Monday, December 17, 2012

Mother Christmas and all - 11 December

On Monday 10th a few of us met with Frances Fraser and Paul Jensen – from Cape Town - in the boardroom of Goldberg & de Villiers. Nicholas Mitchell had organized the meeting as Frances and Paul were in town for the rugby, and wanted to meet with local Toastmasters to chat about the need to start new clubs in the area. Frances is the Lieutenant Governor Education & Training for our District, and as we are so often left out of this type of discussion, it was very interesting to hear what they had to say and to interact with them. Glenis, Colleen, Nicholas, Mark, Marianah, and Denise were there from our club; Yvonne Anderson from the Madiba Bay club; and Megan Judd and Thaja Moodley from the ACT club.

Father Christmas
Our last club meeting of the year, held on the 11th December, was a happy one despite many apologies by those tied up with other matters due to pressures at this time of the year. The hall looked pretty with some Christmassy things for atmosphere, and a few of us wore red Christmas hats. However, Mimi Makupula got right into the spirit of things by wearing a white jump suit with red shoes, a red scarf, and a flashing red hat. As Mimi was Table Topics master, she wanted us all to address her as ‘Mother Christmas’, and our topics had to start with the words “All I want for Christmas is ..…” whatever was on the slip of paper we had drawn. There were things like having no shopping bills; switching roles with your spouse; a visit to Nkandla with Helen Zille, and automatic bedmakers, to name but a few. Everyone there spoke and Gideon Smith was the winner of the Table Topics floating trophy.

Our Toastmaster for the evening was Belita von Steiger, who cheered us up by focusing on the positives of living in South Africa. Did you know that 7 out of 10 of the fastest growing economies in the world are African countries, that Cape Town was voted the favourite holiday city in the world by the readers of the Telegraph of London, and that Table Mountain is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world?

We had 3 interesting speeches, starting with the icebreaker by Anna Heydenreych. As Anna is Mrs H., she divided her speech into her history, her home and her heart. It was very cleverly done, and she ended by saying she had told us where she had been, where she is comfortable, and where she wants to go to. Congratulations to Anna for an excellent icebreaker and also on her pregnancy.

Dxy Madikizela gave her CC7 Research your Topic speech, and she spoke about travelling around the world – not by aeroplane or by cruise liners, but on cargo ships that have passenger services. These vessels take only 12 or 15 passengers, criss-cross the world, and spend 2 or 3 days in port while loading cargo. This way of travel is actually more expensive than flying, but is much more interesting!

Angie Kivido gave her CC8 Get Comfortable with Visual Aids speech, and even though we are just 44ml short of being in the wettest year on record, Angie reminded us not to waste water. She had interesting visual aids on the table at her side and urged us to reduce usage, re-use water, and repair leaks immediately.

Glenis Whitehead had received two ribbons in the post – one for Algoa being the home club of the Division Governor, and the other for our being the home club of the Area Governor. Well done Algoa!
TMI are having a photo competition to show off the new Toastmasters branding, and Glenis showed us the photo of the November winner, which was the Winelands Toastmasters Club in Cape Town. We felt we can do better than that, so we would like all of us to come to the first meeting next year, being the 8th January, dressed up in bright floral shirts, dresses and ties. We want to portray SUMMER, as America will be in the grip of winter. Those who have T-shirts from the Flower Power and Mexican conferences can wear those, and those with traditional African dresses should wear those. Quirky headgear such as hats and flowers will also go down well, and those brave enough can don swimwear and sarongs! However, that is just the backdrop. The main aim is to show off the new branding. So bring whatever you have – certificates (Nicholas, bring all your recent ones to lend to others), magazines, CC and CL manuals etc.

As 2012 is fast coming to an end, I would like to wish all our members a safe, peaceful and blessed Christmas. Enjoy downtime with friends and family, and come back in January raring to go!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jingle Bell Rock and Roll - 27 November

Jingle Bell Rock and Roll

An amazing sight greeted Toastmasters from all the clubs in Port Elizabeth who gathered at the Mater Dei church hall in Newton Park on Friday 23 November to celebrate a fun Christmas get together – blizzards of snow!

The fairy lights were twinkling in the darkened room; Christmas carols played in the background; the excitement was tangible – and as we stepped into the room, we encountered a veritable snow storm – well, not a storm exactly, but some very pretty snowflakes, thanks to the competent work of Jesse Brosnahan, Mike’s son.
The party was the brainchild of Area Governor, Colleen Love, and although it was disappointing not to see a huge turnout of members, those who did attend had a ball! We all sang together - some rather unusual Christmas songs together, like the following one:

Oh, I'm gettin' nuttin' for Christmas

Mommy and Daddy are mad.

I'm getting nuttin' for Christmas

'Cause I ain't been nuttin' but bad.

Then we enjoyed a delicious meal and after Santa delivered our sweet treats, we danced the night away to a selection of music that really dated the majority of us. We also discovered that we have a number of enormously talented and sure-footed Toastmasters among us!

Thanks so much to Colleen and Mike for going to so much trouble to arrange this special evening.

Hopefully, it will become an annual event in the Toastmasters calendar.

Our meeting on Tuesday 27 November was wonderful! Despite the fact that there are so many things keeping people busy at this time of year – and we did have a large number of apologies – Marlene Vosloo, as our Toastmaster for the evening, made sure that her theme of The Good Old Days was one that everyone enjoyed.

