David Preston, Toastmaster for the evening, cast his droll spell over an appreciative (but, sadly sparse) audience. His programme ensured that we were educated, informed and entertained in the usual Shoreline style.
The educational aspect came from our most experienced member, Helen Peate. “How to win an Evaluation Contest” was certainly topical – considering that the Evaluation and International Speech Contests are soon upon us (19th March). I could see why Helen would have been an excellent teacher in more youthful days - because she still is. Hers was a model presentation and she enlivened a potentially dry subject with her clarity, great vocal variety, warmth and enthusiasm.
Nicola Powell (“Welcome to Chile”) had researched the subject of her speech well. How many of us knew that Chile was 4000 km long, from North to South, yet less than 400 km across at its widest point? Her talk was well structured and full of interesting facts. If, as she plans, she eventually visits Chile, she will surely be able to give us some more personal insights into this fascinating country.
As Table Topics Master I followed up on my opening thought for the day as Sergeant at Arms (Percy Bysshe Shelley’s invocation: “Rarely, rarely comest thou; spirit of delight”) and invited my participants to describe when, for example, they were “infused with a feeling of delight”. Michael Shand floundered before asserting that chocolate was the key. Stephen East gave a thoughtful impromptu mini-speech on “confidence, however misplaced” and Helen was “absolutely flabbergasted” by the lax grammar in The Press. Vita Tasman indulged herself with “glaznost”, and our two guests (Wendy and Jed) proved equal to the challenges of “fear or foreboding” and “hope”.
To end proceedings Nicola, to popular acclaim, received the cup for the “most improved speaker” from president Michael Shand. As Michael pointed out, this was a fitting time to give the award because the cup was bought by the club to commemorate Lesley Thompson, a past president who died in the February 2011 earthquake. Helen, who knew her well, has given me some more details: “She was an accomplished speaker, vibrant and attractive and had our Christmas parties at her house before she was killed. She had three teenage children.” She was also, as far as Helen recalls, the only person who has twice been president of Shoreline.