Sunday, February 24, 2019

Competions time!

"It's only words and words are all I have" was how Sean Corcoran introduced his speech entry in last week's Speakeasy Toastmasters Annual Speech Contest. "Words" dealt with the importance of words and how they can uplift or undermine, depending on the users intentions. Words manipulate - the L'oreal advertising slogan "Because I'm worth it" or the Tesco motto -"Every little helps" heve entered popular culture. But, most sinister of all, words can be used in a subliminal fashion to sell a message. The songwriter, Jackson Browne, once wrote - "It's just the same old murder movie and they call it the news". Much of modern day news and political commentary accentuates the negative which is why Sean never listens to the news.

Rachel Liston delved into the complex and, sometimes, fractious nature of the work environment. "Breaking Point" illustrated the impact that work conflicts can have on the individuals involved. Once again, inappropriate language can leave a deep scar and extract a huge toll on the person offended. Sometimes, it is better to engage in flight rather than fight and hope to flourish in a different work situation. But, even in the toughest of conficts, there are positives - you develop resilience.

Resilience featured strongly in Pat Sexton's speech -"On the Ropes". Here, we found ourselves brought back in time to the golden era of World Heavyweight Boxing when George Foreman and Mohammed Ali did battle in " The rumble in the Jungle".In what was deemed as the biggest sporting event of the century, Ali tapped into his vast reserves of courage and resilience to forge a victory in the unlikliest of circumstances. The resilience displayed on that occasion cut both ways as the vanquished, George Foreman subsequently regained his World Heavyweight Title at the age of 45, becoming the oldest Title winner in the history of the sport.

Turning loss into victory was the theme of Claire O'Connell's entry - "The Loser Effect". The pawn in chess is a weak piece. Yet, on certain occasions, it can become a Queen, an example of a loser being transformed into a winner. In life, the experience of losing can be used as hard won experience. We just need to be willing to learn from our losses. In aviation, the information retrieved from the "black box'' has been processed and analysed to ensure that air travel maintains it's impressive safety record.

Life's experiences was reflected in Brendan Foley's presentation - "It's the journey,not the destination". Imagine running a long race where you are so focused on reaching the finishing line that you don't appreciate the scenery? Sometimes, our focus is such that goals enslave rather than enable. Achieving goals can be a soul-destroying exercise if we don't enjoy the journey.

After a well earned coffee break, proceedings resumed with the Speech Evaluation Contest. The challenge for the participants was to provide concise and meaningful feedback to a speaker and do it within a positive framework. The "Test Speaker" was Johanna Hegarty of Fermoy Toastmasters who delivered a hugely entertaining story about her " Job Interview". The 4 Contestants, Sean Corcoran, Brendan Foley, Pat Sexton and Claire O'Connell each gave detailed and helpful advice to the speaker.

At the meeting's conclusion,the results were announced - Pat Sexton was the Speech Contest Winner with Brendan Foley in runner up position. In the Speech Evaluation Contest, Pat Sexton and Sean Corcoran were in First and Second Places, in that order. Brendan, Sean and Pat will now represent Speakeasy in the Area 17 (North Cork) Finals which will be take place at the next Speakeasy Toastmasters meeting on Thursday,7th March in the Hibernian Hotel, Mallow at 8.00PM.
Pat Sexton, Sean Corcoran & Brendan Foley, Club Contest Winners. 

This is a wonderful opportunity to witness some of the more accomplished Toastmasters in North Cork "strutting their stuff" on the bigger stage. As always, guests are very welcome to come along. Guests are never coerced into speaking unless they wish to do so and the athmosphere is warm and welcoming. For more information, please check out our or on Facebook.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Ode to Speakeasy!

A January Night 2019, at Mallow’s Speakeasy Toastmasters.