The Table topics, run by Roger Ah Kun, entailed members describing or discussing the items they found depicted on the bits of paper they opened – from drive-in theatres, to coloured comic books, to typewriter ribbons – we were entertained by a world of yesteryear, which left us quite nostalgic for those good old days.

The speeches, as always, were varied and entertaining. New member, Gideon Smith did his Icebreaker speech (CC1) entitled How well do you know your fellow Toastmaster? Well done on a very good first attempt, Gideon.

Then, attempting the first speech in her advanced manual, Speaking to Inform, Belita von Steiger gave a very interesting and certainly informative speech entitled The youngest profession?.

Finally, recently wed Quinton Jacobs gave a lovely account of his fairytale honeymoon to Russia, aptly entitled In Russia In Love. The opulence displayed in some of the castles they saw, was quite incredible. Long may the fairytale last, Quinton.

Many of us who are matric teachers are going off to mark their final exams and so we will miss the final meeting of the year, but I trust that there will be those who will be able to attend. You are in for a treat. Denise Pudney, our President, has agreed to write the blog for me; and for that I thank her.

Remember, before you know it 2013 will be upon us. Before that happens, do spend some time setting your Toastmasters goals. Then, as soon as you can, book your slots. There are only six months left before this Toastmasters year ends!

Until 2013

Ricky Woods

Monday, November 19, 2012

Life Lessons Learnt - 13 November

I was sitting at Capellini Coffee Shop on Cape Road last Tuesday just before our Toastmasters meeting. This pre-meeting meeting has become something of a habit over the last while: it is perfectly situated to ensure that we are not late for our meeting and it also means we can have a light supper at a reasonable hour of the day. Eating once we get home afterwards is disastrous because I am usually so hungry by then I will eat anything that is nailed down.
But, I digress.
I was there with Alison and two other English teacher colleagues. Almost in unison, Alison and I said, “If I were not on the programme to perform a duty tonight, I would not attend. I am so very tired.” In mitigation of this sinful confession, I must remind you that we are in the middle of final exam marking.
However, being the troopers that we are, we did attend. I was not disappointed. I never am. In the process, I also learned so much:

• Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
This has long been a motto that I like to apply to every aspect of my life, but I certainly saw its truth in action. Thorough preparation on the part of those who had duties to perform ensured us of a smoothly run meeting that served both to edify and entertain us. My particular thanks in this regard go to our Toastmaster for the evening, Trevor Wells, who showed us that being new at the game does not mean you cannot deliver the goods. Well done, Trevor.
Recognise your fear, and then do it anyway

Yes, Table Topics is a whole lot of fun and it certainly is a valuable skill to master being able to speak off the cuff. But I know that it was also the aspect of our bi-monthly meetings that would have me quivering in my boots. So, to the new members and visitors who bravely took on Plaxedes Ndlovu’s thought-provoking topics, I say ‘Well done!’ What was more, one of the visitors was named among the best Table Topics of the evening.

Allow yourself to be surprised and you will never be disappointed

Three very different speeches were on the menu. Firstly, Mike Brosnahan did his CC2 (Organise your speech) on a topic very close to his heart, entitled We are all Chinese. He warned us to check out the labels on the items that we buy and, if we have a choice, to buy South African products. Then Jessamy Kromhout completed a CC5 (Your body speaks) in which she most effectively reproduced some of the items she had performed on stage to qualify for her Drama Teacher’s certification. The last prepared speech was from Dxy Madikizela. Her CC6 speech (Vocal variety) had us question the value of spending enormous amounts of money to reward people for the charitable or community work they do. Surely the reward is intrinsic to the work itself?
The cherry on the top, however, was Marlene Vosloo’s educational speech on Value-Based Leadership, which she did as part of the requirements for the Distinguished Toastmaster award. I just want to highlight some of the most salient points of her speech:
In essence, we are driven both as people and as leaders, by our values. This is the same, whether we are looking at values based leadership in the workplace or at Toastmasters.

If we are at Toastmasters, the following descriptions of leadership could apply:
L – Listen - To be effective as leaders we must learn to listen to the words and the body message behind it. The situation is often as important as the words being spoken.

E – Expectation – Effective leaders will learn to manage the expectations of all the members, including their own.

A – Attitude – Having the right, positive attitude is a vital requirement for effective leadership.

D – Determination – Leaders, who show that they are prepared to stick to their guns, model that same kind of behaviour for their members.

E – Energy – Much the same as a positive attitude, energy on the part of the leaders, is something that allows the members to feed off it; and to reciprocate with energy of their own.

R – Relax – Leaders have learned that they cannot save the world or achieve the impossible. While some failure is inevitable, having the right value system will usually be enough to carry one through these failures.

Marlene ended her speech off with two lessons that she had learned from great leaders:
• From Dr Ali Bacher: Resist the urge to react to verbal abuse via email with the same kind of verbal abuse. Instead, respond with: “Your comments have been noted”

• From Raymond Ackerman: always treat EVERYONE with courtesy and respect – that is what they deserve, regardless of their standing in life in relation to your own.
Those are indeed wise words from some really effective leaders in our society.

So, a meeting that I had approached with ‘lang tande’ (as they say in Afrikaans) taught me so much. I am really glad that I had not given in to my compulsion to stay away.

