Meeting Thursday May 12th

Phillip Khan-Panni

REAL VALUE AT SOCIETY

It was an unusual meeting — a 40 minute panel discussion followed by a 15 minute speech including interruptions. Every bit as good as anything you might get at an Advanced Toastmasters club. Club President Evelyn Khan-Panni lingered just long enough to ensure that all with roles on the agenda were present, before handing over to the Toastmaster, John Burns, who briskly announced the running order.

First out of the blocks was Phillip Khan-Panni, with his final project in the Presentation Mastery Path. He was to lead a 40-minute panel discussion on the theme, “Why do you make a speech?” His hand-picked panellists were Division J Governor, Alan Tracey DTM, newcomer Tiarnan O’Dwyer (online communications expert) and Club President, Evelyn Khan-Panni DTM.

Unsurprisingly, there was some overlap in the ideas of all three and the consensus was:
• Aim to make change in thinking, attitude or behaviour
• Lead people to want the change
• Leave them feeling good
• Keep your own ego out of the way

Dermot Carey heroically packed his evaluation of this extended project into three minutes!

Next up was Emer O’Neill with Managing a Difficult Audience from the Presentation Mastery Path. Her theme was “Something to say”, during which she had to cope with numerous interruptions. She very effectively embraced the hecklers and fitted them in to the points she was making, as remarked her speech evaluator, Fiona Joyce.

Evan Ryan took over as Table Topics Master and set a rapid pace. High energy was the hallmark of the day. Aileen Tighe revealed that her hidden talent was singing (inside her own head); James Watters spoke of a childhood wish to have the freedom of grown-ups; Maree Farrell had to choose between a huge lottery win kept quiet, or a more modest one that she could talk about; Alan Tracey said nostalgia isn’t what it used to be; Dermot Carey declared a passion for the Golden Arches, even on holiday; and Evelyn Khan-Panni told the harrowing tale of being mugged on holiday in Nice.

Double-jobbing as Grammarian, Alan Tracey referenced a family gathering in which his American brother-in-law was silenced by the eloquence of everyone else. A parallel, he said, with the quality of the contributions at this meeting.

The masterful General Evaluation was conducted by visiting Massimo Guadagnino who was struck by the buzz and welcome he senses on arrival at Society Toastmasters. He was made comfortable, learned something useful and had lots of fun. In closing he recommended a mug labelled, “You’re on mute”.

Visiting Area Director, Aileen Tighe, said she was impressed by the panel discussion, which she had never seen before at a Toastmasters meeting. She found it very instructive.

Finally, Club President Evelyn complimented Toastmaster John Burns on leading such a fantastic meeting, and thanked the visiting Toastmasters, including Aileen Tighe, Maree Farrell, Dermot Carey, Mary Burnham, James Watters and Massimo Guadagnino. She said plans were afoot to return to in-person meetings, and called for volunteers to fill the next year’s committee.

The next meeting of Society Toastmasters will be on Thursday 26th May at 7:15 p.m. On Zoom.

Meeting Thursday April 28th

Phillip Khan-Panni

April 28 is a notable day, marking the anniversaries of the notorious Mutiny on The Bounty and the escape from prison of the gunfighter, Billy the Kid. In Dublin, Society Toastmasters showed character to counter the techno glitches that threatened to disrupt their latest meeting.

With a sang froid that matched the historic anniversaries, Club President Evelyn Khan-Panni shouldered her way through the faulty link that was keeping her out and opened the meeting with a call for volunteers to join the new committee. Describing the all-important role of Sergeant-at-Arms, (who keeps order in meetings), she singled out Sean Browne as the exemplar in that role.

Accepting the virtual gavel as the meeting’s Toastmaster, Vincent MacNally briskly outlined the agenda and welcomed the guests, Tiarnan and Lenin. As well-prepared as ever, Vincent shared some interesting background on each of the officials – Evelyn as Timer and Sean as Grammarian.

When the scheduled first speaker struggled with her internet connection, John Burns opened the batting with a very personal speech, revealingly titled, “Becoming the new John.” It was a frank account of his move from cloud computing consultant to host and now National Director of The Gyft Show. The outcome has been exponential improvement in his self-assurance.

His Speech Evaluator, Alan Tracey, complimented his transition from “diffident” to “different” and urged him to speak from bullet points rather than a script.