A Thursday, my usual visit, The Green line to the Green, 
A stroll through the lanes and markets of Dublin’s Southside,
Cross the Liffey by the new pedestrian bridge, not the Halfpenny, 
Transported by the Redline at Jervis, four stops to Heuston,
Waited for Platform 2 to be announced for Cork.
Sat in a single seat of the kind facing back to Dublin,
So that I was dragged dozing to drowsy Mallow.
Down from the hilltop station through the town’s long street
And then after tea up the same long street to the HI B
And I climb its long, long corridor to the darkened Room 
Where in, Plato’s daughter eagerly spoke of all
The Forms of Life, physical, spiritual, in a cave’s light, 
A blockbuster formula for ever - lasting strength.
No worries, it was all to be panned by Mallow’s Aristotelian son
Who spoke of the moderation in an elephant’s trunk!
Once in a golden grove Plato discoursed with upstart Aristotle.
Now the still same talk in a murky Mallow hotel hall 
And I sit at your feet, earnest daughter, contentious son, enthralled.

So enamoured was Bobby Buckley about a recent Speakeasy meeting, that he waxed poetic about it. Though resident in Dublin, Mallow native Bobby makes the train journey South to each meeting where he casually assumes the role of Socrates, alwaysentertaining and never dull. That poem was the highlight of last week's Topics Session. Though, obviously not an impromptu contribution, it hit the sweet spot as he skillfully worked it in to his topic reply.

Excelling in the role,first time Topicsmaster, Ann Nyhan could have been a rugby referee calling out "Bind, set, engage!" as the audience scrummaged on her list of topics. First to be devoured were the authors of the recent report in "The Lancet" who warned about a doomsday scenario of eating meat.Several speakers ( mostly non-farmer) questioned the motivations and the impartiality of those who commissioned and authored the report. Commercial links with vegan food processors and biased vegan advocates like Dr. Walter Willett were cited. The Dr. Wakefield scandal where spurious research and findings damaged parents' confidence in vaccination programmes was cited as a cautionary tale about heeding such reports. The products of choice of vegans, almond milk and avocados leave a huge carbon footprint and moreover, are used by the large Californian drug cartels as money laundering crops. What remained unmentioned was the uncomfortable truth that the most infamous advocate of vegan living was a certain Herr Hitler!

The upsurge in online shopping was addressed by Mary Moynihan. Bette Midler declared "I want it all and I want it delivered".The results can be reflected in the decline of retail outlets and boarded up stores. It seems bizarre to order the same dress in different sizes and return the unsuitable ones.Some shops are fighting back by offering an online service but will it stem the shop closures? Perhaps, in the future,High streets will become residential areas.

Brexit reared it's ugly head with Gerry O'Callaghan advocating that we refrain from following Britain's lead and remain within the European Union.It seems that many members of Speakeasy prefer a forum where subjects like hard borders and Boris Johnson can be avoided for even a little while.

But pride of place went to Bobby Buckley who responded to the question - "What inspires you most?" by pulling the aforementioned poem out of his pocket. It shows that you can prepare an impromptu talk and in Bobby's case, win the Best TopicAward.
Speech evaluators Helsa Giles, Kieran Butler, Marie Lynes, Theresa O'Reilly & Marie Fitzpatrick. 

Speakeasy will host it's Annual Speech and Evaluation Contests at our next meeting. This will provide members with the opportunity of applying their skills in a a competitive context. As always, it promises to be a fascinating night of verbal jousting. As always, guests are welcome to come along and see what happens. Visitors are never obliged to speak unless they wish to do so. We look forward to seeing you in the Hibernian Hotel Mallow on Thursday,21th February at 8.00PM.
For more information about this club, please check out our website speakeasyt or on Facebook.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The man who couldn't say no.

