They say there’s always a first time for everything – On Tuesday 13th December I took the role of the Toastmaster for the first time. I had the pleasure to lead about 15 club members and 4 guests through an exciting evening.
Having been assigned the role already few weeks before the meeting, I had had enough time to plan everything and “stalking” club members to ask them if they’d be willing to take roles. As a result, the agenda was full and no vacant roles had to be assigned on the very last minute. Needless to say, as Tuesday approached I felt quite nervous all the same.
On that day I arrived half an hour prior to the meeting in order to help our awesome Sergeant at Arms Jutta Mohr to prepare the room and welcome everyone with a big smile… that concealed my nervousness. I did my best to welcome and thank everyone personally for coming and brief all those who had picked a role. Being it my first time I didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
At about 7:40 p.m. Johannes opened the meeting on behalf of the President. He welcomed all members and guests warmly. Then the moment came I had been fearing and looking forward too at the same time: I had the stage all to myself.
I explained why I chose “Change you cannot accept vs. Accept what you cannot change” as a motto for the evening and how this could relate to Toastmasters as well. After that I had the pleasure to announce the prepared speeches and their evaluators, relying on the information I had gathered from all of them before the meeting.
The first prepared speech was held by a special guest: Thomas, a member of the Cologne Club who used live in Aachen and was there when our club was founded. His exciting speech was about his very first adventure. And no, he didn’t talk about an adventurous journey abroad he had in his early twenties. His first adventure took place before, as he ran away from kindergarten with his mate at the age of 5. I had lots of fun listening to him, especially as he portrayed his grandma’s reaction when he and his friend showed up at her place while the police were after them.
The second prepared speech was highly entertaining as well. In her brilliant ice-breaking speech Katharina told us about her first scuba diving class. She managed to convince us that close encounters with marine life can be worth feeling anxious and seasick on the boat before diving and having to squeeze into a tight diving suit. I’m looking forward to hear more speeches by Katharina!
The third and last speaker, Martin, leveraged his story-telling and sales-pitching skills to explain how the innovative product sold by his company can make a difference in people’s lives. He told the story of how he and his colleagues managed to convince a prospect client who was most skeptical at first.
After the prepared speeches I had the pleasure to welcome on stage Barbara, the Table Topic Master of the evening. Barbara, one of our club’s most experienced members, had put a lot of effort into crafting table topic questions that directly related to the evening’s motto. She called on stage a member, Ashika, and two guests, Skikrant and Jannick. All of them did a great job answering the questions in their in-promptu speeches, especially Ashika, who would be elected best TT speaker later hat evening.
After a well deserved break I introduced the evaluation part, trying to explain why giving and receiving feedback plays such a crucial role at Toastmasters. After that, we listened to Johannes evaluation of Thomas’ speech, to Monika, who evaluated Katharina’s speech and to Sonia – Martin’s evaluator.
Most evaluations were very constructive and accurate – maybe too accurate, as some of the evaluators ran out of time and didn’t manage to mention all the points they had wanted to make. With regard to this, one of the guests shared a very sensible piece of advice: He said that the evaluation of a prepared speech should be more like a massage and encouraged evaluators to try to get the big picture instead of clinging to all details. This might involve leaving out some comments you’ve written down and choosing just 2 or 3 of them. I definitely need to make a mental note of this, as evaluating prepared speeches is still one of the tasks I consider more challenging.
After that I concluded my part, feeling happy and relieved that everything had gone more or less well, and we hadn’t experienced too many “awkward moments”.
To round it all off I can say that I really had fun and enjoyed being master of ceremonies. I will definitely do it again, but next time I will choose a topic that not only makes a great incipit and conclusion, but can also serve as a red thread for entire meeting.