Archive for Toastmasters

Meeting Report – 22nd January, 2013

Debate: As A Society We Need to Learn To Demonstrate

Should we protest more?

Paulo was the man of the two and a half hours tonight, and an able man he was. He opened the meeting promptly at 8.03pm and President Susan began the meeting by giving us all some gentle encouragement to

Enter the Tall Tales Competition

She’s right, you should.

There quickly followed the admin of any meeting. Barry, featuring as the worlds most unlikely air hostess, pointed us to the fire exits and warned us to switch off our phones. Since no phones went off throughout the meeting, there is evidence that people were practising the essential Toastmaster skill of listening. Following a brief introduction to the art of Timekeeping from Aengus, the meeting proper got under way.

First up was Mike, who in a rather rousing speech, encouraged us all to bring our speechcraft skills to the masses, and develop skills in others through mentoring programs. Which reminds me, existing members – we need volunteers for mentors. Next up was Rose, who stepped up at the last minute, and put together an interesting and engaging speech about Percy French. Third up was Richard who in a very relevant speech talked about the power of words. All three of these speeches were off stage speeches, always difficult to evaluate. However evaluated they were, and ably so by Elizabeth, Susan and Martin. Each evaluator brought out the positives in the speeches, Elizabeth in particular mentioned several nice examples of specific phrases and alliterations used by Mike. Not to be too nice, all three evaluators also gave good advice on where speakers could improve.

Finally Cian gave his stage five speech, the purpose of which was to bring in body language to make his point. This he did and he did well, with a speech on the psychology of self-defence. His opening was particularly strong, when he woke the audience up by demonstrating how one should yell at an attacker to back off. Nearly sent me scurrying from the room. His speech was evaluated wonderfully by John H, who has recently rejoined the club after a few years absence.  John brought the guidelines of the manual in wonderfully, praised Cian’s speech (praise which was well deserved), and demonstrating the problem himself, gave Cian some feedback on the need to finish speeches in a timely fashion.

After the speeches came the debate. A nice topic this week, not too controversial, not negatively phrased, lots of juicy detail for the debators and the audience to get their teeth into. Mandy was first up for the proposition, and argued her point persuasively in a well structured speech, that really laid out the motion well. Jim opted for the more passionate orator style in his opposition speech, and as usual succeeded well. Then the motion was opened to the floor. There was no wishy washy stuff, everybody spoke firmly either for or against the motion, which is always nice. Martin produced one of my favourite moments of the evening when he pointed out the hazards of demonstrating, people who really don’t deserve entitlements get to keep them simply by being loud, in spite of it being undemocratic, unfair, and bleeding the country dry. After eight contributions from the floor, Jim and then Mandy summed up. Mandy won the motion comfortably, and lo it was time for tea and biccies.

After the tea and biccies came everyone’s favourite part of the evening – Topics.

John G proved himself a master of topics. The topics were varied, they avoided the usual stereotypes, they challenged people, but they didn’t challenge them too much. Particular Kudos goes to the two visitors who spoke – Victor and Julie. Julie in particular got a particularly tricky question that included a Shakespeare quote on the frailty of women, but her response was excellent, and it meant I didn’t get it, which in some ways is the most important thing. I have to say my favourite response to a topic came from Aengus who chose three people to bring to a desert island – Cheryl Cole, Usain Bolt and Barack Obama.

I may see a flaw in that plan there Aengus.

Following the topics, were the evaluations of the speeches, which I’ve already covered. Then Marlene stepped up as em counter. A horrible job, but she did it well. It seems perhaps we made some progress over last week, but there’s still a long long road ahead. Finally there was the general evaluation from Niamh, which summed up the meeting almost as well as this post, and the awarding of the trophies, as follows:

  • Speech – Cian
  • Evaluator – John H
  • Topic – Julie and Victor

and so the meeting ended and we all went home.


Oh What A Year! Jan 8th Meeting Report

Toastmasters Debate

We Are Going Backwards y Becoming Technology Dependent

In spite of the best efforts of the hotel to misdirect our new members, a motley collection of new faces were present to welcome in the new Toastmastering year. Ably guided by the Toastmaster, Barry, the meeting got off to a prompt and energetic start.

