Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Prize-winning Table Topics Speech
Margaret Thatcher said:
'If you want to get anything said, ask a man;
if you want to get anything done, ask a woman.'
Angela Lansbury speaking impromptu on June 18th at Harrovians Speakers, NW London

Contents of this post:

Introduction To Toastmasters;

Prizewinning Speech;

Comments On Speech


What Is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters International is a mutual self-help group which trains speakers and Toastmasters. Speakers are often those giving presentations in business as well as motivating workers or schoolchildren or raising funds for charity. Toastmasters are not just the ones who wear red coats at weddings but also and more often anybody running a committee or meeting or introducing or thanking a speaker.

At Harrovians our future President from July 1st was Topics Master giving out subjects for impromptu speeches and he had chosen quotations. Tony Lazar is a charismatic former teacher who has often given speeches about encouraging children to enjoy lessons and work enthusiastically.

He told me in the interval my topic would be something about women's liberation.

I am working on humour, planning to start a local group on stand-up comedy writing. So I had planned to treat whatever subject I was given humorously. I could have written a serious one hour motivational speech if I'd had more time. But I treated this political and non politically correct subject humorously.

Margaret Thatcher said,

"In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman."

(An on-line quotations site will remind you that Mrs Thatcher was Britain's first female prime minister. )

My table topic was to comment on this.


I paced left to right and looked at both sides of the audience and demanded:

Are you all listening - because I'm going to do lots of talking!

I'm very glad you asked me to speak on this topic because I always like to do all the talking.

Maybe I got this from my Jewish mother because she did all the talking.

(Gesture - I hold my hand above my head so everybody at the back can see it although I'm short and my index finger is striking my thumb several times to indicate talking).

My father did all the listening.

(Gesture - I cup hand over ear to indicate listening.)

After my mother died I realised that my father was deaf. (ROFL)

All his life he'd just nodded.

(I nod.)

He hadn't hear a word!

(I shake my head.)

Although my mother did all the talking, she also worked very hard, so it's not entirely true that my father did all the work. He went out to work and was the breadwinner. But my mother worked all day, doing the cooking and washing and cleaning and decorating.So who did all the work? It could be argued that they both worked, in different ways.

So, have I inherited the tendency to talk? Or to work?

I certainly talk. You probably noticed me talking earlier.

I wanted the lights turned on. But I didn't want to find the light switch. Or go downstairs and ask the manager to switch on the lights. I wanted somebody else to do it.

In Harrovians, I'm quite happy to play a big part and do lots of talking. Next year when I'm secretary I shall do lots of talking. But I hope somebody else will do all the work.

What of the women in this audience.

(I walk forward and point to women on either side of the aisle.)

What do you think? I don't care whether you do the talking, or the listening. Or the work.

So long as I can do lots of talking and somebody else does the work!

(End with hands outstretched.)

Angela Lansbury BA Hons English Teacher. O level. A level. EFL. ESL. (Taught in private schools and state school cramming courses in Singapore.) Conversation and Pronunciation.) Author. Ten published books including Wedding Speeches & Toasts. Self-published E-books and Print On Demand in preparation.

I asked if we could have the lights switched on.
I didn't want to find the light switch.
Or go downstairs and ask the manager to switch on the lights.
I wanted somebody else to do it.

In Harrovians, I'm quite happy to play a big part and do lots of talking.
Next year when I'm secretary I shall do lots of talking. But I hope somebody else will do all the work.

I don't mind whether the women in this audience do the talking, or the listening. Or the work.
So long as I can do lots of talking –
and somebody else does the work!
(End with hands outstretched.)


Reading this is over next day, I ask myself whether a reader who does not know me, seeing

just the printed words, might find the mini-speech looks rather self-centred. But it did win. Why?

It keeps to the topic. Many speakers faced with a new topic will speak about something else, or apologise, protest, um and er, fall silent or leave early.

I had a clear, dramatic beginning and end. I finished to time. I kept attention, created laughter and addressed the audience.

Have a clear message or viewpoint. Even if it is stupid. To be funny you can be outrageous and over the top. Or subtly ironic.

Or discuss both sides of the question. I hope reading the speech has been entertaining and instructive for you, that it has taught you something about speech construction. I did win the prize, although you have to see me grinning and jumping around to get the full effect.


It is pity we did not have a video. Last meeting somebody took a video. At least I have a photograph.


Americans are proud of successes, especially business success. Any American salesman in a garage showroom will have a wall of framed awards, whether of his business or sports success. But in the UK we are still too modest. Although UK restaurants are starting to display framed certificates.

I took a photograph, or rather got another member to photograph me, with my mobile camera. The picture showed me holding the ribbon as I stood next to the Harrovians banner to record the occasion. At least I shall know that I won that prize at that club.

Showing the date would have been helpful. A newspaper would have been intrusive. But I could have had the evening's programme on the shelf behind me. Then in years to come I could expand the photo ten times on the computer screen to read the date.


At home I frame ribbons. Toastmasters friends know about the ribbons. My non-toastmasters friends don't. Nor does a new pupil, nor an old pupil come back to visit. (I teach English - very seasonal work - the first week in September my phone is busy with potential pupils. June to August are silent months.)

