Last night I arrived early to our Toastmasters’ meeting at the Carrington Hotel, Katoomba. Just 10 minutes; often I’m running in the door as the meeting begins. I went via the bar and got a drink where a friend arrived who was visiting for the first time. About five minutes later, with our drinks in hand we walked to the Ballroom and Carolyn signed our visitors’ register while I organised a name tag for her.
I was feeling fairly pleased as I was driving from home thinking that I was arriving early and that I’d be organised and ready to contribute well.
As I sat down with Carolyn, the President asked me if I’d act as the Sergeant at Arms; “Yes, that will be fun!” This role requires one to open the meeting (on time), cover the safety procedures and indicate where the facilities are, as well as share the Toastmasters’ Mission which is about providing a supportive learning environment for others to succeed. Quickly checking the time I realised it was 1 minute before our start time. On my way to the podium I introduced myself to a couple of other visitors then opened the meeting – I loved banging that gavel!
As I returned to my seat I realised I hadn’t looked at the agenda and quickly found my name about one third of the way down the page. I was to evaluate the speakers for Table Topics. “Yes, that’s certainly achievable”; I love this part of the meeting which allows members and visitors to stand for 2 minutes and give an impromptu response to a topic chosen by another person. The responses last night were fascinating! They seemed to illicit quite personal, true stories which really moved the audience and got us thinking about our own circumstances. At one point the member doing the timing handed the job to me – “yes, I can do that” – as she stood for her 2 minute speech; I was now doing timing (well just for 2 minutes!) and writing my feedback for those I was evaluating.
The first evaluator rose and gave her feedback to the ‘odd’ numbered speakers then I stood and delivered responses to those that spoke 2nd, 4th, 6th etc. All was well as I passed back to the Toastmaster.
A recess was called for ten minutes.
I was quickly approached by another member who asked me to give her some specific feedback about a speech she would deliver in about 15 minutes’ time. “Yes, no problem at all Jenny”. After this I wandered over to introduce myself properly to one of the visitors and find out a little more about what brought him here then returned to talk with my friend Carolyn who was now sitting by herself. Suddenly I realised I was supposed to be watching the clock and bringing the meeting back to order! Using my power of estimating elapsed time I decided that 10 minutes must now be up… so I was off to the podium and again with the gavel in hand I invited everyone to be present to the proceedings. Phew!
Before long, Jenny was presenting her speech and as promised I listened carefully and took notes for her for later. The rest of the meeting proceeded quite well until I was called to present as the Grammarian; I quickly realised I hadn’t read the bottom part of the agenda where my name appeared again! I could not present this segment in the traditional way as I had taken no notes or ‘honed into’ the overall grammatical issues of the members. So as an impromptu response I asked the audience to confess their sins and put their hands up if they were guilty of saying Um or Ah during their speaking that night! The audience were gracious in letting me off the hook, however, I feel as though I let the audience down.
On the flip side, we finished the meeting on time, so I did everyone a favour by not speaking! On the learning side, I now realise that I need to be careful about how many times I say ‘yes’ in a meeting and also reconsider arriving early with an attitude of feeling in control!