Until next time
Ricky Woods

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Issue of Commitment - 23rd October

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes... but no plans.”
                                                                                                  Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005)
Our last Algoa Toastmasters Club meeting seemed destined to be a bit of a flop – but we should have known better. Despite the fact that, for a variety of reasons, members had been unable to fulfil their planned speaking commitments, and then at the last moment, technology let us down – as can be its wont – we found ourselves looking at a meeting comprising two prepared speeches – and an Educational.
Serendipity is an amazing thing though, is it not?
We enjoyed Deborah Stephenson’s CC5 speech (Your body speaks) entitled Green gold is my story – and then we were treated to some delicious green gold olives.
Advanced speaker, Reinhardt Botha (AC3 – The Entertaining Speaker manual) regaled us with his humorous speech, The Perils of PhD Parenting.

The highlight of the evening happened, however, when our VP Membership, Antoinette Baatjes did her educational speech on Keeping the Commitment and proceeded to induct two new members, Gideon Smith and Atherick Bott.
Part of the Induction ceremony involves the inductees reciting a pledge and then members of the club reciprocating by stating a similar pledge. Over the past fifteen plus years I have declaimed it many times, but Antoinette’s educational brought its value back to me so powerfully. For those of you who may have forgotten it, here it is:
As a member of Toastmasters International and my club, I promise:
  • To attend club meetings regularly;
  • To prepare all my speeches to the best of my ability, basing them on Manual projects;
  • To prepare for and fulfil meeting assignments;
  • To provide fellow members with helpful, constructive evaluations;
  • To help the club maintain a positive, friendly environment, so that all can learn and grow;
  • To serve my club as an officer when called upon to do so;
  • To treat my fellow club members and our guests with respect and courtesy;
  • To bring guests to club meetings so they can see the benefits of Toastmasters membership;
  • To adhere to the guidelines and rules for Toastmasters educational and recognition programs;
  • To maintain honest and ethical standards during the conduct of all Toastmasters activities.
As much as these ten promises apply to our membership of Toastmasters, they also apply to other areas of our lives where commitment can mean the difference between success and failure. Broadly speaking, our commitment can be divided into four categories:
Participation – This area covers the first three promise areas of regular attendance and preparation. I am reminded of the Nike slogan, Just do it! All that is required for success is that every member arrives and fulfils his commitments (or makes timeous arrangements if he can’t)
 Interaction – Success seldom happens in isolation. After all, we are at Toastmasters because of a common goal. Our evaluations must be constructive and encouraging. This ensures a positive growth environment for members – and the club.
Fellowship – This speaks to the concept of mutual respect and service. Being called upon to serve as a Club Officer is like ‘paying your dues’ – giving something back for the services rendered to you by others.
Creating a Pleasant and Stimulating Atmosphere – Continuation of a club happens when members share what they have discovered. So too, abiding by standards determined by our parent organisation ensures a feeling of security, which is conducive to growth.
 It’s very easy to forget why we joined Toastmasters; or to think that it is a one-way relationship: we pay our dues (literally) and in exchange we expect to get the skills and the Toastmasters qualification. I found the following, which really sums it up for me:
“Commitment, by its nature, frees us from ourselves and, while it stands us in opposition to some, it joins us with others similarly committed. Commitment moves us from the mirror trap of the self-absorbed with the self to the freedom of a community of shared values.”
                                                                                                    Michael Lewis
So, let’s think about what we expect from Toastmasters, but let’s also think about what we need to give in order for our goals to be reached.
Until next time
Ricky Woods

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Whole is greater than the Parts - 9th October

Flower Power Conference Adds Toastmasters Value

This past weekend saw close on two hundred Toastmasters from all over Southern Africa make their way to Kirstenbosch gardens, nestled beneath the majesty of Table Mountain as it was time again for MiniCon.

Traditionally, this is the time for the Humorous Speech Contest, but for the first time the Impromptu Contest was also defended.

Friday night saw Cape Town funny man; Rob van Vuuren (of Corné and Twakkie fame) entertained the delegates after the cocktail meet and greet with his particular brand of humour.

Thereafter, a closely fought Impromptu Speech Competition was held. For those delegates who were used to the one word or short phrase impromptu topic, there was a surprise in store. What would you have made of the following topic ‘Dr Seuss said: Sometimes the questions are complicated, but the answers are simple. What do you think?’ In any event, the hardy contestants were not put out and came up with some wonderful responses. Congratulations to the winner, Graham Shirley!

Early Saturday morning the brightly dressed delegates (in honour of the Flower Power theme of the Conference) were raring to go. The Flag Ceremony was followed by introductions and welcomes and then we were inspired by the keynote speaker, comedian and entertainer, Allan Committie (known by all for his wonderfully popular Defending the Caveman). His easy, interactive style had the whole audience laughing and learning – which is what Toastmasters is all about, not so? All too soon an hour had passed and it was time for more serious matters – the Hall of Fame, where Toastmasters and their clubs were acknowledged for their achievements of the past year. Special congratulations go to all the Division E Toastmasters for achieving their own goals – and for enabling the Division to achieve Select Distinguished Division status!

Another change that was rung was the introduction of the Afrikaanse Humoristiese Skouspel. Following on from the Zulu speech contest in May this year, we were treated to the best of Afrikaans humour by four intrepid Toastmasters. The winner, from the West Rand, had the audience howling with her account of a family trying out a new motor boat on the Vaal Dam during a time of extreme cold, because Boot gaan ons boot! (Roughly translated that means, ‘we have a boat, so we are going to use it!’ – it was a whole lot funnier in Afrikaans)

A choice of three workshops followed. I was really impressed with the presentation on Becoming Better Impromptu Speakers and those delegates who attended the other two: On Speaking as a Leader; and the Discussion Leader, were equally satisfied.

