.



International Speech Contest Winner Bud Brown with Contest Chair Mohannad Hussain

Make sure you set aside March 4th starting at 7:00 PM.  That is when Bud will be competing with the best speakers from the 5 clubs in Area 62 at our own Agfa Health Care building 375 Hagey Blvd in Waterloo.  Typically, the home club has the highest attendance at the Area Contest so plan to be there, invite your family and friends and let them see the best that our Area has to offer in speakers and Evaluators. Let’s get out and cheer Andrew Skelton on for the Evaluation Contest and Bud Brown for the International Speech Contest!

Cheers to Us January 27, 2016

The theme for this week’s meeting was “Inventions that changed the world” based on the fact that on this day (January 27) in 1880, Thomas Edison was granted a patent on the incandescent lamp. Hamid was taking his first turn as Toastmaster.  He prepared thoroughly for the role doing things such as asking each participant what they thought was the most important invention.

Our Grammarian Bill challenged us to make our words sound like what they described.  His word of the day was onomatopoeia which is defined as a word that sounds like what it is describing.  (such as “woof” or “trickle” or “crunch”)

We had two speakers lined up for today.  Jelana gave the 4th speech from the Competent Communicator manual in which she enlightened us on the topic of coffee: it’s history both in the world and in her family.  Cliff from the Energetics club told us about all of the reasons we should abandon the outdated 100 Km/hour speed limit of Ontario highways in favour of the more energy efficient and safer 130 KM/hour.

Then our timer Andrew, did double duty as Table Topics master and had us speak about various inventions as if they were the most important invention of our world. The person who was thought to be the best at this was our visiting Area Director Doris Tuckett.

Doris also served as one of our speech Evaluators providing feedback to Jelena on her speech while John gave Cliff insights on what worked in his speech and ways that it could improve.

After all of this , Bud, who was serving as our General Evaluator, gave everyone feedback on what they did well and how to come closer to the standard that Toastmasters has provided for us.



Cheers to Us January 20, 2016

In Toastmasters, we have a structured plan of action for building our skills as speakers.  One key to making that plan work is that every speech receives evaluation and so we continuously strive to get better.  In pursuit of that improvement, each year we hold a competition to see who can do the best job of evaluating the speech of a test speaker.

This year we had four members compete to be the best Evaluator of the Agfa Cheers club.  Our Test Speaker was Cliff Graham from the Energetics  Toastmasters Club.  Cliff gave everything he had to this speech even throwing himself to the floor to imitate a dog tired dog.  Then John, Mohannad, Andrew and Jelena all sandwiched suggestions for improvement between lavish slices of praise.

It was a very skilled group of Evaluators and I don’t envy the judges in having to make this choice but in the end, Andrew took first place, Mohannad won 2nd.

Thank you to all of the members of other Division W clubs that volunteered to be judges, counters and timers to supplement our own club functionaries

Come out to the Area 62 contest on March 4th to see Andrew compete against the top Evaluators from the other four clubs.