Communication and Leadership Skills

Pivot to Persevere – Toastmasters Manly Vale

The theme for our July 22, 2020 St Kieran’s Manly Vale Toastmasters meeting was “pivot”. Our chairperson chose this theme because we’ve all had to pivot our ways of life in the last few months thanks to COVID-19.

We started the meeting with a warm-up, where everyone talked about the theme.  Some members talked about pivoting at work or their career. And others talked about pivoting in their personal life. For example, Karen talked about pivoting from paper to digital publishing in 2010 and how that opened up a whole new world to her.  Paul talked about the “anti-pivot” – so not pivoting – which was a unique approach! And Kesh talked about pivoting from working in retail to his new profession as an accountant.

This was our first Zoom meeting in our new Live-Zoom alternating schedule. We’ve taken this approach to accommodate members who only want to meet in person and members who are only able to meet on Zoom due to  health risks.  As a result, we had a smaller than usual meeting, with 12 members. The up side of a small group is that everyone gets to participate.

A Toast to Victoria

David provided the toast and revealed that despite his many years at Toastmasters, including as our president, he had never given the toast before.  He talked about the challenges Victoria is facing right now with the second wave of COVID-19 and community transmissions. We toasted to Victoria getting the job done for the good of Australia!

May our Comments be Germane

Kieron had the role of grammarian this meeting and introduced the word of the day – “germane” which means “being relevant and appropriate” or “pertinent”. 

Scott E used the word twice during the meeting. The rest of us didn’t step up to the plate! 

The Secret of Rapport Building

Scott delivered the first of two prepared speeches planned for the night.  Scott’s speech was an assignment from his Pathways course and required him to give a speech, seek feedback and then deliver another speech in the future taking the feedback on board.

Scott discussed how to use rapport building to get your way and shared a story about using these techniques to try to score a free beer from a pub. He spoke about ways to build rapport that included techniques like mirroring body language as well as pace and tone of language. 

One of the most compelling stats he shared was that 78% of what we communicate is through body language, 15% through voice and 7% through words. 

Natural Language Processing

Bacchus delivered the second prepared speech of the night on Natural Language Processing.  Essentially, it’s about using data science to achieve an outcome.

The example he used – and we all agreed it was a fascinating one – was how Natural Language Processing could be used to determine which Trump tweets were from Trump himself and which ones were written by someone else.  

Table Topic Challenge 

Kesh took a different approach to Table Topics this week and it worked surprisingly well. I say it was surprising because:

  • He announced what the topic was
  • Gave us a minute to think about it
  • Then had each member speak about it

And the real kicker was he challenged each of us to speak for 2 minutes!

Table Topics is a session whereby members practice impromptu speaking. A member is given a topic, with not time to prepare, and must speak spontaneously about that topic for 1-2 minutes.

The challenge of Kesh’s Table Topic session was speaking for 2 minutes and not repeating what the member (s) before you said!

The topic was, “Which style of Toastmasters meeting to you prefer and why – in person or Zoom?”

The session worked really well, with most members achieving the 2 minutes and offering differing perspectives. There was very little repetition. 

The consensus was that most members prefer in-person meetings. We like moving around, being together and being able to read body language (a critical part of communication, as Scott had shared earlier). That being said, we all see the value of improving our communications skills on Zoom.

You’re Invited!

I hope these meeting summaries give you a flavour of what our meetings and culture are like at St Kieran’s Manly Vale. We meet on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month.  We’d love to have you as our guest. Simply email our VP Membership, Eva Meagher, for more details.  Link is on our home page or email toastmastersmanlyvale at outlook dot com

(Why do we write the email address that way? So that we can avoid phishing/spam bots!).


Karen Robertson. Toastmasters St Kieran’s Manly Vale VP PR.