In a remarkable confession at last week's Speakeasy Toastmasters meeting, Bobby Buckley acknowledged that he couldn't say the word " no". With his hugely entertaining speech - "Yes Man", he recalled his grandmother describing him as "willing and very amiable" and replying "yes,nana". He proceeded to say" yes" to life and most importantly,to his wife! The result was a house full with children and a life of fulfilment. Recently, he said "yes" to his wife's suggestion to take in a holiday in Hong Kong. Taking in this cultural experience, he walked the main street in the highly populous Kowloon area. A street which is approximately the same length as Patrick Street involved an hour long walk to reach the opposite end. To his wife's suggestion, he said "yes" to forsaking Hotel Food and experiencing the ambience of Hong Kong's gigantic food hall and enjoying the authentic local food.

Food played a central part,too, in Vincent Harris's speech - " One Good Deed". He brought his audience right back to the dark days of the eighties and "Slattery's Bus" transporting young Irish men to London where they hoped to gain meaningful employment and accommodation. On the journey down from Pembroke to London, the driver stopped at a small unremarkable Service Station. But a strange thing happened to the young, anxious men traveling into the unknown. Over some coffee and a full English breakfast, the hospitality and compassion of the chef and the waitress helped to lift the tension for all the emigrants. It seemed that the bus driver, in an act of kindness, deliberately chose this remote cafe for this reason. As Vincent arrived in the vast skyscraper land of London, he was no longer afraid but hopeful that everything was going to work out for him. And for that he remains thankful to a considerate bus driver.

The kindness of strangers was the theme of Michael Cronin's "Heroes of the Famine". Michael brought to life the turbulent and traumatic times of 1840's Ireland when the great hunger ( many would describe it as a great starvation) decimated the Irish population. Over a million people died and an equal number left the country. What is often forgotten is the contribution made by various individuals and organisations to distribute much needed food to a desperate and destitute people.

Notable efforts were made by the British Relief Association to raise funds for famine relief. In March,1847, the Association organised a hugely successful Day of Fast in England.And, like a lot of charitable events, those who could least afford it, gave the most.Even convicts in a London prison have generously. Two members of the Association, the Polish Aristocrat and explorer, Count Pawel Strzelecki and Matthew Higgins, led a campaign to provide Indian meal and rice to the starving masses on the Western Seaboard counties of Mayo, Sligo and Donegal. The Society of Friends or The Quakers mobilised their congregation to help the destitute. Raising over two hundred thousand pounds, they organised food, blankets and medicine and encouraged self sufficiency.Several members made the ultimate sacrifice when they succumbed to disease which was rampant. Other notable volunteers like the American, Asinate Nichelson played their part in bringing relief to the famine stricken families. The kindness of these compassionate strangers should never be forgotten when we reflect on our greatest tragedy.

Claire O'Connell adressed the subject - "The Hidden Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners". At a time when a lot of focus is on the negative side effects of sugar, it is conveniently forgotten that the myriad of artificial sweeteners can induce all the bad side effects of sugar and others as well. They contribute to depression,heart disease, cancers and obesity. In short, they are too sweet to be wholesome. The most striking argument in Claire's talk was that sugar is a natural product that can be produced organically. Sweeteners are laboratory produced with side effects still under investigation. Moderation in everything seems to be the key to health, and avoidance of sugars and sweeteners is advisable.

By contrast, Gordon Sharp-Bolster gave a fascinating insight into the crisis that faces American Football."Politics in American Sport" focused on the ongoing Colin Kaepernick protest which has seen several coloured footballers refusing to stand for their National Anthem.The "taking the knee" protest began as a response to the perceived discrimination and brutality against African-Americans by the Police force. The situation has been politiced further by the interventions of President Trump which are aimed at galvanizing his support base. Commercial considerations muddy the waters even further. Sportswear giants, Nike continue to sponsor Colin Kaepernick and have seen their market share soar. This stand off highlights the poisonous state of race relations that blight American society.
Speakers Michael Cronin, Vincent Harris, Clare O'Connell, Bobby Buckley & Gordon Sharp-Bolster. 

