I’ve been a member of Lewes Toastmasters Club for nearly five years now. I’ve passed my Competent Communicator Award and am currently working through my advanced manual. You’d think I would by now be an expert in public speaking – but that’s not the case at all! In fact sometimes I’m horrified at how poor my delivery is. I particularly notice this in the table topics section of the evening.
Table Topics is the fun part of the evening after the main prepared speeches have been delivered. Members are chosen at random to speak impromptu on a subject they are given, for two minutes. Most of the time people wing it. Some people are great speakers and can talk eloquently for two minutes. You can go off on a tangent or find some sort of link with the subject, as long as you keep the momentum going and don’t stop talking. I have never been able to.
Last night I gave the worst speech ever. I was asked to speak for two minutes on the city of Liverpool. It’s a city I’ve visited several times. I watched the docks close in the 80s and the dock area redevelopment. I recently researched the history of Liverpool for one of my books, ‘Every Family Has One’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/EVERY-FAMILY-HAS-Warrington-Joanna-ebook/dp/B015RUZL7Y/ and gained a wonderful insight into the city’s past. ‘Every Family Has One’ opens in Liverpool in the 1970s. A young girl is raped by her Catholic priest. I could have talked about the writing of my Liverpool scenes. I could also have told the audience about my interview with Marks and Spencer in 1987 to enter their graduate training scheme. It was a two day interview at a dockside hotel and I’ve never forgotten everything that happened in those two days. I didn’t get onto their training programme but I did very well to get through to the two day interview.
I also spent several days in Liverpool when my children were young. We visited Speke Hall and Paul McCartney’s childhood home. It’s a fantastic tour that I highly recommend.
The word for the evening (we always have a word for the evening at Toastmasters and try to slip it into our speeches) was RYTHM. How appropriate it would have been in a talk on Liverpool. I could have said “Liverpool is alive with the rhythm” and in the 1960s it was the birthplace of modern music. In the Cavern groups like the Beetles strummed their guitars to small audience before they became a global phenomenon.
Instead of saying of all this what did I say?
I stared at the audience and by way of a cop out I asked them if they could say a few Scouse words. Then I mentioned the TV sit- com Bread and talked about the porcelain chicken basket that sat on the table and then I finished off by saying “Cilla Black came from Liverpool… I’m Clare from Clitheroe.”
Never before have I been so embarrassed at Toastmasters. I had a sleepless night going over everything I said. I think I deserve the award for the crappiest table topics. Table Topics leaves one feeling very exposed, naked almost but that’s because it’s the greatest challenge we, as Toastmasters will face.