After a really delicious lunch, it was time for the Humorous Speech Contest. Eight contestants delivered their best material and we found ourselves transported with them to scenes of trout fishing; road rage and India. Our congratulations go to Biddy White from KZN on taking home the winner’s trophy this year. Sadly, our own Nicholas Mitchell was not placed, but we all enjoyed his speech, Why Four? (or should we say Five?)

Executive members then went on to do the business of Toastmasters.

Later that evening after the Banquet members were inspired and empowered to embrace change by extreme adventurer, Braam Malherbe who regaled them with accounts of his work in conservation. Truly, this was a fitting end to a weekend of learning and growth.

So, I look back over a weekend of amazing moments and can truthfully say that the whole experience was so much more than the sum of its parts. If you are looking for some inspiration; for an experience that will motivate and stimulate you to greater achievement, then look no further than the next Conference – MaxiCon 2013 (called most aptly, LeaderCon). It will be held in Gauteng and details (including Early Bird special price offers) will be available very soon. Watch this space.

Until next time
Ricky Woods

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Bucket Lists and Choices - 25 September

Why do we do the things we do?

 For the past eight weeks I have been involved in running a Speechcraft course for one of the local banks. Someone from their HR department had attended a course earlier in the year and was convinced that it was the kind of thing that could be done at a corporate level, so we did.
As I think back over what has been an amazing journey, I am reminded of a young lady who, at the first meeting, was unable to participate in the Table Topics – she was simply terrified. Despite her fear, she continued and before the programme had run its course, she had volunteered to be Toastmaster – quite a leap, as we all know.
Then there was a man who was confident and charming; quite at ease in front of an audience. I wondered whether he even needed our help. But tragedy struck when his wife miscarried their first child and I recall his face filled with pain when he spoke at the next meeting of trust in times of trouble.

During our time together we learned that one of the young men in our group had been selected for a project to work in London; and of the promotion to branch manager of a motherly, caring older woman. We discovered that amongst us were mothers and fathers, single parents and foster parents. There was one who had been raised in an orphanage and a couple who had been born in Zimbabwe. Although they all worked for the same company, many of them had never met before they embarked upon this adventure together.

Last Tuesday saw the culmination of the course, complete with Graduation certificates and a time of celebration afterwards. I invited Glenis Whitehead, as our Division Governor, to be the guest speaker at this event and it was suitably fitting that she spoke on Choices and challenged us all to make a bucket list of things we still wanted to do and to achieve. I found myself thinking about the people in the group who, despite their own particular challenges, had chosen to do this Speechcraft Course and whose lives would forever be changed – and connected – as a result.

I do believe in serendipity – some wonderful things just happen; but I also believe in the well-known lines from the poem, Invictus by William Ernest Henley, ‘I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul’. So, much as Glenis challenged us last week, I want to extend that challenge to you: In your Toastmasters world and in your private life; decide what you want to achieve and make it happen!

While we were there, Algoa had another of its usual fun-filled meetings. Despite some initial panic owing to the fact that some of the role players were not able to attend, others stepped up and it made for a really special meeting.
Toastmaster for the evening, Mariannah Lourens, introduced a theme on the joys of public speaking. In her introduction, she enumerated some positive tips from Dale Carnegie, which make a lot of sense:
 • Do the thing you fear the most – it’s the quickest way to conquer that fear
• Give your best to the small jobs
• Do the difficult stuff first
• Act enthusiastic – and you will be enthusiastic.

Tom Horne had the group make good use of their linguistic abilities, as they had to describe various items in such a way that a Martian would understand them. Mr Table Topics Martian . ! Once again the prepared speeches covered a range of CC levels. Anton Barkhuizen (CC3 – Get to the Point) informed club members of the factors involved in having and maintain a Magnificent Mind. Included were the food we eat, exercise, water – and avoiding a toxic environment. Food for thought? Trevor Wells (CC5 – Your Body Speaks) had the audience captivated as he recounted his attempts to find the woman of his dreams on the dance floor with his speech entitled Searching for Love. Finally, Marlene van Wyk gave a very well received educational speech from the Leadership Excellence Series entitled Motivating People. One piece of advice that pertains to everyone, but to Toastmasters in particular is the following: “Practice will help you go from bad, to good, to great, to gold”

The Toast of the evening, by Liandra Schoultz, was a bit of a shock. It was to holidays and festivities – because the Christmas decorations are already up in the shops! That takes me back to the idea of bucket lists.
Surely it feels as if it were only a short while ago that we were making resolutions for 2012? Now we are planning year-end functions.
What had you planned to do that you have not done?
Until next time
Ricky Woods

Monday, September 17, 2012

Do as I do .........and as I say!! 11 September

The role of mentors and mentoring in a club

I was asked to do an Educational Speech about mentoring and it got me thinking about our Mentorship programme in Toastmasters. I looked at the TI website, where I found some of the following ideas (which I have adapted a bit):

New members benefit by:

• Understanding the club programme format and its customs

• Developing confidence as they participate in club activities and work on their CL manuals

• Learning speaking skills to advance through their CC manuals

Older members can also benefit by:

• Refining their skills

• Mentoring in specialized areas

Mentors benefit by:

• Keeping their skills honed

• Earning the respect of their mentees

• Learning skills from those they mentor

The club benefits by:

• Having happy members

• Retaining members – and growing the club

I like the term, symbiotic relationship, which refers to a mutually beneficial relationship between parties – a win-win situation. That is, as long as all parties involved buy in to the idea; and to do what is expected of them. Otherwise, we may have a strong chain; weak link situation.