Next up was Fiona Joyce with her speech, “Can you hear me?” It was another personal speech, describing her struggle with a too-quiet voice – a battle she is clearly winning. Sadly, her poor internet connection interfered with her demonstration of breathing from the diaphragm.

Her Speech Evaluator, Michael Dolan, commended her improved vocal variety and urged her to repeat the speech, with its body language, at an in-person meeting.

The Table Topics were presented by Phillip Khan-Panni who, as required by the Active Listening Pathways project, evaluated each speaker in turn.

Michael Dolan said he had never actually met Elvis, but told a parallel tale about Muhammad Ali. Pat Caslin revealed his response to the shock of a MS diagnosis. Alan Tracey spoke of unexpectedly encountering a hero of his, but declined to reveal his identity. Sean Browne said the decision he most regretted was to have a curry that attacked all his senses.

Asked about the most sensible thing he had heard anyone say, first-timer Tiarnan revealed that his wife knew best about undercoats when painting the house. Lenin, another first-timer, said that certain kinds of music and its riffs always made him smile. Vincent MacNally took the final topic and disclosed that he would be aged 21 if he didn’t know how old he actually was.

The General Evaluator was Pat Caslin, visiting Club President from Dun Laoghaire, who acknowledged the techno glitches that had interrupted but not marred the meeting. He thought all tasks were carried out to a very high standard and complimented the Table Topics Master for his feedback. “Take what you hear and find meaning” he quoted from the manual. “This club (Society),” he added, “has character.”

Meeting Thursday April 14th

Phillip Khan-Panni

MAUNDY THURSDAY AT SOCIETY

Easter week and our ranks were thin, with members organising their egg hunts and preparing for a surfeit of chocolate. In England the Queen was dishing out the Maundy money, but in Dublin the queen of Society Toastmasters, Evelyn Khan-Panni, was presiding over one of the season’s more enjoyable meetings.

Toastmaster of the day was Phillip Khan-Panni, who foresaw the day when Zoom suits were out. He got proceedings under way with a warm up that broke the ice and revealed each person’s preferred means of transport.

Timer was Michael Dolan, Grammarian was Emer O’Neill and the General Evaluator was the visiting Jim Watters, a long-standing Toastmaster who once took a break that lasted only three months before he was back.

The first speech was delivered by John Burns (currently VPE) whose speech, The GYFT Show, was about his own life-changing event, following two years of self-development. And what progress he has made since he became a professional speaker!

With a typically incisive evaluation, Alan Tracey described him as an under-rated speaker who could (and should) reveal more about the GYFT project and his own role in its development.

The second speech, by Vincent MacNally was an intriguing account of his time as the protégé of someone whose initials were GOD. What he learned, he declared, was that we should all become better listeners and more “agile”.

His speech evaluator was Club President, Evelyn Khan-Panni, who praised his gravitas and the value of the business advice in his speech.

Double-jobbing Michael Dolan ran a lively Table Topics session. Both Evelyn and Emer O’Neill spoke about the significance of Easter, Alan Tracey chose Tina Turner’s song, Simply the Best, as his preferred theme, and Jim Watters came down in favour of the new legislation on the sale of turf. Emer liked the revival of Derry Girls and Phillip thought he’d be a Boxer if he had to become a dog.

Vincent picked Jack Reacher as Most Under-rated Film and both John Burns and Jim Watters offered their choices of songs to hear in Hell, including Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Heaven Can Wait.

Emer’s Grammarian Report included some detailed comments on the speeches, and Jim Watters gave a perceptive and encouraging General Evaluation. In particular he liked the Warm Up, the Timer’s recommendation that Topics should last more than one minute, and the fact that Table Topics were allotted a full 20 minutes. In conclusion, he hoped we would soon be meeting in person again, saying that being a Toastmaster was all about the Club, and what we do at that level.

Meeting Thursday March 24th

Phillip Khan-Panni

APPROACHING SUMMER TIME

Society’s final meeting before the clocks go forward was most enjoyable and, in the words of the General Evaluator, “of a consistently high standard.”

Club President, Evelyn Khan-Panni, opened with a reminder that were in Contest season, and that Society Toastmasters would be hosting the Area 2 Contests (International Speech and Evaluation) next Thursday, 31st March. Phillip Khan-Panni and Evan Ryan will represent the club in both contests.

