Toastmasters Annual Club Contest – A Record Breaking Turnout!

TFL on Overcrowding Alert
The feverishly anticipated annual Humorous Speech and Table Topic Contests at my local club came around last Thursday night. Transport for London (the city’s underground train service) issued a Code Red warning that Central Line trains to the station nearest my club would be seriously overcrowded between 18:30 and 19:00 hours — at one point the Club Committee held an emergency session to consider relocating to Wembley Stadium…

But seriously… Soon our venue was filled to bursting with enthused members, expectant guests and effulgent contestants. Judges and contestants were briefed and moments later, we were underway…chaired by yours truly.

Armed and Dangerous
Paul, our armed and dangerous Sergeant at Arms (day job: accountant), then delivered a series of rib-ticklers borrowed from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (eg: “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change”).

Humour Competition
We began with the Humorous Speech Contest in which our brave competitors regaled us with speeches that involved motor-cycle rider Dave Death, the ramifications of being rammed by a ram (in a particularly sensitive spot), all that’s wrong with squabs (young pigeons, apparently), how to survive a hangover and why touching your interviewer’s beard is unlikely to land you that dream job.

Many congratulations to Michael, whose well-structured and highly amusing “The Worst Day of my Life” pipped the others and secured him a place in the Area Final.

Impromtu Competition

My Co-Chair, Robin, successfully retrieved the secret Table Topic question, “If I could grant you one wish, what would you wish for?” from a bunker 4,000 feet below a North Korean mountain. It was cleverly and entertainingly answered by all contestants. Jeff triumphed and his ability to think and talk so elegantly on his feet will be tested again on the 27th where he will join Michael at the next Area level contest round.

It was a fun-filled and memorable evening with friendships made and new members signed. Many thanks to everyone who undertook a role. And a big congratulations to all the contestants. It was an evening in which everyone was a winner.

Advertisements

Become a TV Presenter

A few weeks ago, I attended a one-day seminar on Presentation Skills, hosted by the very experienced Brian Naylor of the TV Training Academy, London.

It seemed like a good way to build video skills–and turned out to be an excellent day! The event was filled with useful hints and tips on further resources.

I absorbed advice on how to approach producers, market myself, the expected highs and lows, and the need to never give up. Brian’s speciality? Shopping channels for which he demonstrated fundamental skills, like engaging with your viewers, body language, movement, being believable/trustworthy, holding items to camera and closing the sale.

Some key points

  • communication is 55% visual, 38% tonal – therefore passion, energy, confidence are a must!
  • preparation is key – the hard work is done before you get on camera. Know your subject cold, so you can focus on your presenting
  • the closer the camera shot, the less body movement you should include. Speak with your hands below your waist. Keep your feet still and stable in a power pose
  • look straight down the lens always. Only avert your gaze to look at objects the audience can also see. You can assume you are speaking to an audience of one, so speak/chat as to an equal
  • do your own practice reporting or “pieces to camera” for youtube. Make your own channel. Practice working to time, with props, mic technique and in different locations
  • bring your own area of expertise to your personal brand. Become a topic expert to differentiate yourself
  • recommended text: “The Charisma Myth”

Lots to think about and a day well spent! Brian’s explanations were incisive, useful and illustrated with great demonstrations. If you’re interested in improving your presentation skills, my experience with the TV Training Academy was positive.  You can visit their site and view clips at youtube.

 

Turns out I’m British too…

Although I’m American, by birth and by blood, I’m also something else too: my mother was English.

I recently applied for a British passport – and was approved! Joint citizenship for Americans is now allowed, so I can carry both. It means, in a few weeks, a second passport will be winging it’s way to me. I’ll be the bearer of not one passport, but two!

How did this happen? After filling in many forms and providing much data to show 1) I am me, and 2) I am related to my mother, I was granted approval to ‘naturalise’ as a British citizen. Yesterday, I attended the all-important naturalisation ceremony to receive a shiny new paper, confirming the same.

It was a lovely event, with a prominent citizen from my locality addressing and welcoming us all, cups of tea and biscuits afterwards, and a view over a verdant park. A quiet day to reflect.

Has this changed me at all? In a bureaucratic sense, possibly. Both halves of me are now recognised by relevant bureaucratic powers.

And yet fundamentally, there is no change. I am who I am, one man from two sides of a very large pond. I savour cool Jack Daniels as deeply as a room-temperature Glenmorangie. I drift away to Hotel California as effortlessly as I do to Stairway to Heaven.  And I enjoy Hemingway and Proulx, as much as I admire Austen and Conan Doyle.

