Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Being put "on the spot"

We all know it feels to be put "on the spot". At last week's Political Debate, the Taoiseach Leo Varadker gave a long, hesitant pause before addressing a pointed personal question. It was quite reassuring to observe an experienced communicator finding himself searching for words. We have all been in situations when we are flnd ourselves reaching for the right words and pausing. It seems like the longest pause ever, when, in reality, it is only a few seconds. 

At Toastmasters meetings, the Topics Session is designed to assist members to be composed and fluent while thinking on their feet. Over a period of time the member becomes more adept at dealing with such situations. And the benefits can be measured in greater confidence by the speaker in all aspects of interpersonal communication - be it job interviews, social situations or canvassing. It also helps to reduce incidents of "foot in mouth". 

At the last Speakeasy Toastmasters meeting, the Topics Session was conducted by Bridie O'Connell who elicited a huge response with a wide variety of questions for discussion. In response to the mantra - "Communities are doing it for themselves" - we got to hear about the simple, significant actions that make a difference. Gerry O'Callaghan cited his work with Mallow Credit Union and his continued involvement in a Trade Union as examples of his community awareness. And he also moonlights at the weekly bingo for the Mallow Day Care Centre!

"Young people's vocabulary - is it limited?" elicited diverse views. To one observor, the confidence and conversational skills of young people is a "thing of wonder". The importance of an adequate pre - school system was also highlighted as the foundation stone of building language skills. Indeed, it can often take a non-national child up to seven months to say a word in English.

The Winning entry in this year's Young Scientist featured in a question on gender bias on occupations. At a time when female applications for Third Level Education exceeds male applications, old stereotypes like the male engineer and female nurse still prevails in the minds of young children. It seems that children are still conditioned by the traditional blue and pink "little boxes".

The issue of disruptive protests winning public sympathy brought up numerous examples of public demonstrations that tend to alienate. Can a group of farmers driving expensive tractors in the centre of Dublin ever arouse public goodwill was raised. So too was the Anti-water Charges campaign where a female Government Minister was subjected to a baying mob. Alternatively, the Nurses protest was met with a lot of public goodwill. Perhaps, those wishing to protest need to think through their campaigns in order to maximise public support.

The lost art of letter writing brought reminiscings about old letters written by relatives and parents that present a deeper understanding of these people and their relationships with their loved ones. The practice of sending a covering letter with a CV to a prospective employer has been superceded by online facilities. But it seems to be a modern reality that letter writing and even the art of telephone conversation is fading fast. And, has been replaced by a terse five word text, precise but impersonal. 

The Topics Session fulfills many functions - the acquiring of skills, gaining of confidence and a useful exchange of opinions.It is also a source of ideas, information and entertainment. A Toastmasters meeting provides that wonderful opportunity to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes",even if that shoe is an uncomfortable fit.                  

Another opportunity to engage in the Speakeasy experience will take place in The Hibernian Hotel, Mallow on Thursday, 6th February at 8.00PM.
As always, guests are truly welcome and are never obliged to speak unless they wish to do so. Unlike other night classes and Adult - Education courses, one can commence in Toastmasters at any time.  It is a continuously rolling programme. Now is as good a time  as any to join up. 
For more information on this club, please check out our website speakeasytoastmasters.com or on Facebook. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020


Another Thursday night and another fascinating night of inspiration, motivation and information at a Speakeasy Toastmasters Meeting. With a speech programme of 4 speeches, there was an abundance of worthy ideas and "food for thought".

In the week that commemorated Martin Luther King, it was appropriate that Susan Hegarty addressed the subject of leadership. "Lead the way to a better future" looked at the different types of leadership - be it the political leaders or the lycra clad Operation Transformation to the unsung leaders in voluntary organisations who change people's lives. She contrasted the different types of leadership situations she experienced in school and in the workplace from the rules obsessed bureaucratic model to the to the altruistic, democratic, innovative and empowering.

Empowerment was a central theme of Rachel Liston's speech - "Hooked". Asking herself the question - "How difficult could it be?" - she embarked on acquiring the skill of crochet.In short, crochet is about finding a hook and put it all together. Like learning any new skill, it requires curiosity, enthusiasm, persistence and a desired goal. The persistence paid off with the finished article and a meaningful new skill. Other benefits included mindfulness - of being in the moment with total focus required. Learning any new skill, be it crochet or communication is empowering and rewarding with the benefits far outweighing the effort involved.

Anne Marie Lehane outlined the challenging and empowering subject of "Health and Wellness at Work" Setting up staff wellness committees can reap huge dividends, especially in the health care sector. Encouraging staff to "wear the wellness cap" empowers staff to enhance their working environment and improve the quality of their working life. This in turn helps to improve the quality of care that hospital staff provide to patients. Staff involvement in such initiatives "maximises us and minimises them".

Michael Buckley had plenty "Food for Thought" in a detailed presentation on the significance of food combining. Citing the research of Dr. Howard Hay, Michael explained how the combination of protein and carbohydrates in one meal is both a counter productive and an inefficient way of eating as the food is not absorbed properly. By eating proteins and carbohydrates in separate sittings, the health benefits are many - it helps maintain our ideal weight, slows down aging, reduces the need for supplements. And all this can be achieved with less dieting and a reduction in strenuous exercise. It seems like a less humiliating form of Operation Transformation. In short, we take control of our diet which is another form of empowerment. 

In Toastmasters, there is huge emphasis placed on encouraging all participants to realise their full potential as communicators. Each speaker is designated an evaluator whose role is to provide honest feedback, delivered in a positive manner. This encourages and motivates the speaker to grow more confident and accomplished in their presentations. The evaluations of the aforementioned speakers were provided by Jillian Harris, Marie Fitzpatrick, Verna Byrne and Michael Cronin who provided comprehensive feedback that was sensitive to the speakers' needs. 

At the Meeting's conclusion, awards were presented to Rachel Liston - Best Speaker and Michael Cronin - Best Evaluation.

The Speakeasy Toastmasters Season continues with our next Meeting on Thursday, 6th Feb in The Hibernian Hotel Mallow at 8.00PM. If you are looking for a good night's entertainment or if you are looking to acquire a new and empowering skill, or if you seek a distraction from the General Election, why not pay us a visit. You will be warmly welcomed and guests are never obliged to speak unless they wish to do so.
For more information on this club, please check out our website speakeasytoastmasters.com or on Facebook.