Fiona Joyce took over as Toastmaster of the Day, in only her second time in the role. Very much in charge of her brief, she had two veterans in support, with Michael Dolan as Timer and Vincent MacNally as Grammarian. His word of the day, “convivial”, was well applied during the meeting and, in his report at the end, he remarked on how easy it was to be Grammarian in this club because of the high standard of language used by its members.

Speaker No.1 was Emer O’Neill who, we learned, grew up in Galway but had travelled widely in places such as Germany and Luxembourg. Her speech, “Laughter is the best medicine”, included some childhood revelations including being smacked by a teacher for laughing to cope with a serious moment.

Her speech evaluator, Patricia O’Reilly, confessed to laughing out loud, even when alone, and commiserated with Emer over her experiences with educators who didn’t get it.

Speaker No.2 was Sean Browne, who addressed the question of “Coach, Mentor or Both”, and lamented the difficulty in finding a good mentor. His own best mentor was his elder brother, Shay, whose guidance enabled him to become Ireland’s first gold medal winner in swimming at Coventry.

His speech evaluator, John Burns, complimented his story-telling skill and especially his ability to evoke a visceral feeling in his listeners.

Launching a convivial Table Topics session, Phillip Khan-Panni offered a succession of aphorisms for comment.

Michael Dolan agreed we should “measure twice, cut once” and remarked that it was worth re-visiting any matter several times before making a final decision.
Alan Tracey commented that “he who hesitates is lost”, especially when cycling on a narrow path, as he had to when a callow youth.
Evelyn Khan-Panni considered “the difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones”, especially when they formed the means of crossing a stream or river.
Fiona Joyce continued the river crossing theme, agreeing that “the one who knows the water best is the one who has waded in it.”
Vincent MacNally thought that although “tiny raindrops never dry when they mix with the sea”, yet they have little chance of changing the nature of the sea.
Patricia O’Reilly tackled the age-old question of whether genius is inspiration or perspiration and considered whether a genius like Mozart is born or made. The jury is still out, she said.

Alan Tracey was the General Evaluator, and was full of praise for all who took part, in particular for the preparation undertaken by all who took on a role. His compliments included such terms as elegant, proficient, sets the bar high, and well prepared. Looking ahead, he urged every member to bring one other person to the next meeting.

Concluding the meeting, Evelyn Khan-Panni thanked the General Evaluator for helping to maintain high standards.

Guanxi: what Networking should be about

Phillip Khan-Panni

Much of the Networking I have observed in the West is quite aggressively self-centred. It would never work in the East, where ‘connections’ are about ‘I know a man who can’, rather than ‘Why don’t you refer me business?’

Guanxi is a Chinese word that means a social network and influential relationships that can facilitate business dealings.

It is about a balance of favour — having a relationship with someone you feel able to ask for a favour, or call in a favour for you. The favour has to be returned, of course, because it is the honourable thing to do, and because reciprocal favours are the currency of friendship.

The key element is the relationship of trust that must first be established without the expectation of gain.

Another important element is ‘Face’. When you oil the wheels for a friend, you gain Face. It requires cultural sensitivity to operate under such unwritten rules, but they do allow relationships to endure over very long periods, and to repay favours without being asked.

Such behaviour creates a growing network in which the lines are strong, and all who are within it feel part of the same community, committed to mutual support. Key elements are Trust, Face and, of course …

Respect.

That is the key concept that enables cross cultural communication. It lies at the heart of Guanxi.

Something to say

Phillip Khan-Panni

When Ruth Prawer Jhabvala died, in her obituary I recognised a kindred spirit. She had to write. Author of a dozen novels and scriptwriter for the Merchant Ivory films such as Shakespeare Wallah and Howards End, she said, “One doesn’t choose to become a write. One is just born that way.”

It’s easy to identify with that. Like her, I have something to say. At boarding school it got me called a gasbag, but I turned that to advantage by becoming a speaker. These days I refer to myself as a Wordsmith, having used words for most of my working life, in sales, in copywriting, in public speaking, and in imparting those skills to others.

I have written a dozen books as well as countless articles and blogs. Analysing what I do on a computer, I realised that it is principally Word, Emails, Blogs and contributions to social media. Writing.

