Monday, November 18, 2019
Taking the Plunge
A large attendance at last week's Speakeasy Toastmasters meeting was rewarded with a highly entertaining and diverse range of speeches. As is customary in Toastmasters, speech topics are self - chosen and the five speakers delivered speeches that were poignant, poetic, informative and motivational. "Pulling out all the stops" was the description used to describe the performances of the speakers.
Theresa O'Reilly posed a fascinating challenge to "take the plunge" in a highly motivational talk - "What you don't use, you lose". She spoke of how modern central heating and air conditioning systems have removed temperature variations and degraded our immune systems. She cited examples of Ice Swimming in Nordic countries and Russia and the exploits of Wim Hof who has dedicated himself to extreme cold water and icy pursuits, including climbing Everest in shorts! From the relative comfort of our own bathrooms, we can invigorate ourselves with cold shower treatments that are extreme, energising and exhilarating! Forget about Global Warming, try "Cold Exposure"!
Ann Nyhan's speech - "Should I stay or should I go?" explored the long and chequered history of emigration in Ireland. Perhaps, Ireland's insular nature on the periphery of Europe would indicate isolationism. Yet, emigration has been the Irish way. Between the sixth and ninth century, Irish monks brought Christianity, culture and civilisation to Europe. In the wake of the Tudor conquest of Ireland, thousands of our soldiers - The Wild Geese - fled to Europe and served in the French and Spanish armies. Sadly, economic necessity and oppression sparked the mass emigration rate in the nineteenth century. Famine ridden Ireland was no place for young women and men and millions made their way to Van Diemans Land and America. The Irish Wake is etched in our phyche as families were torn apart - children never saw their parents again and parents lost their offspring. Like all migrant communities, we brought a fearless spirit to our chosen destinations. We became the "man who built America".
Vincent Harris took "A second chance to make a first impression". He spoke about his hens who have decided that "no layers pellets means no eggs". He spoke about how time changes attitudes - when he was younger, he couldn't wait to leave small town Tralee. Now, the qualities that repelled him as a young man now attract him. Toastmasters has given him the opportunity to speak on his many and varied opinions - on Trump, Brexit, the sickness industry and the future of the polar-bear! In short, Vincent's approach to life is informed by his motto - "Do the best you can until you know better and when you know better, you do better".
"Sliding" was the title of Sean Corcoran's demonstration of playing the Dobro. Invented in 1928 by a Slovakian immigrant, John Dopyera, this resonator guitar is synonymous with country bluegrass and folk music. Sean deftly demonstrated the unique sound of the Dobro. Moreover, he discussed the technique used by guitarist, Ry Cooder and his distinctive "bottleneck" style. He explained the different types of Slide and Pedal Steel guitars. All that was missing from Sean's speech was a soundtrack of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys or Lowell George and Little Feat. Sean celebrated the unadulterated joy of music and the playing of musical instruments. Play on, Sean.
After four speeches, Pat Sexton's chosen topic was speeches. "It's About the Speech" was a tribute to the wonderful opportunities that present themselves when Toastmasters members organise their ideas into speech form. Our interests, our opinions and our creativity are developed when we commit to presenting a speech. Everyone has a story to tell, Speakeasy provides the ideal forum to sound off, grow in confidence and find our voices. No speech is perfect. Indeed, the speaker humorously referenced a less than stellar presentation which could cure insomnia! Pat's speech was a call to members and guests to "take the plunge", a dive into acquiring self confidence that is somewhat warmer than Ice water swimming!
As is customary in Speakeasy, all speakers were evaluated by a team of evaluators that included Helsa Giles, Claire O'Connell, Marie Fitzpatrick, Don McSweeney and Rachel Liston. All evaluators provided worthy commendations and appropriate recommendations to their assigned speaker.
