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.