The balance, however, is shifting. Most of my wordsmithing has tended, in recent years, to be about others’ concerns. Helping others with their speeches and presentations, for example, is about their concerns, their ideas, their initiatives. Gradually I am finding time to express what is inside my own head.

Writers like Ruth Prawer Jhabvala have a compulsion to set down on paper not only what they think, know and feel, but also how events of the day should be expressed. It takes a certain kind of self-assurance to do that, a conviction that their point of view is valid and, if you excuse an expression I use, that nobody says it better.

For many years I avoided committing myself wholly to writing for a living, perhaps for fear of proving to be less good than I thought I was. Aged 15 I received the greatest compliment of my school days when the Professor of English at the University Department of my College, a Canadian Jesuit called Fr Joseph Killoran, called me the best writer of English prose in his experience.

It has taken decades for me finally to declare that I have something of my own to say. And I shall be writing it.

On occasion, I shall also be saying it, in my speeches.

Use language that’s written to be said

Phillip Khan-Panni

Every once in a while I come across a phrase that says exactly what I have in mind, with all the economy and beauty of poetry, and if it comes from someone else, I borrow it — but acknowledge the source.  For example Peggy Noonan, speechwriter to US Presidents, once said,

“You must be able to say the sentences you write.”

So simple, yet so profound.  If you remember that sentence every time you sit down to write a speech or presentation, you’ll make a big improvement. I say: “The text that’s written to be said is different from the text that’s written to be read.” So write for the ear.

Language

The text for a speech should have these 6 characteristics:

1.  It must be your own

2.  It must be easy to speak

3.  It must be easy to understand

4.  It must make mental pictures

5.  It must have energy

6.  It must contain memorable phrases

I shall deal with the last item on another occasion, but let’s tackle each of the other points as they fall.

1.  Make it your own

Your speech must be as close as possible to your normal conversational style, minus the verbal crutches, slang and swearing that might pepper your conversation with mates in the pub.

2.  Make it easy to speak

Try saying this sentence out loud:

If you are faced with a potentially hostile audience, if appropriate ask the person who invited you to indicate the audience’s opinion of you and your topic, as well as the names of any especially troublesome participants.

The individual words are not unusual, but the way they are grouped together makes the sentence unwieldy.  Also, the meaning is unclear.

3. Make it easy to understand

Remember, you will be speaking at 120-150 words a minute, or so, having thought out what you want to say.  Your audience will hear your words just once.  At 120-150 words a minute.  Every minute.  On and on.  Until you stop.  Why not meet them halfway and make it easy to understand what you are driving at?

4.  Make mental pictures

Avoid negative phrasing and abstract terms.  They do not make pictures in the minds of your listeners. Consider the difference between these two:

  • He was always busy, persistently acquiring knowledge and modifying his behaviour according to the mores of each new discipline, and benefiting from them in the process.
  • Like a tireless bumble bee sipping nectar from flower after flower, he soaked up knowledge from every possible source, growing and developing as he did so.

5.  Give it energy

Since the purpose of your speech must be to bring about change in the thinking, attitude or behaviour of your listeners, you must be persuasive, and that can only be achieved if you speak with energy. You cannot expect to achieve your purpose if your words imply, “Here it is.  Take it or leave it.”

6.   Deliver memorable phrases

The listening public expects pithy, memorable phrases that work almost like slogans. Advertising copywriters have recognised this trend, and they create brand awareness through memorable (if sometimes meaningless) slogans.

  • Go to work on an egg
  • It’s good to talk
  • Beware of Jeep imitations

Politicians’ speechwriters are strong on memorable catchphrases such as:

  • The pound in your pocket
  • You’ve never had it so good
  • This lady’s not for turning

In summary, make your text about an idea that belongs to you, is easy to say and easy on the ear, with word pictures and some memorable phrases.

How can I be worth hearing?

Phillip Khan-Panni

Do you make presentations? Of course you do, whether it’s to sell a product or service or just to propose an idea. Here’s a simple 8-point guide to getting it right.

First, let me urge you to lose the idea that such presentations are to impart information.  If that is your objective, send an email.  It’s quicker, cheaper, more efficient.

The true purpose of a presentation – any presentation – is to bring about change.  Change in the thinking, attitude or behaviour of those present.  So here’s a brief outline of the essentials of making a presentation that’s worth hearing.

There are eight important ingredients in a successful presentation, indicated by my acronym, OH AM I SAD (which you will be if you don’t do something like this).