First up was Aengus, who gave a fascinating and in depth speech about the history of gun control laws in the US. It was a challenging topic for a stage three speech, but as Rose noted in the evaluation he handled it well and kept it interesting, though it was a little long.

Up next was Marlene, giving her stage six speech, the aim of which is to entertain us with “vocal variety“. And entertain us she did, with a great story about a trip she won at the age of 17. If the drama involved in 17 year olds stranded in a boat that won’t start trying to get back to their sailing ship isn’t a great topic to show your vocal variety, I don’t know what is.

There was quite a change of pace for the final two speeches of the night. Denis practised a three minute speech he is to give at the opening of a very formal and prestigious conference on Friday, and he received some great recommendations from Paulo. The final speech came from Sinéad and was on Ergonomics. Sinéad gave a very thought provoking speech on health and safety in and out of the workplace, though I have to say I’m now a bit worried that I’ll injure myself if I bend over to pick up a pen.

The it was time for the debate . . .

We are going backwards by becoming technology dependent

Myra was first up as the proposer, and she put the case extremely well, discussing how technology interrupts our daily lives and makes it more difficult to really be in the moment and enjoy real interaction with real people. Zanya countered by bringing in the enormous benefits technology in healthcare, food production and transport has brought to human lives. The floor then got involved with several excellent contributions, including the best quote of the night from a guest, Axel who spoke against the motion. I can’t get it word perfect, but a picture is worth a thousand words and what he discussed was the cartoon in the top left corner.

The debate, unusually, but showing the skill of both speakers, ended in a dead heat, and so we adjourned for a tea break.

After the tea break, Brian stepped up as topics master and with a clear knowledge of current affairs generated some great contributions from the floor. Again a guest – Brendan, made the best response, in this case to a question on Pat Kenny and his ability to retire.

The night then finished with the evaluations and an excellent (as always) general evaluation from Mike, who spoke in praise of the toastmaster Barry, the topicsmaster Brian and the president Susan. Mike also complimented the speeches and the evaluators. Really the only quibble was with the lack of a sergeant at arms speech, which turned out ok since the building didn’t go on fire. It should be sorted for next week though.

So all that remained was to award the trophies and wrap up the meeting:

  • Topics – Brendan
  • Speech – Marlene
  • Evaluator – Niamh


Attend The Next Hellfire Toastmasters Meeting →

New Years Resolutions Time at Toastmasters

To be a great speaker, you need to start out as a bad speaker

Hellfire Toastmasters

January 1st is looming on the horizon and it’s time for . . .

New Year’s Resolutions.

Whether you’re a long time toastmaster looking for a new challenge, or a terrified public speaker looking to overcome your fear, it’s always worth including a resolution to improve your communication skills.

After all, it doesn’t matter how fantastic you are if you can’t convince other people that you’re fantastic too.

If your already a Hellfire Toastmaster, I’m looking forward to seeing you on the 8th January and finding out what your resolutions are.

If your resolution is to improve your communication skills by mastering public speaking, then I’m just looking forward to seeing you!

Either way I’ll see you on the 8th January at the D4 Hotel Ballsbridge.

Attend the Next Hellfire Toastmasters Meeting

Why Hellfire?

Hellfire Toastmasters Trophies

Why Hellfire?

Toastmasters is organised on a club basis, i.e. every member joins a club which is a part of the larger organisation. Every club has a slightly different flavour, all are good but depending on your personality and what you want from Toastmasters, some may be a better fit then others.

There are many reasons you should choose Hellfire as your Toastmasters club, some of these are:

  • We’re a great way to develop your public speaking and debating skills.
  • We have the best name.
  • We’re extremely friendly, ridiculously so, come to a meeting and you’ll see.
  • We’ve been around 50 years, and we have a lot of experience in our club.
  • We meet every week, which gives you more opportunities to speak.
  • We’re ten minutes walk from Merrion Square
  • Our membership is incredibly varied, which means you get perspectives across age ranges and professions.

On that last point, one of the big worries for people attending for the first time, is will I fit in? Our members range in age from early 20’s to late 70’s, possibly even a little further, but I’d be shot for saying that. There are a handful of students, people working in their first jobs, people who are unemployed, people right in the middle of their careers and people who are retired. People have jobs in healthcare, some in retail, a few in banks . . .Suffice is to say, please don’t worry about fitting in.

but let’s be honest, the main reason that people choose a Toastmasters club is because the time and place of the meeting suits them. So if 8pm in Ballsbridge on a Tuesday suits you, please come along!

If that doesn’t suit, all Toastmaster clubs are great, and Dublin has a wide range to choose from.

Attend your first meeting →

Frequently Asked Questions



[spoiler intro=”General” title=”What is Toastmasters”]Toastmasters is a world leading organisation which promotes communication and leadership development. Members join a club and attend meetings, where they practice all forms of public speaking and provide each other with support and encouragement. More information on Toastmasters international can be found here.[/spoiler]

[spoiler intro=”General” title =”How Does Toastmasters Work?”]A Toastmasters club is a “learn-by-doing” workshop in which men and women hone their skills in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. A typical club has 20 to 40 members who meet weekly or biweekly to learn and practice public speaking techniques. The average club meeting lasts approximately two hours. Annual Membership is about the same as that of a typical short Night School Course.[/spoiler]

[spoiler intro=”General” title=”How is Toastmasters Organised?”]Every new Toastmaster joins a specific club. Each club has 20 – 50 members, and is part of an area. Each area has four members and is part of a division. Each division is then part of a larger district. The district covering Great Britain and Ireland is known as District 71. More information on how Toastmasters is organised can be found here.  [/spoiler]

[spoiler intro =”General” title=”How is a Toastmasters Club Organised?”]Every Toastmasters club is organised by a voluntary committee, consisting of a President, Vice President of education, Vice President of Membership, and Treasurer. The committee organises a venue and time for meetings, puts together a program of speeches and generally makes sure the club runs smoothly.[/spoiler][/spoilergroup]


[spoiler intro =”Club Questions” title=”What are the Roles at a Meeting?”] At every Hellfire meeting you will see club members adopt a range of different roles, and each role has a different title. The main roles are:

  • President – Wears a very fancy gold chain and sits at the top table. This is a committee position, that is elected once yearly.
  • Toastmaster – Sits in the centre at the top table. Is responsible for organising and chairing a meeting of Toastmasters. A different member is asked to act as Toastmaster each week so that one person doesn’t have too much work, and to give everyone experience of the role.
  • Topicsmaster – The final person at the top table. Asks members of the audience to answer a question (Topic), and speak for two minutes on it. They’re usually the person everyone is being extra nice to at tea break.
  • Timekeeper – Sits at the front of the audience on the right, times member speeches and responses, and uses a one of a kind lighting system to issue warnings. Keeping speeches to time is a key part of Toastmasters.
  • Sergeant at Arms – Gives a quick safety briefing and introduction at the beginning of the meeting. Think of them as an air hostess without the yellow plastic thing.

For more about what happens at a meeting of Hellfire Toastmasters, see here. [/spoiler]

[spoiler intro =”Club Questions” title=”What Happens at a Hellfire Toastmasters Meeting?”]People get up and speak, then some more people speak, then there’s a tea break. After the tea break some more people speak.

The speeches are all short, usually 7 minutes is the maximum. We’re pretty strict on time. They’re very varied. The last meeting I was at had a speech on the perils of online dating, the one before that on Rhino’s in South Africa. You never quite know what people will speak about, but you end up finding out a lot of information you never would otherwise.

For a more formal answer, the typical format we use for Hellfire Toastmaster meetings is described here. [/spoiler]

[spoiler intro =”Club Questions” title=”Can I Just Show Up To A Meeting?”]Yes. Guests are always welcome. Come alone or with a friend. Our meetings are every Tuesday, September – Mid December and Mid January – June. They start at 8pm and they’re in the D4 Hotel, Ballsbridge.

You can see the full details here.[/spoiler]

[spoiler intro =”Club Questions” title=”What Sort of Members Do You Have?”]In Hellfire our membership is extremely varied. Our youngest members are in their early twenties and our oldest memories are in their 80’s. (I think, to be honest, I’m kind of scared to ask). There are architects, engineers, senior managers, students, bankers, healthcare workers, salesmen and a whole range of other professions.

We have some members who are nervous first time speakers, people preparing for best man speeches right the way up to people preparing for father of the bride speeches and with twenty years experience in Toastmasters. [/spoiler]

[spoiler intro=”Club Questions” title=”What Is Expected Of Me As A Toastmaster?”]

Being a Toastmaster means more than simply making a commitment to self-development. Everyone who joins a Toastmasters club is making a commitment to the club, to its members, and to the organization as a whole.

In general Hellfire members are expected to:

  • Attend club meetings regularly;
  • To prepare speeches and leadership projects to the best of your ability, basing them on projects in the Competent Communication manual, Advanced Communication manuals or Competent Leadership manual;
  • To prepare for and fulfill meeting assignments;
  • To provide fellow members with helpful, constructive evaluations;
  • To help the club maintain the positive, friendly environment necessary for all members to learn and grow;
  • To treat fellow club members and our guests with respect and courtesy;
  • To adhere to the guidelines and rules for all Toastmasters educational and recognition programs;
  • To maintain honest and highly ethical standards during the conduct of all Toastmasters activities.[/spoiler][/spoilergroup]


Toastmasters District

Toastmasters Clubs are organised into groups of four or five called areas, areas are organised into divisions and divisions are organised into districts. Hellfire is part of District 71, Division M, Area 18.

District 71 covers Britain and Ireland and represents 7,500 toastmasters.

Division M includes Dublin and Wicklow, and has four areas each with four clubs.

Find Out Why You Should Join Hellfire →


Hellfire is part of Area 18, which includes

  • Hellfire, Open to all
  • AIB, Open to AIB staff
  • Engineers, Open to all
  • PowerTalk, Open to all

And there are a range of other Toastmaster clubs nearby, including:


Advanced Manuals

When you have finished your competent communicators manual and your leadership manual, you can progress to a whole range of other manuals which specialise in specific areas.

These are divided into two tracks – the communications track and the leadership track.

The Communication Program includes manuals on:

  • Storytelling
  • Technical Presentations
  • Public Relations
  • The Entertaining Speaker
and many more.


The Leadership Program has a smaller range but includes manuals on high performance leadership and guiding committees.



Competent Communicator

Toastmasters don’t do “Public Speaking for Beginners” courses, but if they did, the competent communicator manual would be it. Your first ten speeches at toastmasters are a series, and each speech has a different objective. The aim is to get you thinking about and comfortable with all aspects of public speaking.

The first ten speeches are:

  1. The Ice Breaker: A simple speech where all you have to do is introduce yourself.
  2. Organise your Speech: Give a speech with a simple structure.
  3. Get to the Point: Give a speech with a purpose.
  4. How to Say It: Choose your words and sentences carefully
  5. Your Body Speaks: Think about how you move during your speech.
  6. Vocal Variety: Vary your tone, pace, power and add pauses.
  7. Research Your Topic: Practice using sources to back up what you say.
  8. Get Comfortable With Visual Aids: Use flipcharts, props, powerpoint, whiteboards etc. to get your message across.
  9. Persuade with Power: Practice the art of motivation
  10. Inspire Your Audience: Use all your skills to date to deliver a powerful inspirational message.

Visual Aids

Tips on how to use visual aids


You are asked a question and you have two minutes to answer.

It is the single most hated part of most toastmaster meetings, but like anything else there is a skill to it.

  1. Don’t Panic : Yes you’re on the spot, but take a deep breath and ten seconds to think. There is time.
  2. Take an Angle: Topics are easier if you espouse a viewpoint, it doesn’t have to be what you really feel, it doesn’t have to be true. It’s a two minute answer, tunnel vision is perfectly acceptable.
  3. Try for Structure: Repeat the question with a different wording, try to make two or three specific points, then conclude. It will reduce your fear and panic, while making you sound more coherent.
  4. Speak Slowly: It gives you more time to think

And at the end you get to sit down!