An entertaining Topics Session was presented by Noel O’ Connor who provided members with an impromptu challenge. A huge discussion on the passing of Broadcaster, Gay Byrne and his contribution to Irish life. The vexed question of our attitudes to alcohol was analysed in a topic on Christmas Day Pub openings. The perennial subject of the generation gap was examined in a hilarious "role play" by Deirdre Linehan and Margaret O’Regan on a daughter's inappropriate dress code for a night out!
At the meeting's conclusion, the General Evaluator, Margaret O' Regan presented awards to Ann Nyhan - Best Speaker and Don McSweeney - Best Evaluation. In truth, all contributors were winners.
In other news, the North Cork Area Finals of The Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contests took place in Fermoy Community Centre last week. Speakeasy was represented in both Contests by Michael Cronin and Pat Sexton. On a night when speeches were punctuated with laughter Pat Sexton emerged as winner in both Contests, with Kevin Walsh of Fermoy in Second Place. Both contestants will go forward to the Division B Finals in Listowel on Sunday, 24th November. They will cross verbal swords with participants from Kerry, Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary.
The next Speakeasy Toastmasters meeting will take place in The Hibernian Hotel Mallow on Thursday, 28th November at 8.00PM. As always, guests are welcome to attend and are never obliged to speak unless they wish to do so. For more information on this club, please check out our website or on Facebook.
Club meets on alternate Thursday Nights of each month, September to May at 8.00 PM Sharp in The Hibernian Hotel, Mallow: Speak Easy Toastmasters was founded in April 1993
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Keeping the Art of Communication Alive
How many times have we witnessed it? A restaurant filled with diners, waiting to be served and everyone is on their smartphones. No verbal communication between diners as all eyes are glued to the screen with fingers moving with the dexterity of a concert pianist. It is one of life's true ironies - we can communicate with complete strangers on Social media, yet we are losing the skill of conversing with people beside us.
We all have stories to tell and the best way of telling them is in real time rather than virtual time. The Irish are renowned as story tellers and yarn spinners - traditional skills that are under threat in the Social Media generation. But, oral communication continues to be hugely important in all aspects of everyday life, be it in interpersonal communication with friends, work colleagues and family or in more formal situations at work, in voluntary organisations and in job interviews.
A quick browse on Google will reveal that there is a whole industry devoted to public speaking and leadership skills where ultra-expensive courses and one to one coaching is available. Toastmasters is the enjoyable and inexpensive way to acquire all the necessary skills. For the past 95 years, Toastmasters International has assisted millions of people worldwide to experience the self empowerment that being a competent communicator can bring.
Throughout the island of Ireland, there are over a hundred Toastmasters Clubs. In County Cork, the number exceeds twenty. All have one thing in common - they assist their members to acquire good communication skills and to speak with confidence. Speakeasy Toastmasters has been to the fore in the North Cork Area in providing communication and leadership skills for hundreds of its members. Many of our members, current and previous, have used the skills learnt in Speakeasy to great effect in various voluntary organisations, be it the community, sporting or charity sector. Last month, former Club President, Kieran Buckley was an Award Winner at the inaugural Cork Volunteer Awards. Kieran's contribution as Chairperson of Mallow Day Centre was recognised by his receipt of The Board Member Award.
The great thing about Speakeasy is learning can be enjoyable. Our programme is positive rather than prescriptive. It is self paced and tailored to the members needs. Everything from Chairing a Meeting, learning speech composing to "off the cuff" speaking is learned. And, we get to hear the stories that people tell. And, most importantly of all, we get to laugh out loud at a witty quip or a humorous Speech. Members come from all walks of life and all occupations and are of all ages.
The next Speakeasy Toastmasters meeting will take place in The Hibernian Hotel Mallow on Thursday, 14th November at 8.00PM. The long, dark nights are a great opportunity to come along and witness a meeting. Guests are always welcome to attend and are never obliged to speak unless they wish to do so. We look forward to seeing you.
For more information on this club, please check out our website speakeasytoastmasters.com or on Facebook.