O: Outcome or Objective.  Start with the end in view.  What do you want people to do when you have finished?  Write it down.

H: Hook.  Sometimes called the Grabber.  It’s something that you do or say to grab attention at the start, in much the same way as the Headline on a press advertisement.  It says, “Stop! Pay attention, this is for YOU!”

A:  Audience.  Make it directly relevant to the group you are addressing, taking account of their needs, interests and anxieties.  If you have a multi-cultural audience, keep the language simple and try to avoid too much use of metaphor.  

M: Message.  It’s not your information that matters, but rather its significance.  Tell them what they should think about what you are saying, and how it will affect them. Summarise your message in a single sentence that you want people to carry away and remember.  Write it down and make it the focus of your presentation.

I: Interest.  You have their attention, and you are focused on where you want to lead them. Maintain the flow and keep their attention by relating everything to their interests.  For every fact you put across, answer the “So what?” question.

S: Structure.  It is essential to follow a structure, both to keep yourself on track and to enable your listeners to follow you.  A simple structure, such as Past, Present, Future, will be easy for them to remember and reconstruct your presentation.

A:  Action.  What did you want them to do after hearing you?  Make it clear.  Don’t expect them to work it out for themselves.

D: Delivery.  Pay attention to the way in which you deliver your presentation.  Spend time rehearsing, listen to a recording of your presentation and make sure you are not boring, then make an effort to be heard clearly.  Every presentation is a performance, and no one has the right to be boring.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be worth hearing. 

Something to say

Phillip Khan-Panni

When Ruth Prawer Jhabvala died, in her obituary I recognised a kindred spirit. She had to write. Author of a dozen novels and scriptwriter for the Merchant Ivory films such as Shakespeare Wallah and Howards End, she said, “One doesn’t choose to become a write. One is just born that way.”

It’s easy to identify with that. Like her, I have something to say. At boarding school it got me called a gasbag, but I turned that to advantage by becoming a speaker. These days I refer to myself as a Wordsmith, having used words for most of my working life, in sales, in copywriting, in public speaking, and in imparting those skills to others.

I have written a dozen books as well as countless articles and blogs. Analysing what I do on a computer, I realised that it is principally Word, Emails, Blogs and contributions to social media. Writing.

The balance, however, is shifting. Most of my wordsmithing has tended, in recent years, to be about others’ concerns. Helping others with their speeches and presentations, for example, is about their concerns, their ideas, their initiatives. Gradually I am finding time to express what is inside my own head.

Writers like Ruth Prawer Jhabvala have a compulsion to set down on paper not only what they think, know and feel, but also how events of the day should be expressed. It takes a certain kind of self-assurance to do that, a conviction that their point of view is valid and, if you excuse an expression I use, that nobody says it better.

For many years I avoided committing myself wholly to writing for a living, perhaps for fear of proving to be less good than I thought I was. Aged 15 I received the greatest compliment of my school days when the Professor of English at the University Department of my College, a Canadian Jesuit called Fr Joseph Killoran, called me the best writer of English prose in his experience.

It has taken decades for me finally to declare that I have something of my own to say. And I shall be writing it.

On occasion, I shall also be saying it, in my speeches.

CELEBRATING THE SOCIETY TOASTMASTERS 30th ANNIVERSARY

This year, Society Toastmasters marks its 30 anniversary.  Since 1990, the club has been dedicated to helping people become better speakers and leaders.

“Society Toastmasters provides a supportive and positive environment where members have the opportunity to overcome their fear of public speaking and sharpen presentation skills,” says Beata Molendowska, Club President. 

“Other benefits include the opportunity to increase one’s confidence, build critical thinking skills and become an effective listener,” she says.

Chartered with few members in 1990, Society Toastmasters is located in District 71. The Society Toastmasters meets each Thursday at 7.15 pm at the Charted Accountant House on Pearse Street in Dublin. For more information about the club, please visit our website.

About District 71

District 71  comprises more than 200 corporate and community clubs in Dublin, Ireland. To learn more about District 71 please visit its web.

About Toastmasters International 

Toastmasters International is a worldwide nonprofit educational organization that empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. Headquartered in Englewood, Colo., the organization’s membership exceeds 358,000 in more than 16,800 clubs in 143 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit Toastmaster. Follow Toastmaster on Twitter.