Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Welcome to Harrovians’ Twelve Table Topic Tuesday

said the alliterative agenda, ‘lovingly designed by Witty Warren’,

at Harrovians Toastmasters May 5th 2008:

report by Angela Lansbury

President ‘Tireless Tie-less Tony ’ regrets the absence of Grammarian ‘Lovely Lorna ’. He says, ‘We are going to have less speeches tonight.’

From the front row I instinctively mutter my own grammar correction, ‘Fewer!’

Tony, hearing, grins good-humouredly, ‘Angela, our impromptu grammarian, says I should say fewer. Thank you for that, Angela.’

‘Instead of speeches tonight we shall have twelve table topics, prepared by Saley who I saw preparing excellent table topics for another club. They were very appreciative.

Tonight we have two table topics evaluators, each evaluating six speeches, Inscrutable Indra and Authoress Angela Lansbury.

Speakers include volunteers Maneesha (Queen of Table Topics); Angela; Indra; and Warren.’

Toastmaster of the evening ‘Affable Alan’ introduces timekeeper ‘Firewall Francis and Table Topics Master ‘Sexy Saley’.

Tony and Alan had arranged that Indra and I would both evaluate and therefore also be able to speak and be evaluated by each other.

However, Saley, apparently unaware of this, matched his questions to members of the audience and both Angela and Indra spoke in the second half of the meeting evaluated by Angela.

Angela Evaluating Table Topics (Impromptu two minute speeches):

First table topics speaker was Frances. He just had a wonderful birthday party (to which members of Harrovians were invited). How old are you? Forty!

Forty wonderful years - and then it culminates in the speech we heard tonight!

A wonderful speech.

He told a humorous anecdote - about telling the time using a cow’s udders, which kept our attention. We were totally tense, all the way through, wondering what he was going to do with the cow’s udders (which he pushed aside to tell the time). Then a brilliant punchline, (pushing the cow’s udders aside – he could see the village clock). Visual, memorable. Transfixing.

I was next. Is anybody going to evaluate me? No? Well, then I’ll have to evaluate myself. (Laughter.)

This is not difficult. I was the best. (Laughter.)

I was asked to give an eggciting speech about eggs. So I described how I’d like to receive the most eggsciting Faberge egg with diamonds. But while waiting for the millionaire to buy me Faberge eggs, I’ll describe how you decorate ordinary boiled eggs for Easter time. Any time. A very useful speech which gave you helpful information - because I am a teacher. I am such good value. I give free lessons at Toastmasters every time.

I could have told a personal story. About how shocked I was on a writing holiday hearing a story about somebody being covered in chocolate. A first person story. I thought the narrator was going to be eaten alive, killed. At the end you find out the narrator is a chocolate egg.

I didn’t tell that personal story. But it didn’t matter. Because I did something else. I gave a different - brilliant speech. (Laughter.)

I gave information. On how to decorate eggs using non-toxic food colouring. What can I say about it? I was wonderful. The only person who told you something valuable. I was the best. Eggscellent.

After that we had Mandip. He did very well - considering he had to follow my amazing speech. (Laughter.)

Commend. First he held his hands in front.

Then he held them behind. Like Prince Charles. Very good to hold your hands behind. Makes you stand up straight. Little people, like me and Mandip, we have to wear high heeled shoes, and stand up straight, to command attention. To be seen. And to feel important! (Laughter.) And therefore feel and look confident.

Tall people like Francis do the reverse. They bend over, and talk down to the audience, indulgently, condescendingly, like this. Listening hard, with eyebrows raised, as if you, in the audience, are all half-witted, lisping five-year-olds. (Laughter.)

Back to Mandip. Mandip made up statistics – and told us he’d made them up. Then he did it again – he made up another statistic. He told us he had made it up.

He did something remarkable. He set a precedent, which influenced the next speaker. He even influenced speakers later, way down the line. Soon everybody was making up statistics.

That’s the sign of a leader. A man of influence.

(Maneesha heckles: And power.)

Maneesha says Power. Yes, that’s right, Maneesha. You sit next to ‘Mandip - The Man of Power’!

Now, our visitor – an excellent speech, delivered joyfully, to new people in a new place. Confident and happy. Copied Mandip’s idea of statistics. Only one comment or recommend to make your speech even better next time:

You spoke much of the time looking at topics master Saley – as if seeking his approval. Understandable, as he is so handsome. I say that because the Word of the day is ‘handsome’. And because he is so handsome. And he keeps telling us he thinks he is handsome.

But the rest of the people in the audience think they are handsome. Alan thinks he’s handsome. Indra thinks he’s handsome.

Indra probably thinks you’re handsome. To be sure, he’d like you to look at him, turning your handsome face so he can see it. Same applies to the other men in the audience. And the women. So next time let’s all of us in the audience see your handsome face looking at our handsome faces. Apart from that, very good.

Indra gave us information. His speech was almost as good as mine. He tries hard.

Indra was very visual. He rubbed his stomach talking about a pregnant woman. He touched his face talking about eye tests.

He informed us that an eye test costs £5 an eye. Interesting way of looking at it.

Total cost of the eye test £10. Indra always knows the price of everything. Very useful. Practical. Authoritative.

He related to Alan in the audience.

And finished by talking about an ‘incentive’. Which we all need.

Mike was most inventive. What a challenge! He was given a series of words to comment on, beginning with the letter D: denoted, deranged, depressed. He told a personal anecdote (about being made redundant – a sad story made light by a gleeful sense of revenge adding humour).

When he got to the end, he even made up his own word beginning with D. What was it? Decomambulated? Thank you.

Finally, the red light is up but I must comment on Ruth in her stunning red outfit. Co-ordinated. Impressive to look at. Memorable outfit and memorable speech. When she was asked why women have smaller feet, she challenged the question. Not true in her case. We won’t forget her telling us that she wears huge size 8 shoes.

Lastly, before going I must shake hand with Topics Master Saley, on my left (I reach across with my right hand. Toastmaster Alan leaps up and says, ‘No – me!’

I am not fazed but continue speaking, holding Saley’s hand, which I pump up and down, crossing my left hand to my right to clasp Alan’s hand and shake it:) and Toastmaster Alan on my right –oh – I’ve crossed my arms – like New Years Eve – ‘For the Sake of Auld Lang Syne!’ (Laughter.)

Over dinner at nearby Panom Thai restaurant ( somebody asked Indra if he knew that he was supposed to evaluate Angela.

Indra replied, ‘I knew that I was suppose to evaluate the first six speeches. So that was what I did.’

Indra, a civil servant, is a typical rule-follower, as the Myers Briggs personality type analysis clearly explains.

I told Saley that his table topics questions were original and had inspired all the speakers. I asked how long it had taken him to prepare the questions? He said 42 years.

Saley said my evaluation was the best evaluation I had ever given. (In morning after retrospect, I realise this handy catch-all phrase of praise could be used when the person paying the compliment actually meant to damn with faint praise the best speech of a bad bunch.

But from his enthusiastic tone, and my confidence, and the audience feedback I’d had of warm laughter, all through, I assumed he meant my evaluation was good. And that he was right.)

For more information on Harrovians go to their website.
You might also like to look at the Toastmasters (now called Communicators) clubs in Stanmore, Watford, all over London, Singapore, Shanghai, the USA and around the world. For your nearest log onto Toastmasters International Find A Club.
Copyright Angela Lansbury

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