Readers have enquired about the choice of subjects that speakers address. All subjects are self-chosen and reflect the interests of the speaker. The Toastmasters programme focuses on assisting the speaker to speak skillfully and confidently. Each of the above speakers was evaluated by an assigned evaluator. Theresa O'Reilly, Kieran Butler, Helsa Giles,Marie Lynes and Marie Fitzpatrick provided comprehensive and useful feedback to the speakers.At the meeting's conclusion, awards were presented to Vincent Harris,Best Speaker and Theresa O'Reilly,Best Evaluator.

The next Speakeasy Toastmasters meeting takes place in the Hibernian Hotel, Mallow on Thursday, 21st. February at 8.00PM. As always, guests are welcome and are not obliged to speak unless they wish to do so.
For more information please check out our website or on Facebook.

Monday, February 04, 2019

A box of topics.

"Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get". The words of Forest Gump came to mind at last week's Speakeasy Toastmasters meeting as the Topicsmaster, Helsa Giles opened up a wonderful selection box of topics for the audience to devour.

Some call it speaking "off the cuff", others refer to it as "impromptu speaking", the more academic amongst us describe it as "speaking extemporaneously". Call it what you wish but being "put on the spot" is challenging. However, when you master a few basic skills, it can be hugely rewarding. Mark Twain famously said - "It takes me two weeks to prepare my impromptu speech". In real life, we don't have that luxury. Being able to converse coherently without preparation enables us to excell at job interviews, work situations and in general conversation.

The Table Topics Session helps us to become comfortable and confident in these situations. Don McSweeney got to engage in some whimsical fantasy when addressing the choice of three famous dinner guests. Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein and Alex Fergusonwere his nominees. Warming to the task, 
Michael Cronin opted for Joanne O'Riordan, Roy Keane and the Historian, Diarmaid Ferreter for some lively company. Not so lively was the dinner conversation when Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and their concert promoter enjoyed or endured a night out in each other's company, a dinner date from hell if ever there was one!
On the subject of dream holidays, Tim Aherne stuck to to the immediate choice of his recent stay in Marabella. The weather and it's place in our everyday conversation was elaborated on by Philip O'Brien and Shane O'Donnell.It seems that the farming community are preoccupied by the weather on an almost daily basis.
Speech Evaluators Pat Sexton, Rachel Liston, Michael Cronin, Marie Lynes & Vincent Harris

Clearing out the clutter elicited diverse reactions. For Mary Buckley, it seemed to be a case of re-arranging rather than removal.Susan Hegarty extolled the virtues of the industrial shredder to open up the crowded cupboards and filing cabinets.Marie Fitzpatrick established an important basis to justify keeping every item in your house - "does it create joy?" Hoarders might say 'yes" even if they can't find anything in the midst of all the clutter.

Mark Leahy from the West Limerick Club enthusiastically embraced the idea of " a wall around Cork and Dublin to pay for it!" Rude phone behaviour was adressed by Bobby Buckley while Vincent Harris nailed his preferences to the mast in relation to cats and dogs. Nevertheless, dogs can be a warning sign about the state of a relationship - "The more I understand men, the more I appreciate dogs". The most uplifting advice of the evening was borrowed from Coco Channel - "You don't find yourself,you createyourself".

At the meeting's conclusion, the Best Topic Award was presented to Philip O'Brien for his contribution on the topic of the weather as a constant source of conversation. In such a lively session, all participants were winners as continuous participation in the Topics Session enables members to "think on their feet" and converse confidently.

In other news, Club Officers from Speakeasy recently participated in the Area Club Officer Training. While most of the focus in Toastmasters is on speaking skills, leadership development is also important. Through participation in the Toastmasters programme, many members develop the necessary tools to become leaders in the local community and in sporting organisations. Confident communicators make better leaders.

The next Speakeasy Toastmasters meeting takes place in the Hibernian Hotel Mallow on Thursday,7th February at 8.00PM. As always, guests are welcome and are not obliged to speak, unless they wish to do so. For more information, please check out our website or on Facebook. Alternatively, contact Sean Corcoran Speakeasy President - 086-6054784.