Each new member who is assigned a mentor should make use of that person, whether it is to find out how things work, or to ask for help with the presentation of a speech or with a role that has to be performed at the next club meeting. Mentors, on the other hand, should not leave it up to their mentees to make a move. You are in the stronger position, so extend a hand of friendship or guidance to the person assigned to you to care for. Remember too that mentoring is not just for new members. So often, as one proceeds into the advanced manuals one can gain such benefit from the more senior members, especially those who have exhibited a particular skill in a specialized area. Do not be afraid to ask for help. I am sure they would be thrilled to render assistance.

* * * * *

Tuesday’s meeting saw a wonderful display of a range of project speeches. Visitors to the club, and there were many, including old friend Chenielle Barnard, were treated to an edifying evening of learning by doing. Belita von Steiger, as table Topics Master, wrapped up a whole lot of goodies from her kitchen and challenged members to relate incidents from a day in the life of those appliances. Butter knives, cheese graters and chopsticks have never been put to such unique use before!

The prepared speeches began with Mike Brosnahan’s Ice-Breaker speech, The Pommy. Mike, we too are happy that you love South Africa and want to stay.

Deon Basson, in his CC3 speech (Get to the point) gave us some very interesting tips on Remembering Names

The Deborah Stevenson (CC4 – How to say it) related her very painful experiences with scabies in her speech entitles An Itch In Time Saves Nine and left us with the warning that one really should seek professional help for persistent medical conditions.

Finally, Louise Erasmus, speaking from the Advanced manual, Public Relations Speeches, entertained us with a radio programme on the history of Collegiate High School, entitled Organizations in and around the PE Community.

* * * * *

Flower Power! No, this is not a re-run of The Beatles’ music, but rather our Mini-Con, on 12 -13 October at Kirstenbosch Gardens. It is very well-subscribed already, but should any members wish to attend, they should look at the website and register. It is sure to be great!

On that note, Saturday past saw the Division Humorous and Impromptu Speaking Contests, which took place at VP Grey. It was very well-supported, especially by the 17 members who came all the way from East London. There were four contenders in each competition and the standard was very high, but once again Algoa can be deservedly proud of Nicholas Mitchell, who will be going to Cape Town to represent Division E in both events. Runners up were Charlie Mzimane and Michael Travis in the Impromptu and Humorous Contests respectively. Well done, Nicholas!

Charlie Mzimane and Nicholas Mitchell

Michael Travis and Nicholas Mitchell

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Give something back - 26 August

Give something back . . . . . . and see what you get in return.

My initial involvement with Toastmasters, which has endured for the best part of fifteen years, was a selfish quest. I had to be able to take school assemblies, but I feared (what I perceived to be) the critical comments of the staff behind me on the stage. The five hundred or more pupils in the hall in front of me were not the problem. I had seen the transforming benefits of the Toastmasters Youth Leadership courses at our school, for so many of our pupils. I figured that if they could make such a difference to the pupils, they would surely be able to help me. The rest, as they say, is history.
I had been teaching then for almost fifteen years, but I recall as if it were yesterday, my anxiety when I stepped up to do my Ice-Breaker speech, entitled No Man is an Island. Dry mouth, clammy hands, cue cards clutched desperately like a lifeline for a drowning (wo)man, I stumbled and stuttered my way through it. Then came the adrenalin rush afterwards – and I was hooked.

I am sure, at this moment, many of you have been transported back through time to your own first speech. I know you identify with how I felt. But, I am sure you also feel the benefits of what Toastmasters has done for you. So, what happened next? I became involved in the running of Youth Leadership courses at my school, and in assisting at other schools. Two years ago I decided to get involved in the running of Speechcraft courses that are run on the same basis – 8 weekly sessions of fairly intense Toastmasters training encompassing learning the skills of meeting procedure; doing impromptu speeches; finding out about the intricacies of vocal variety, gestures and body language; learning about the value of organisation and planning and a host of other skills that one assimilates along the way.
Fourteen Youth Leadership courses and three Speechcraft courses and I still can’t get over the ‘kick’ it gives me to see the metamorphosis – literally lives are changed by the experience. I shouldn’t be surprised. I have experienced it in my own life. So have you. My challenge to all Algoa members is to get involved. I know you are all busy people, but giving back what you have gained to the community – at any level – will give you much more satisfaction than if you had kept it to yourself. Clearly not everyone wants to run a course, but you can offer to help. Speak to VPEd, Alison Immelman, to find out where your help might be needed.

I must tell you about our Speech contest, which was held on 28 August. Both competitions yielded high quality speeches. Firstly, the Impromptu Contest saw members; Alison Immelman, Nicholas Mitchell, Mariannah Lourens and Trevor Wells wax lyrical about the word FLAT. From buying their first flat, to feeling flat at the end of the day, our competitors managed to rise to the occasion. Congratulations to Nicholas for winning the contest and to Alison for her second place! Then it was the Humorous Contest. Mariannah Lourens entertained us with her views on Road rage in an aptly named speech, Roadrageous. After that Nicholas Mitchell had us chuckling with his thought-provoking speech on the joys of large families, Why Four? Finally, Trevor Wells had us experiencing his pain on being dumped by a wave in his speech, Washing Machine. Our congratulations (once again) go to Nicholas on winning this contest – and on the announcement about Number Five! Also to Mariannah on her second place – and on the announcement about the birth of another grandbaby, born in Hawaii! Now it’s up to us to support the winners as they compete in the next rounds: Area Contest - (8 September, at VP Grey – 10 am). Then the Division Contest (15 September, also at VP Grey at 10 am). I am sure Colleen Love (Area Governor, E1) and Glenis Whitehead (Division Governor) would be most grateful for your assistance. Think about the benefits of giving back.
Until next time.
Ricky Woods

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Conference . . .


On clubs and competitions and other curious things


Do you do stand up?

No, I prefer to sit when I tell jokes.  

What is it about the world that has made comedy such a sought after thing? Wherever one goes people are flocking to listen to stand-up comedians. The recent Grahamstown National Arts Festival saw a glut of comedy shows and television is awash with programmes like The Last Comic Standing.  After giving the matter some thought I have come to the conclusion that our lives are probably pretty ordinary. In fact, in many cases they are downright boring. All we ever face on television news is murder and mayhem, so it stands to reason that we want to escape from reality with a good dose of laughter. Psychological studies abound with reports about the curative powers of laughter. In fact, some have described laughter as 'massage for your innards'.

Toastmasters has a strong tradition of encouraging humorous speeches, especially in our annual Humorous Speech Contest and Algoa is proud to say that we have a past National winner in our midst - Marlene van Wyk/Vosloo.  

If you have not worked it out yet, I am trying to encourage you to enter our club competition, which, if I have it right is on 28 August. You can't say 'I am not funny' if you have not tried it. Who knows, we may have a budding Trevor Noah among you.  How do you enter?  Just get hold of Alison at or on 0845150110 and she will slot you in.  Remember, the other competition battle that is to be fought is the Impromptu Speech Contest.

Congratulations are in order this month:
  • Quinton Jacobs and his bride, Karien have tied the knot! A lovely ceremony and reception were attended by a number of our club members who reported that Quinton was truly overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment.  Well done, you two.
  • Alan Hunter, who has been working furiously at it for the past number of years, has emerged with an LLB degree. Congratulations, Alan. We are very proud of you.
  • Glenis Whitehead, who is not only our many-times past President and past Area Governor, and current Division Governor of Division E, celebrated a very special  and significant birthday on Sunday 12 August. I am not allowed to mention the number, but she tells me she is now officially allowed to think about retirement.  
  • New member, Mike Brosnahan, proved last night what they say about beginner's luck. Not only was he newly installed, but he also won the award for Best Table Topics speech. Michael Warren, eat your heart out!

Women's Month featured as the theme of the evening at the meeting on 14 August, presided over by Toastmaster Belita von Steiger, new CC.  " The whole point of getting things done is to know what to leave undone"  That could only have been said by a woman!   During the Table Topics session presented by Deborah Stevenson, members were encouraged to speak around the idea of What do women really want? There were many offers, but my favourite was 'to eat chocolate and not get fat' 

The prepared speeches were varied and interesting. Glenis Whitehead ( re-doing her CC manual) completed a CC6 speech (using vocal variety) with the interesting title Don't be surprised by my red hat. After this she was presented with her club pin for having completed five speeches.

Thereafter, Angie Kivido, in a well-researched CC7 speech paid homage to a South African great in a speech called The SA Agulhas and her part in the Arctic Research Project.

Louise Solomons did a practice run of a speech which she had to deliver to middle management students, entitled The Lion and the Mouse. 

Even the Toast of the evening, presented by Mariannah Lourens, was an advanced level project speech To the Missionvale care Centre and Sister Ethel.

As General  Evaluator, Colleen Love summed it up, the speeches provided everything: entertainment by Glenis, information by Angie and motivation by Louise.

I know that a number of you have been reading the blog, which makes it all worthwhile. We are experiencing problems with the feature that allows you to comment, but Belita assures me that it can and will be fixed.  In the meantime, brush off your sense of humour and see if it still works. then pick up the phone and tell Alison that you want to be part of the Humorous Speech contest on 28th.

Until next time.

Ricky Woods
Mike - with Table Topics cup - kindly donated by Belita - her father's Impromptu Cup 1963!

Monday, July 30, 2012

New Year's Resolutions?

30 July 2012
Yes, I know it's nearly August, but since Toastmasters is an international organization with its headquarters in the United States, we are obliged to start our year in July. That said, it is time for all members to have a look at their goals - both with regard to the educational track and to the leadership track.  If you are not sure what this means, do take some time to speak to the VPEd, Alison Immelman or to any of the other members of your Exec.  You will also be receiving an email from her which will help you to focus you on those goals.

   Some bits of news that will be of interest to members :
  • We welcomed Tom Horne back after he had spent some time in hospital. He gave us quite a scare, but bounced straight back to the meeting out of his hospital bed.  May you continue to be the blessing to our club that you are, Tom.
  • We want to wish Quinton well as he goes off to get married in August - and then to a magical honeymoon , in Russia, no less! ( At least it is summer there.)
  • Club Officer Training took place on Saturday, 28 July at VP Grey and was attended by 27 executive members from most of the clubs in Area E1. Grateful thanks to Glenis, Marlene, Nicholas, Yvonne and Megan  who undertook the training.  Attendance at this training also ensures us of Club points in the Distinguished Club Programme.
Our last meeting was varied and interesting - as always.

After a fascinating stint of Table Topics during  which time we were asked to explore the fascinating world of phobias - including the fear of washing, ghosts and even of food! - we went on to a range of prepared speeches from both the Competent Communicator and the Advanced manuals.

Anton Barkhuizen started off with his CC2 (Organize your Speech). We learned about Your Secret Weapon, our unique style of communicating with others : visual,aural,tactile.

