Spirited Speech Masters and Dan Rex honoring MD Anderson and Shibu Varghese

2019.08.01 Weekly Window

Despite being a light week in terms of turnout, members were treated with not one but two full-length speeches given today, including Tina’s first Icebreaker! Tina employed a unique method to teach us all more about herself by telling a story that illustrated several personal characteristics: the desire to plan ahead, the determination to be adventurous, and the ability to adapt when her carefully laid plans went awry. Fabulous job, Tina!

Asad spoke today, championing the importance of Risk Management. While we are all mostly fortunate to generally not have to think about risk probabilities and likely impact, Asad gave us all pause to think about the risks we regularly face and how we might be able to mitigate them.

  • Best Speaker: Tina
  • Best Evaluator: Joann
  • Best Table Topic: Allison
  • Word of the Day: fraught
Tina receiving her Icebreaker ribbon from Joann

2019: A Year in Review

Spirited Speech Masters is delighted to announce that we successfully achieved President’s Distinguished for fiscal year 2019. The requirements for this achievement include:

  • On-time payment of membership dues accompanied by the names of eight members (at least three of whom must be renewing members) for one period and on-time submission of one club officer list
  • A minimum of four club officers trained during each of the two training periods. (We actually had a clean sweep with all 7 officers having been trained twice!)
  • At least eight new members (we had 13!)
  • Educational achievements, traditional program:
    • Two Competent Communicators: Joann and Usamah
    • One Advanced Communicator: Dawn, ACB
    • Two Leadership Awards: Sally, ALS and DTM
  • Educational achievements, pathways:
    • Two Level 2 completions: Rachel (IP2) and Sally (PM2)
    • One Level 5 completion: Jo (VC5)
Joann being awarded third-place at Area Contest

Congratulations once again to Joann who placed third at Area speech contest for her speech entitled, “The Clouds are Not the Moon.” Dawn, Joann, and Sally all chose to expand their Toastmaster horizons by attending District 56 conference. (We’re hoping for an even greater turnout next Spring!)

In terms of special events planning, Spirited Speech Masters hosted Toastmasters CEO Dan Rex in presenting the Toastmasters Corporate Award to Shibu Varghese, the Senior Vice President of People & Business Operations and Chief Human Resources Officer at MD Anderson. We also hosted an Open House event that helped us reach the required number of new and renewing members necessary to achieve President’s Distinguished. Thanks to all the members who helped make these two events so engaging and successful!

In terms of our online footprint, we successfully transitioned from our previous web host, FreeToastHost, to private web hosting and a custom domain name. A special thanks to David Carr, author of the RSVPMaker for Toastmasters plugin that made this transition possible.

A special thank you to the outgoing officers, many of whom will continue serving in the same or different capacities this next year:

  • Sally: outgoing President, incoming VPE
  • Joann: outgoing VPE, incoming President
  • Karl: outgoing VPM
  • Jonathan: previous VPPR
  • Maxine: outgoing Secretary and author of the Weekly Window newsletter that inspired the recurrent blog post by the same name
  • Dawn: outgoing and incoming Treasurer
  • Naureen: outgoing and incoming Sergeant of Arms

And finally, thanks to all members — both new and renewing — for helping to maintain a positive and supportive environment in which we all have the potential for learning and growth!


The German language seems to reflect a cultural desire for accuracy and precision

The German language is a delightful one, reveling in the construction of compound words that succinctly convey a lot of information in just a few consonants. You might be familiar with the German term schadenfreude — a compound of schaden, “harm”, and freude, “joy” — a term represents a complex emotion, wherein finds joy in another’s misfortune (think of it in relation to the English word, “comeuppance”).

A similar but less familiar word is fremdschämen, — a compound of fremd, “external”, and schämen, “shame.” This word represents the feeling of shame one experiences over the actions of another, essentially vicarious embarrassment. You can think of this term as similar to the term “cringe-worthy” in our modern vernacular.

2019.07.18 Weekly Window

Today was the first meeting where the role of Toastmaster-of-the-Day was pre-assigned. Having this crucial role filled ahead of time seemed to make things run more smoothly, and Twana did an exceptional job with the mantle. Not sure when you’re assigned to serve in this capacity? Check the Toastmaster-of-the-Day Assignments for July-Oct, 2019, and be sure to let VPE Sally know if you need to change to a different week.

Sally volunteered at the last minute to give a speech today, demonstrating how to begin the Pathways journey. This was a particularly helpful topic since not all new members have had the opportunity to sign up for Pathways. (If you need additional assistance, be sure to check out our guide to Getting Started with Pathways.)

Table Topics were a little different today as Loni tried a new format called “A 1000 Words,” a reference to the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In this exercise, volunteers were given a copy of a photograph and asked to speak about it for 1-2 minutes. (Looking for additional variations on Table Topics?)

Viewing the photograph at right, Joann immediately picked up on what she described as a connection between animal and man, sharing a tender interpretation wherein it had been the boy’s intention to share food with the pigeons that flutter around him. She even anthropomorphized the birds as feeling “anticipation” for the food being given them by the boy they regard as “Big Bird.” Thank you for the delightful story, Joann!

In the left photograph, Twana described a group of girls skipping rope, the photograph conveying movement and childhood memories of fun days outside. She ascribed the complaint, “is it my turn, yet?” to the girl who is the lone onlooker and managed to relate the photograph to her own memories of childhood, making us all feel as though we knew her a little better by the end of her speech.

Sally surprised us all with a sultry Gabor-esque accent (dahlink) as she spoke in the first person from the perspective of the beautiful woman shown in the photograph at left, owning her place at the center of attention in any room she graces and refusing to apologize for her habit of smoking cigarettes.

Finally, Doug opened his table topic speech about the photograph at left by asking what one wouldn’t be willing to do for a picture with the perfect point of view, pointing out the photographer’s precarious position on the narrow ledge. He successfully leveraged this rhetorical question into commentary on differences in points of view in a more abstract sense.

  • Best Table Topics: Sally
  • Word of the Day: bedlam

Using Writing Prompts to Improve at Table Topics

300 Writing Prompts by Piccadilly

Looking for a way to improve at delivering compelling table topic speeches? Try a writing prompt notebook like this one from Piccadilly. Each lined page has 1-2 brief prompts along the lines of what you might expect to encounter in a table topics session during a Toastmasters meeting. Flip through, pick a prompt (or throw literary caution to the wind and select one randomly) then write out a half to full page response. To ensure you focus on impromptu thinking, try not to pause during your writing (the process of writing already provides a built-in delay). And try to resist the urge to wordsmith since this isn’t something you’re generally able to do when speaking extemporaneously.

This type of exercise is great because it’s easily portable and can be done on your own, i.e. when you’re jonesing for your next meeting, but it’s still six days away!