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.”