Report by: Kevin Walsh.
On the evening of Tuesday, November 6th, when the members and friends of Fermoy Toastmasters Club gathered to host the annual Area Humorous Speech and Topics Contest and to welcome visiting participants and judges from the Mallow and Charleville Clubs, the club displayed the spirit and resilience and strength of character and great warmth of heart that has carried it forward and sustained it all through the past almost five decades. The two speech contestants chosen at the club competition a fortnight before were both feeling unwell and precluded from attending. This posed a serious difficulty to our outstanding Meeting Organiser Padraig Murphy and to the entire club having to fill this gap at such very short notice. However once again the members rose magnificently to the occasion and both Jerry Hennessy and Michael Sheehan reprised their speeches from that earlier occasion and represented the club with honour and distinction.
Success on the night belonged entirely to our fraternal and ever welcome visitors from Mallow as Pat Sexton and Ray Ryan carried away the top honours in the Topics Contest addressing the subject of the relationship of the fantasy world of TV soap operas with the reality of life while Kieran Butler and Claire O’Connell were First and Second placed speakers respectively in the Humorous Speech Contest. A large attendance and a great atmosphere made for a memorably pleasant and enjoyable occasion. Contests form an integral part of the Toastmasters calendar and are an opportunity to celebrate our ideals of proficiency of expression, clarity of mind and effectiveness of delivery in a very powerful and meaningful way. But it only forms a very small part of everything that we do in Toastmasters. For in this club and throughout our entire organisation everyone is a winner.
The recipe is so simple and yet so very beautiful. Our club just like every other in the world has no existence outside of a coming together of friends. Every two weeks on alternate Tuesdays between September and May we gather at the riverside Fermoy Youth Centre for our enjoyment. An enjoyment that is never diluted but rather so greatly increased by actively sharing in it with others. You can never be a Toastmaster on your own. It is a social activity, a coming together to communicate, to interact, to have fun and to build friendship. Its power rests on a free giving by so many wonderful people of their time, talents, energy and commitment so that for two hours every two weeks we can all participate in something that so enhances our lives and makes us so much happier. It is so easy for anyone to sit on their hands and find excuses for doing nothing and people who are good at making excuses are seldom good for anything else. The challenge of Toastmasters is not that it seeks to take you out of your comfort zone but rather to expand that comfort zone with a new focus and dedication and a real sense of adventure so that together each and every one of us can discover and improve the very best of what we can be and what we have to offer in every sphere of our lives.
We come together to enable all of us to grow and to become stronger and better people by reaching our fullest potential together. We build each other up with enthusiasm and with enjoyment in a spirit of mutual support and goodwill. Quite simply we are all about having fun and in that way to learn more about ourselves and our fellow-members and dear friends on the shared road of happier and more fulfilled living. Each evening there are three or four prepared speeches all drawn from the various manuals that set a challenge to the speaker: a brief introduction of yourself and a flavour of your life so far in your introductory Icebreaker maiden speech. Then in other assignments you are asked to use words constructively and effectively so as to convey your meaning all the better and with greater vigour and clarity. The use of body language and hand gestures to underline the depth and truth of your message. To vary the tone and rate of your speaking voice so as to hold the attention of your audience and to bring your listeners all the further into the mystery of your thoughts and the depth of your insights you are bringing to them.
At another time the focus is on the use of eye contact emphasizing the importance of looking around the room and establishing a natural and stimulating closeness with your audience. In another assignment you may be asked to make a presentation on a subject you have researched and have attained an understanding of its significance or perhaps to make a speech that will uplift and inspire your audience to follow a goal or challenge that holds a special and vibrant place in your heart. For that is where it all is – with generosity of spirit, each giving freely of our time and effort to give something to our fellow-members and friends and to reach into the heart and find there a lovely and delightful common warmth that makes our journey together such a pure joy and pleasure. The more you give, the more you receive.
The joy of the spoken word: who can doubt it? Ask any Mother and they will tell you what a magical moment it is when their baby utters the first clear and intelligible word. It is usually Mama or the joyful simplicity of THE. And when that voice is heard for the first time uttering the beauty of the spoken word, when a tender young mind embarks on that great journey of self-expression, when the first words are sent fluttering through the air it is a moment of unalloyed wonder and pure joy as a new guest at the banquet of life announces their presence in this strange, precious and beautiful world, a world where we all belong and are called upon to make a unique and very special contribution that each of us can. And once that first beginning has been made there is no turning back.
What an amazing thing it is that that there is only one of every one of us in the world. Among all the global teeming billions You and I are special and irreplaceable, there is only one of us now at this moment and there never was before and never will be again. We are performing live now at this very moment on the great stage of life and the world. In Toastmasters you come to a deeper realisation of this dazzling and brilliant truth that fills the mind with awe and excitement with the fascination of limitless possibilities. We all learn from each other for we all have so much to give to each other. For every speaker there is an evaluator who offers a thoughtful assessment of how the speaker performed to their task. There is no criticism, but positive feedback with praise for all that has been achieved and one or two pointers as to how things might be done better in future for this is a learning curve without end.
We learn from each so that each within our own selves discovers and utilises to the very fullest all of our talents and abilities to enhance and to further that unique and special and invaluable contribution that we can all make at all times of life not just in Toastmasters but in the wider world of work, family and community activity with a greater fluency, enhanced assurance and with skills of expression and habits of creative and original thought that makes life better and so much more rewarding and satisfying and enjoyable for ourselves and all those around us. Participation in Toastmasters sets us free to be the best people that we can possibly be.
On behalf of our dear Club President Eilish Ui Bhriain and all our friends we look forward to welcoming you to our next meeting by the majestic river that flows as freely as the gift of eloquence. Let us come out of the darkness of winter and enter the warmth and genial light of our meeting room, to a place of smiles, laughter, cheerful togetherness and the ease and comfort of friends happy in each other’s company and never happier than when guests come along to join and expand our ever growing circle of friends. Our next meeting is on this coming Tuesday, November 20th, at 8.15 pm in the Fermoy Youth Centre. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 087 1228684 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com.