Then, Trevor Wells had us rolling as he regaled us with his tale of a body surfing experience gone wrong with the Washing Machine(CC4 Ho to say it).

In her first advanced speech from the Public Relations manual, Louise Erasmus sold us all over on the benefits of Toastmasters with her speech entitled So, You want to be a Public Speaker? 

Finally, Nicholas Mitchell demonstrated once again how he has competed and won at national level with his AC27 speech from the Professional Speaker manual, Why Four? in which he expounded on the joys of having a large family

The level of humour evident in some of these speeches serves as a reminder that our annual Humorous Speech Contest is coming up very shortly, as is the Impromptu Speech Contest. Both of these contests are in preparation for the National Contest which will take place at MiniCon at Kirstenbosch Gardens on 13 October.  We are hoping to take a really representative group from Area E1 to support our competitors.  If you are keen, speak to an Exec member, or visit the District 74 website at for details. The sooner you book, the cheaper the rates - and flights!

It is my sincere attempt to make this blog an interactive site for Algoa members - and for visitors.  Last time I asked members to give others tips on how they get to finding a topic to speak on. I think there were some gremlins at work then, so I am extending the same invitation to you this week.  Just click on the Post a Comment link and then let's see what happens.

Until next time.

Ricky Woods

Saturday, July 14, 2012

May I Propose...............? 10 July 2012

There is a saying about death and taxes – they are the only certainties we have in life. I would like to suggest that the inexorable passing of time is also inevitable. It feels as if it was just a month or so ago that we saw Colleen Love being installed as Club President – and had Annette Lovemore regale us with her humorous first-hand accounts of life in Parliament. Then, we blink our eyes and another Toastmasters year is behind us!
We enjoyed a wonderful Induction Dinner on 20 June at the PE Women’s Club in Summerstrand. Good food and good company in very pleasant surroundings culminated in a presentation by Tim Marshall on Generation Y. It was most entertaining and for those of us involved with teenagers in any way, very insightful.
Denise Pudney was installed as the Club President for 2012/2013 and we are certainly in for a great year with her and our new Executive at our helm. Congratulations to those hard-working members who won our annual awards.
Algoa continues to take the lead in Toastmasters: Did you know? • Having gained 9 of the possible 10 points in the Distinguished Club Programme, Algoa has once again achieved Select Presidents Distinguished Club status. By meeting the needs of our members, we have managed to achieve those goals too. • According to our new VP Membership, Antoinette Baatjes Algoa is officially the largest club in District 74, with a start-up for this Toastmasters year of 40 members! At least another two visitors have indicated their intention to sign up, and we had no fewer than four very keen visitors at the first meeting of the new year. • Our Immediate Past President, Colleen Love, has taken office as the new Area Governor for Area A1 in Division E • Our past Area Governor, Glenis Whitehead, is the new Division Governor for Division E (the Eastern Cape). Well done, Algoa! May the year ahead be filled with many exciting and fulfilling challenges. The first meeting of the year, despite being in the school holidays and so having quite a number of folk away, was as always a learning experience. Michael Warren most ably performed the role of Toastmaster and challenged all participants to think about how they would ideally like to be known – instead of the usual introductions which relate us to what we do. There were some delightful responses ranging from ‘I do my best’ to ‘I do what I like’ to ‘I am fantastic!’ Our Sergeant-at-Arms, Angie Kivido also had us thinking outside the box as she encouraged us to put ourselves into the minds and lives of others. It was a challenge which we all enjoyed meeting. Mimi Makupula gave an enthusiastic account of a day in the life of a car guard and Antoinette Baatjes revealed some of the mysteries of the day to day experiences of Bra Sipho, the taxi driver, but Jessame Kromhout won the day with her convincing portrayal of the oh, so wild Mr Oscar Wilde! We were then treated to three very different prepared speeches: Deon Basson started off by explaining the mysteries and challenges that surrounded naval navigation with his CC2 speech (Organize Your Speech) entitled Longitude. Then DTM Glenis Whitehead showed us the ropes of using body language while entertaining us with her amusing and embarrassing accounts in her second round CC5 (Your Body Speaks) speech entitled My Sister and other Embarrassments. Finally, Mimi Makupula pulled out all the stops in her AC4 speech (The Dramatic Speech) entitled Toe to Toe from the Advanced Manual: The Entertaining Speaker. Drawing on her childhood of being raised by a father who was passionate about dogs and boxing, Mimi gave a passionate and hilarious account of two encounters she had with ferocious dogs. She is definitely someone to have in your corner when you face opposition. A toast was proposed by Trevor Wells ‘To Life’; Mark Barry gave the General Evaluation and Michael Warren won the Top Toastie award. So, another successful Toastmasters meeting was concluded. It is my hope that these fortnightly blogs will become more than just a replay of the meetings. Instead, it would be good to make them a forum for our members to ask and answer questions; make suggestions and offer advice. Remember, we learn by doing and it would be good if we could share our experiences so that other members can learn too. Let me start by asking members to offer suggestions on how they go about deciding on a speech once they have read the objectives. I know that I have often sat for months before the inspiration has come. It can be really frustrating. Can anyone help? If you have suggestions, questions or comments, just Reply to All. Remember the next meeting is 24 July. If you want to be on the programme, speak to Alison. You can get hold of her on 0845150110 or Until next time. Ricky Woods