These halves of me – they’ve been here all along.

Receiving my British Citizenship Certificate from Lady Arnold

 

 

 

Ben Meets Mike Storkey, Toastmasters International President

Last Wednesday, I met the President… Mike Storkey, President of Toastmasters International. And in my opinion, he trumps most other presidents!

An Afternoon at Toastmasters

I spent the afternoon of this hesitant spring Wednesday at a Toastmasters event in Docklands, one of London’s shiny business centres.

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. Clubs can be community based, themed (by language or profession for example), or corporate (clubs open to employees of a certain company).

Mike Storkey was the keynote speaker at this event and glided through his presentation with a pleasing Australian lilt, handling with finesse a wide range of questions in the Q&A that followed. He gave tips on how to launch new clubs, focusing on the challenges of launching corporate clubs in particular.

My Favourite Quote

When trying to persuade your head of HR to sponsor a corporate Toastmasters Club, he warned you’re likely to be asked,

“But what if we expend a lot money and effort to train someone to be an excellent speaker, presenter, leader…and then they leave the company?”

Mike’s recommended answer?

“But what if you don’t train them…and they stay?

A Focus on Leadership Development As Well

One clear message was that Toastmasters doesn’t exist just to help you improve your public speaking—though many people join for that reason. It’s there to build many different skill sets, amongst which leadership features prominently. Pathways, a new programme being rolled out across regions over the next two years, will offer a modern and effective way of helping you achieve diverse goals.

Mike made the point that because of the leadership development benefits that accrue, everyone should also consider becoming a club official: it offers yet another opportunity to build your skill-set in a safe environment. “Imagine,” he pondered, “you get old and decrepit and ask yourself the what if question: What if I’d taken the trouble to improve this or that skill? Where would I be now?”

The best speech Mike ever heard?

Of course he’d heard thousands and admitted sometimes finding it easier to remember a speaker’s face than their words. The most memorable speech for Mike, however, was one that left him thinking about things very differently: the speech given by Mark Brown at the Toastmasters’ World Championship in 1995, entitled “A Second Chance”.

Pausing, he added, “I think The Gettysburg Address was the best speech I ever read, because it was short and powerful.”

Why Ben Joined Toastmasters

I myself joined about two years ago and never looked back. As an author, I know it’s critical for me to have presentation skills – but indeed, it’s invaluable to for almost everyone, no matter what your walk of life. There are clubs all over the world. Take a look and see if there’s a club near you!

 

Happy….

Happy…Lunar Year of the Chicken!

Hurrah, we all get another chance to make our new year’s resolutions!

Have you made yours yet? I have. Mostly about fitness and getting a new book ready for release. I’ve made it to yoga class three weeks in a row and am busy editing away. I’m on my way!

What are your new year’s re-resolutions?

What plans have you made?

All the best wishes for a new wonderful year from,

Ben

Author Event: Ben at the Travelling Through Bookshop

ben-reads-ch1-trav-thru-bkshp_7oct16

Ben was one of three authors this evening who were selected by Novel London to read the opening chapter of their latest novel at the Travelling Through Bookshop and Cafe. The event was packed to standing capacity only.

This event’s theme was “an evening of international fiction”. A recording will be uploaded at Novel London soon, as well as at their Youtube site!

Novel London is a literary event where writers read their opening chapter to an intimate audience. The evening features a diversity of novelists and takes place in bookshops and venues in central London.

Did you miss the event? Sign up to join Ben’s private mailing list and be the first to know about future events with Ben!

Ben Live at the Travelling Through Bookshop – Tomorrow Fri Oct 7th!

Join Ben tomorrow

FRIDAY 7th OCTOBER 2016.

He’ll be reading Chapter 1 from his novel, Something In The Water

at the Travelling Through Bookshop and Cafe.

131 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7AE

6:00 – 7:30pm

See you there!

 

GETTING THERE

Travelling Through Bookshop and Cafe is located close to Waterloo Station, on Lower Marsh Road. It is a modern fusion of independent bookshop, cafe, culture hub and art space with a specific focus on world culture, art and travel.

To view previous recordings, please go to http://bit.ly/1E7yU1k

Join us the Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/1WoNZUz

Follow us on Twitter @Novel_London

Or visit the website: www.novellondon.co.uk

This is a free event but please purchase a drink of snack from the bar during the breaks.

A very special thank you to our sponsor, Reedsy: