March Debate and Competition Programme

Debating Club

Just an everyday debate . . .



It’s a short programme again this month as the most important competition of the year – the International Speech Competition, takes up two of our meeting slots in March. The 12th March will be our own in club competition and the 26th will be round two in the Engineers venue on Clyde Road. Still though, the two debates in the works look to be nice and competitive:





Thanks to Richard and Cian for the motions.

We look forward to seeing you there.


Attend the next Hellfire Toastmasters Meeting →


The Competition is Hotting Up At Hellfire – Tall Tales Round Two

TallTales Competition Contestants

Anxious Contests are Briefed

Notes “As the Action Happens” are available on the clubs Twitter Account.

So, a second unusual night this month, round two, aka the finals, of the Toastmasters Tall Tales competition. With our own two competition winners – Keith and Martin, two fantastic speakers from engineers – Michael and Niamh, Adrian from ESB and Aileen from AIB it was guaranteed to be an entertaining night.

Barry as a most experienced contest chair, opened proceedings with a tale of his own. A fascinating account of top flight toastmasters competition* in Reno, with underhanded tactics and unparalleled feats of speech making. Having caught the audiences attention, he handed the floor over to the first speaker, Niamh for her account of that time herself and a few classmates took the cadaver they were working on for a few pints. Though drop dead gorgeous, Vicky turned out to be a not so hot date, a little frigid, a little rigid and a little too likely to skip out on her round. Next up was Aileen with a tale of a nefarious plot to acquire a kidney for her ailing friend. Third and fourth were our own competition winners from two weeks ago – Keith and Martin. Having had two weeks to improve and perfect their speeches they both brought the house down. Martin in particular had a little extra help from God, who conveniently arranged for the Pope to take early retirement, a tall tale if ever I heard one.

Michael’s tale of his misadventures with the wrong suitcase was up fifth. As always Michael’s speech was as polished to perfection as the silk underwear he was apparently wearing, and the dramatic climax involving an arrest in Brown Thomas had the audience on the edge of their seats. Last but not least was Adrian from ESB, who was once again chased by the police, down  Route 66 no less, his own personal highway to hell.

Because nothing would be right without some additional torture and tension, we then adjourned for a tea break, followed by a topics session ably (and bravely) hosted by one of our newest members Mike G. A sprinkling of topics and excellent responses followed before the tension was over and Cecil, acting as head judge, got up to announce the winners.

Complimenting each speaker in turn, the winners were announced –

  • Michael K from Engineers
  • Adrian H from ESB

A fantastic achievement for both, against what was incredibly stiff competition. A further prize was awarded to Jim for best topic response of the night, on the subject of his favourite pair of shoes, and after one or two more rounds of applause, the meeting was adjourned.

And so we all went home, the end.


*may in fact also be a tall tale

Hellfire Toastmasters Meeting, 12th February, 2013


The Pope heard there was debating at Hellfire Toastmasters so he resigned in disgust.
But do we really need a Competitions Authority?


Brian acted as our reserve President for the night once again, as Susan had to tend to visiting relatives, and the meeting commenced at 8pm.  He told us not to worry about the football match that was on or the fact that we were missing out on pancakes – which made us miss our pancakes even more!  He welcomed a couple of guests and showed all you women out there that men can in fact multi-task, as he is Treasurer and reminded us that he would happily accept our yearly membership.  Without further ado, he welcomed Ger to take over the meeting as Toastmaster for the night.

Ger opened by saying that February 12 is Darwin Day – he hoped the meeting would evolve – and Lincoln’s birthday – he hoped we would also be emancipated throughout the evening.  He asked Richard to act as Sargent-At-Arms and all phones were immediately silenced and the exits noted.  Ger then asked Richard to explain the timing for each speech in his role as timer for the night, and this successfully completed.  Ladies, if this doesn’t show you that men can multi-task, then I don’t know what will!

Ger quickly moved the meeting along and welcomed Michael to give his Ice-Breaker.  An Ice-Breaker is a Toastmaster’s first speech, and it gives the speaker a chance to introduce aspects about him or herself.  Michael’s is clearly a proud Dublin man, and this was reinforced by his description of his brother marrying a Kildare woman as being sinful.  He has worked in various jobs throughout his life, and he involved in both Dublin GAA and religion.  He is also a published poet and short-story author, and hopes to write a novel in the near future.

The second speaker was John H, a member of the club who has returned this year, having been a member a number of years ago.  He was giving a returning Ice-Breaker, re-introducing himself to the club and to new members.  He spoke about his childhood in Dun Laoghaire and the trips west to Mayo, his parents’ home.  He works in coaching high-performance athletes, and holds the Irish record for the fastest 1,500m at Masters Level.

The third speech was given by Nuala, who was on Stage 5 of the Manual.  She spoke about the rather intriguing Richard Buckmaster-Fuller.  He was irritated by the level of resource consumption and tried to build houses and cars that didn’t consume as many resources.  He recorded his life every fifteen minutes as a case-study to show people what one person can do.  As Keith said in his general evaluation, these nuggets of information are great side-effects of Toastmasters, as our interest can be spiked into something we never knew existed.

The debate for the night follows the speeches, and this night the motion was “There should be no competition authority in Europe”.  It was a tough one to propose, but Zanya told us that politicians, lawyers or bureaucrats had no place to decide the best market practice for each company.  Furthermore complex laws can confuse businesses about the legality of their company and the burden for market dominance was only 39.7%, far less than a 100% dominance many people would claim to be the case.

John O’ happily opposed the motion, and told us about the reasons why competition authorities are even in existence.  The authority prevents cartels and market dominance, consumers are getting the best for their money and it ensures that governments cannot give an unfair advantage to one company.  Finally he reminded us that competition is good, citing the example of the mobile phone market in Ireland.

The motion was thrown open to the floor for contributions and the speakers were given a chance to summate their arguments, a vote was taken and the motion was soundly defeated, although Zanya was in a tough position.  Ger announced a fifteen minute break for tea and talk, and that is what we did.

We sat back down for the Topics part of the evening; with Martin in the hot seat to terrorise challenge us all with some topical topics.  And boy did he have some newsworthy topics.  There was the pope, the horses, Brian O’Driscoll, the Anlgo-Irish deal, Lent, the Magdalene Laundries and of course St Valentine himself.  Everybody that wasn’t down to speak got a chance to speak, and many who had already given a speech answered a topic also.

The evaluators were up next, with Mandy evaluating Michael, Elizabeth evaluating John H and John G evaluating Nuala.  All evaluators were in high praise of each speaker, with very few suggestions that could have been made.  Michael was told to slow down, but we all need to do that.  John H and Nuala were told to speak a little louder and to project their voices a bit more.

It was left up to Keith to be General Evaluator for the night, his first time in that position.  He complimented everybody on a very good night, which we all agreed with, and praised everybody that had a position on the night.  His only suggestion for the Toastmaster was to link the speeches as he invited the next speaker to the podium.

Best Contributor – Michael

Best Evaluator – Mandy

Best Topic – Michael

Congratulations to Michael on what is probably an unprecedented achievement, and certainly an unprecedented achievement for a new member giving an Ice-Breaker.

Ger handed the meeting back to Brian who closed the meeting, reminding everybody about the Tall Tales District Final next week, and we wish Keith and Martin the best of luck representing the club.

Until next week…

Tall Tale Competition – 5th February 2013

Toastmasters Dublin Tall Tales Competition at Hellfire Toastmasters

A Tall Tale of A Different Sort

A short entry this week, for a short, but excellent meeting.

Last night was the first Tall Tales Competition in quite a while at Dublin’s favourite Toastmasters club, Hellfire. There were six excellent entries and the competition was fierce.

First up was Keith, who told a rousing story of the discombobulation of an Irish ambassador in Turkey. Working in a voicemail message, a few words of Kurdish and a cúpla focail as Gaeilge, the tale went down a treat with the audience and more importantly the judges. Susan then went on to tell the story of the most excellent adventure of a pair of shoes down in Cork. Aengus took the night down a slightly more risque path, with a story involving showers, towels, alcohol and handcuffs. I don’t want to get him in trouble with his parents, so I’ll say no more. Richard’s tale was perhaps the most thoroughly unbelievable of the night, if only because (in my opinion) the Leaving Cert student at the centre of it got far more of something approaching work done, then any student I’ve ever witnessed.

The consensus at the tea break was that the speech Martin gave was the best he has ever given, which is all the more impressive for such a long standing member of the club. Martin’s story centred on the most obnoxious news stories of the last few weeks, and a particular distaste for the machinations of the Health and Safety experts was probably it’s central theme. The evening finished with John O’D, who decided to go the horror movie route, with a tale of wolves on the ski-slopes of Austria.

All in all, it was a most entertaining set of stories, and one that challenged the judges, led by the ever willing and able Cecil from AIB Toastmasters, to choose a winner. The choice was made however and the results were:

  • 1st Place – Keith Stephens
  • 2nd Place – Martin Cowley
  • 3rd Place – Susan Pyne

The meeting concluded with a Topics Session run by Noel, with topics supplemented by his able assistant Barry. As usual from Noel, the topics were varied, interesting and just difficult enough to be interesting. The three guests – Paula, Liz and Mark, all produced excellent answers. Other stand out answers included Elizabeth who managed to work in a compliment to the topics master (always a good bet), Richard who took some time to decide whether he preferred beauty or intelligence and Rose who was very vocal on developers wives being forced to sell their wedding ring.

A special shout out to our (excellent as always) president Susan, the two timekeepers John and Elizabeth, the contest chair – Mandy, Cecil for co-ordinating the judging and the other judges who shall remain nameless!

After the meeting we adjourned to the pub to celebrate the victories and commiserate with the losers.

February Debate & Competition Programme

Debating Club

Just and everyday debate . . .

February is a short month, and in Toastmasters it’s shorter still.

We start the month with our tall tales competition, so instead of our usual program, six of our bravest speakers will be telling us their most outrageous stories in an effort to win glory for the club.

The final of that competition, which will include members of other local clubs – Power Talk, AIB and Engineers will take place in Hellfire, on the 19th February, which leaves us with two normal meetings and two debate topics for our members to get their teeth into.

They are

  • February 12th – There Should be No Competition Authority in Europe
  • February 26th – The Bully Has A Place in Society

To comfort ourselves on the 5th February and the 19th February, we may be forced to repair to a local pub.

The hardship!

Hellfire Toastmasters Meeting, 29th January, 2013

Debate Topic - Government Funding and the Arts

Should the government fund the arts?

With a special Toastmaster vote of appreciation, to this weeks reporter – Richard!


The meeting opened at 8pm sharp with our reserve President for the night, Brian, standing in for our usual general, Susan. He reminded everybody that the Tall Tales competition is taking place and following various pleas by our Vice President for Education (VPE) Bernard, a full schedule of speakers have been found. He also reminded people that the annual membership was due before the end of February and he wouldn’t be the least offended if people gave him money tonight. John Mc, our Sargent-at-Arms, reminded everybody to turn off their phones and pointed out the nearest exit in case of a fire.

Brian handed control of the meeting over to Jim, our Toastmaster for the night. He immediately introduced the first speaker of the night, Richard, to take the floor. Richard was giving a Stage 7 speech which forces the speaker to collect information from a variety of sources. Richard’s speech was entitled “A Dummy’s Guide to Doping” and explained how cyclists’ doped and why they doped. The second speech of the night was given by Sinéad, also a Stage 7 speech. Without having too much time to prepare, Sinéad spoke elegantly about super foods; the everyday healthy foods that we don’t expect can help to fight cholesterol amongst other things. She even had a hand out for everybody to take home.

The last speech of the night was given by Keith. He has quickly worked through the manual and this was a Stage 9 speech, a phenomenal achievement for somebody who only joined a little over a year ago. Keith had to use the power of persuasion in his speech and this he did. Entitled “Yes We Can”, Keith spoke about suicide in Ireland. He reminded us that the Irish people had challenged issues like road casualties and our attitude to drink-driving and that we could challenge suicide and succeed in the same manner. He ensured that the audience didn’t get too demoralised by adding appropriate humour to his speech.

Then came the debate and the motion was “The government should abolish all funding for the Arts”. Marlene proposed the motion and spoke about how the private sector will take the place of the government through patronage and that this money is being taken away from critical areas like education and health. Ger opposed by mentioning that art reflects our cultural heritage and that private companies can have an undue influence on which pieces of art get commissioned and chosen. Furthermore, he pointed out that the certainty of funding from the government gives the artist the freedom to be creative.

There were several contributions from the floor, with some people calling art silly and that it serves no purpose for the economy while others stated that the money given to the artist can trickle through the economy. After the debaters had the chance to summate their viewpoints a vote was taken with the motion being defeated.

Our break followed and everybody had a chance to chat to each other.

The meeting started up in earnest once again with everybody’s favourite* time of the evening, Topics. Noel, our Topicsmaster, had a chance to give everybody a topic given the low turnout on the night, and he started with those not on the roster for the night. Topics included parents smoking in front of their children, horsemeat in burgers, the new drink-driving laws in Kerry, people being able to arm themselves with more than a hurley and the presence of pets in the wedding photographs of Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy.

Then came the evaluations of the speeches, and John Mc, recovering from his earlier appearance as Sargent-At-Arms, evaluated Richard’s speech, Niamh evaluated Sinéad’s speech and John O evaluated Keith’s speech. All were largely positive, with only a minimal number of recommendations for each speaker, including stance in relation to the podium, the use of jargon that everybody may not understand and the use of the hands.

Unfortunately we didn’t have an Em and Ah counter but our General Evaluator, Rose, stood up and gave her opinion for the night. She mentioned the couple of things that the Toastmaster could have done a little better and lamented the fact that we didn’t have an Em and Ah counter. She praised the speakers and the debaters, along with the Topicsmaster, and had some kind words for each of the evaluators, pointing out that John O was the only person who read out the objectives of the speech, and this is what earned him the Evaluator of the Night award. Finally she reminded everybody to fulfil their roles if they were on the roster for the night, as a few people couldn’t attend due to sickness, though in fairness to them, they did have the necessary replacements there.

Jim reminded people of the same thing as it makes the life of the Toastmaster very hard, before Brian closed the meeting and we all went home.

  • Speaker – Keith
  • Evaluator – John O
  • Topics – Kaleigh and Mike

Until next week…

*least favourite

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.


Meeting Report – 15th January

Thomas Gray

Thomas Gray

Oh what a meeting.

Elizabeth, while in theory an inexperienced Toastmaster, managed to remember absolutely every single detail that very experienced Toastmasters regularly forget. There was a seargeant at arms, which even though there thankfully was no fire was still comforting. There was an introduction from the timekeeper. There was even a surprise appearance by an Um and Ah counter, but more on that later.

There were three speeches. First up was Niamh, giving her stage 8 speech. Stage 8 requires the use of visual aids, so with a fabulous presentation done using “Prezi”, Niamh started the meeting with a presentation full of maps made by strangers. The full presentation can be seen here.

Next up, from the modern era to a big step back in time, the story of the 1914 Christmas ceasefire from Pat. Beautifully told, beautifully read, and very timely with the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war coming next year.

The final speech of the evening was from Dennis, who pulled a master stroke with his innovative idea. He first took a few minutes to introduce one of his favourite poems,

“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray

and then proceeded (rather worryingly) to give each member of the audience numbered envelopes. Inside each envelope was a marked verse of the poem. Beginning and finishing with Dennis, each member of the audience read their own verse. The effect was striking as the different intonations, voices and accents each put a spin on their own verse. Like an expert conductor, Dennis’s oversight ensured the reading flowed perfectly and the change of pace drew universal praise.

Next up was the debate, and as promised it was lively and controversial.

Gender quotas should be introduced in the Dáil

Proposed by Keith and opposed by Martin, the issues raised included the hazards of single sex workplaces, the lack of female participation at a grassroots level in political parties, the calibre of our current political representatives and the unfriendliness of political life to family life. At the end of the day it seemed the audience and the debators agreed on one thing – that change was needed, but fundamentally disagreed on how that change should be brought about. Keith carried the day with unanimous support, slightly worrying since that included Martin, but I guess he was just that convincing.

And so it was time for tea and biscuits, and a lovely tea and lovelier biscuits it was too.

After the break Paulo stepped up to the top table to issue topics, and since the meeting was running ahead of schedule he had plenty of time to  torture  hand out his topics. My personal favourites were the question to Rose on online dating, Aengus on Jon Walters efforts to join Chelsea, Michelle (a welcome guest from engineers) on new years resolutions and Aileen on volunteering.

And so to the final part of the evening, or so we thought, evaluations. They were good, but the Toastmaster had a surprise in store. Unbeknownst to the audience, Zanya had been taking an extremely thorough list of ums, ahs and “you knows”. It was a little embarrassing and a little disconcerting to say the least. It was also extremely helpful because as she pointed out, most people begin their speeches with a machine gun spatter of ems and ahs but as they gain confidence and relax into it, the fillers disappear. At least we now know where to focus our efforts.

The meeting concluded with the always on point, Barry, giving a comprehensive general evaluation and awarding the trophies.

  • Topics – Aileen
  • Speech – Dennis
  • Evaluator – Ger

and so the gavel was banged, the meeting was over and we tidied up.

The End. . .

(until next week)



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