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Success Edition

We had a good turnout with 25 at the meeting, including 3 guests. How lovely it was to see some old friends that we’ve missed recently. We were delighted to welcome Dxy Madikizela as a member at long last. Really, she is part of the family already.
Happy birthday to the following members who will be having birthdays in the next two weeks: Belita von Steiger, Ricky Woods, Johann Harmse, Nicholas Mitchell, Rhona Murchie, Liandra Scoltz and Michael Warren.
Get ready to don your pirate gear. It’s high time we retrieved Andrew the Travelling Gavel. Keep your ears to the grapevine so that we have a good sprinkling of members when we visit Cheshire homes (soon) to claim him back. Let’s take up the challenge!
Divisional Speech Contest
This is scheduled for Saturday 14 April and our hat trick winner – Nicholas Mitchell – will be competing for Area E2. Let’s be there to egg him on so that he goes all the way to Hillcrest.
(BTW - Congrats must go to Gareth Woods (Ricky Woods’ son) who won the English prepared and impromptu sections at club level – lends truth to the apple and tree!)

We also congratulate the winner of the Masthead competition, Leann Roos (did you notice her winning entry at the top?) Remember to look for it on the website – just Google Algoa Toastmasters.
Toastmaster for the evening was the one and only Antoinette Baatjies – who will ever forget her speech entitled “Scotty, beam me up – I need some sacks...”? We always learn from and are entertained by this committed Toastmaster. Her theme for the evening was “Success”, and her advice? Find something you are passionate about. Then you will never have to work a single day in your lives because you are enjoying yourself so much.
Timekeeper for the evening was Angie Kivido, and the Grammarian was Alison Immelman. The Word of the Day was exuberant (adjective; full of enthusiasm; abundant; lavish or elaborate, often to the point of being excessive), which at least 13 members used, Marianah thrice and Marlene quadruply (the over-achiever!) Some verbal gems included Michael’s “Fellow refugees from 1987”, and Mark’s suggestion that “women are like spaghetti”, as well as Jessamy’s plea for a fluidity of identity.
Only Michael Warren can make the introduction to the duties of the um and ah counter into a mini humorous speech! He recently heard a speech in which the speaker had used “like” 43 times! We have been warned that eagle ears is on the alert!
Table Topics Table Topics Master for the evening was Marlene Vosloo, a previous winner of the national impromptu speech competition. Her theme was “a penny of your thoughts”. She offered us a selection of coins (and yes they had been scrubbed). The task for each speaker was to speak about the date on the coin, and what it signified to us. Everyone spoke, and the shortest speech was 56 seconds, true mark of an excellent theme.
Prep speeches – as always we were treated to a diverse selection of topics
Deborah Stevenson – CC3 (Get to the point) showed us how “Blood is thicker than water”. Only 1% of adult SAs donate blood. She told us about the time 3000 Students came together and formed a blood drop – a strong message to donate. It takes just 13 minutes every 56 days. One unit can save three lives. Just one thing – no sex, drugs or rock n roll lifestyles, please
Jessamy Kromhout – CC4 (How you say it) shared with us a “Redefinition of women”, which suggested that a feminist doesn’t have to be a man-hating, bra burning militant! Jessamy expressed a desire for men and women to be who they want to be, with a “jumbled, messy sense of self“.
Belita von Steiger – CC7 (Research your Topic) asked us if we are “Active or passive?” – with regard to our financial fitness. She warned us that only 3 – 5% of SAs will retire financially independently (that’s one in the room). If we want to be that one, all we need to do is earn an income, spend less than we earn and invest wisely. There are three kinds of investors: the Marathoners who invest in the stock market; Middle distance runners who prefer unit trusts; and the “Flicking thro the sports channel” kind of investor who will stick to exchange traded funds. Let’s get physical!
Rhona Murchie – CC8 (Get comfortable with visual aids) told us “How to be a hummingbird” – which means putting out a fire one water drop at a time. Rhona conveyed her passion for the Kenyan tree lady Professor Wangari Maathai, who was proof that even if we start small, we can end big
Reinhardt Botha – AC2 – (Resources for Entertainment) who “Really” entertained us with some classic urban legends. And, although he kept us on the edge of our seats until the denouement, he advised us, when people tell us something as a fact, to say “really?” Good story-telling advice can be summarised with the following mnemonic: aim for SUCCES(S) by telling Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotion-grabbing Stories.
The toast of the day was elegantly offered by Nicholas who embraced the theme of the day eloquently
Evaluations As always our senior members gave us invaluable advice, and reminded us that we grow through doing and through receiving feedback. Great tips included that we should aim to sound comfortable and not too rehearsed and that we should make and hold eye-contact. Be aware of the more unusual verbal crutches (basically anything you use repetitively) – such as “I guess”. Avoid terminology – or define the term – so that the whole audience can be with you. When using visual aids, consider visibility; aim to use pause – especially in story-telling. Be careful of nervous gestures and make sure to end on a bang – like a good Guy Fawkes Day; and finally that understatement can be funny too.
General evaluator for the evening was Area Governor Glenis Whitehead who was as warmly encouraging as always – we are so lucky to have such a knowledgeable, generous, distinguished Toastmaster among us.
Table Topics winner was Louise Erasmus – at last we have a Table Topics queen!
Top Toastie was Deborah Stevenson who epitomises our club motto – “The Courage to Conquer”.
All in all, it was an “exuberant” evening!
They say that those who keep an entirely tidy desk will never know the joy of finding something they thought was lost forever – which brings me to the following photo – of the two grand old men of our club – Geoff Coomb-Davis and Tom Horne. We take our hats off to you (you can keep yours on – with apologies to Joe Cocker)