When I reached home I immediately looked for a frame for my ribbon. I thought this topics ribbon was a first for me. I usually win as an evaluator. But I already had an identical ribbon! Once you have two or more ribbons you start to lose track. You need to keep records.

I once went to a writing conference. Another writer was introduced as having written five books or published 20 travel articles. I was astonished. Fancy making so much of so little! Her PR was better than mine. I had written twice as many books and five times as many travel articles. But I hadn't kept count.

I didn't tell people. But from then onwards I told everybody I met: I am the author of ten books.

I'd always been shy, because when I go to writers' conferences I meet people who have written 100 b00ks. But when you meet somebody who has never written a book, or you are speaking to a group of beginners, ten books sounds good.

I realised that facts and statistics are necessary in order to establish credibility with an audience. The records are vital to getting bookings as a speaker with a conference organizer or agency which doesn't know you and wants to check your CV. How will your agent promote you?

I needed a record of every achievement, however minor. Otherwise any nobody with chutzpah will get the spot you deserved, or would have deserved if you hadn't been so self-destructively shy and modest.

I went home with my white ribbon saying Best Table Topics Speaker. No need to buy a new frame. My last Best Topics Speaker ribbon is in a frame with plenty of room for more ribbons.

How do I record which ribbons was won where, when, and for which speech? I should type out the record and put it underneath as a caption.

But it's late at night. I don't want to deface the front of the ribbon. However, to be sure I don't have another unidentified ribbon, I write in pen on the back the date and place, June 18 2007, Harrovians, and the abbreviated title of the speech Thatcher: Men talk, women do.

Then I type up my record of the speech. Why do I need a record? Because only three hours later I've forgotten what I said and need to ask a friend in order to fill in the gaps. If I've forgotten it, so have the audience. I might want to reproduce my speech on another occasion.

A written record is handy. I can read about it to cheer myself up on a rainy day. I can amuse my friends and overseas visitors who are bored. I can look back in ten years time and think that was dreadful, I could have done so much better and realize how much progress I have made. I can use it in a book on speeches. Or a book of memoirs. And one day somebody else can use it in my obituary.

I think I proved that if you want to get anything said, you can ask a woman - me!


ROFL Text talk for Roll On the Floor Laughing!

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Alabama, Home of Hank Williams Trail and More
Alabama is on my traveller's wish list, high today, not high normally, admittedly rather low, but is it on the wish list, because I have not visited it although I have seen half of America's states including several in Nashville, Tennessee. Yes, I have visited several popular places associated with writers such as Poe and singers such as Presley and Parton, and bought souvenir postcards and books on writers, songwriters, singers and songwriting. But who, immortally famous, comes from Alabama?

Alabama is the home of two or three Americans who are watching my blogs - Alabama? I thought of asking them to tell me about Alabama but decided that it would sound rude to admit that my knowledge of Alabama is so sketchy, a bit black and white, that the only images I associate with the historical deep south and Alabama were the Civil War, killing black people and marrying girls aged 12 wearing little white dresses.

I confess I should know better and more because I have actually been to Alabama. But although I used to be a travel writer, I never found the Alabama tourist board at the American travel trade Pow Wow, and they never found me. However, I'm always keen to add new places to my list of been there, done that, so when I was in New Orleans we drove into Alabama. But after several miles of seeing nothing interesting my driver insisted on turning back to the jazzy attractions of New Orleans.

To be polite to my Alabama readers, I should first check out Alabama on the Internet and find something warm to say about the tourist attractions of their region. Where would I find tourist information and houses of famous residents - from the tourist board of course. Onc click and up on the computer screen is all you and I and anybody else would want to know - the Hank Williams Trail. Although I'm a rabid lover of country music, you can tie me to a chair by playing Patsy Cline, it took me a second to recall Hank Williams, who sang "Hey good lookin' ". What else? "Your Cheating Heart."

The Museum in Montgomery, like any good old American museum, has the coloured car - blue -with haunting memories, this being the car he died in.

Highlights and landmarks of the trail include:
Mount Olive, Hank Williams' birthplace.
Georgiana - Boyhood Home and museum.

Montgomery - Life-size statue of Hank holding his guitar opposite (Americans say across from) the Municipal Auditorium (now offices) where his funeral was held for 2,750 mourners, with an estimated 20,000 standing outside in the cold.
Oakwood Cemetery nearby has a wreath-laying ceremony on New Year's Day followed by music at the museum.
Alabama's Music Hall of Fame is in Tuscumbria.

Traveller's Calendar
New Year's Day - Oakwood Cemetery and Montgomery Museum
First Saturday in June music celebration.

What else is there to see in Alabama? Any romantic restaurants with mood music and memorabilia or amazing views, or hotels with honeymoon suites? Please tell me.
If anybody can send me a picture of Alabama, its attractions and Hank Williams, or which is out of copyright or available free to journalists and bloggers promoting something suitable. I'd be glad to receive it.

My websites include:

Alabama Tourism Websites:

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