Thinking about 50 years of change from an almost 50 member

From having one car per family where the entire family squeezed in (unrestrained), to almost every family member over the age of 17 having their own car, and having to restrain everything and everybody (including pets), being almost 50, I can say categorically the changes I have seen have been numerous. I recall my mum putting $2 worth of fuel in the car @28 cents per litre at the Esso. To name but a few of the changes:

Phones: from a ‘stick your finger in, and rotate anticlockwise, to dial a number, through push buttons, to phones that are computers, maps, reminders, recorders and just about anything else that one can think of. Not every house had a home phone, phone boxes were common and it would cost 10 cents to make a call.

Records: remember the old turntable 33 and 45’s. We’ve morphed through transistor radios, the Walkman, Ipods, and once again…we use our phones.

Toilets: We used the outside ‘thunderbox’ and the ‘Dunnyman’ used to come around once a week to collect. We also had the milkman and the baker that used to bring milk and bread to the door.

TV’s: You actually had to get up to change the channel! ABC, 7, 9 and 10…..plenty of choice. Sunday mornings saw religious services on every channel. Shops were actually closed until about midday on a Sunday.

School: They could still beat you at school. The chances were, if you got in trouble at school, your parents knew about it before you got home and you were in trouble again as soon as you got in the door.

Banks: At school we had a banking day, so we could take any excess pocket money and put it in the bank. We had a passbook. Now we have swipe cards, EFTPOS, and pretty much a person can get through the day without having to have any money on them at all.

Police: The local copper knew everyone, as did the local priest.

Computers: no chance…I don’t think I saw one until well into the 80’s. Now everyone has an Ipads, tablets, PC or whatever the newest trend is. Writing a speech would have been done by hand or using a typewriter.

It’s difficult to comprehend the changes that Parramatta Toastmasters has seen in its fifty years. I’m fairly new to TM; however, I believe that originally it was a ‘men only’ organisation, and given the changes to technology mentioned earlier, preparing for a speech would have been much easier.

With the TM program being so comprehensive, it’s difficult to imagine that it wasn’t always the case. I suspect that is has improved over time to become what it is; however, Gary Wilson would have to verify to this.

In the fifty years of its existence, Parramatta TM would have seen thousands of people benefit from the TM program and the mentorship of those that have made up the club membership. What will it look like in the next fifty years….you might have to hang around and see.

Andrew Iverson

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Parramatta’s 50th – View from a visitor

I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the recent Dinner Meeting celebrating Parramatta Toastmasters Club’s 50 Anniversary.

The pride of the members was obvious, with members current and past reminiscing over the history of the past 50 years. This was evident in the parade of the Presidents, and the quality of speakers produced by the club.

The highlight of the evening was definitely the inspiring speech given by the International President, Mike Storkey. After taking copious notes I was fortunate enough to meet the President and his wife, Lesley, who were more than happy to pose for a photo. The President and I were able to have a chat, before he gave me his card and told me he was happy for me to contact him any time.

Well done to the organisers for producing such a wonderful event, and congratulations to Parramatta Toastmasters Club on their well-deserved 50th Anniversary.

Angie Bokenham

President – Keira Toastmasters Club 3558
Area 30 Director – Southern Division -District 70

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Parramatta’s 50th – View from a member

Parramatta Toastmasters was created in 1966. Imagine the thrill of those that had the idea to start a toastmasters club…that after 18, 250 days the club that they founded is still flourishing and making a difference to so many lives. I’m not sure that I’m qualified to determine exactly how many meetings that is; however, the 1000th meeting was conducted in Oct 2004.

In this day and age of advanced technology, where things can be obsolete after a short time frame, Parramatta Toastmasters has stood the test of time. Having had the honour of playing bagpipes to lead the procession of previous past presidents, it was amazing to see the calibre of people that have taken the reigns and steered the club to bigger and better things during their tenure. It’s hardly surprising then that the club continues to be in great shape.

It might be said that anything over fifty can be considered vintage. Vintage is endearing. Things that are fifty are worn and soft, and still quite useful. Judging by the amount of visitors that grace Parramatta Toastmasters on a regular basis, the term ‘useful’, wouldn’t do justice to the contribution that has been made to the community. It is no mean feat that 2 Parramatta Toastmasters have received an OAM for their services to the community. An OAM isn’t given out for being ‘useful’.

Something that is fifty has stood the test of time and isn’t in need of proving itself to others. It’s respected for its age.

Andrew Iverson

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Parramatta’s 50th – The View From The Stage

When you’re MC of a big night, you get to see things from a totally different angle.

When I first got on stage an hour before the meeting started, just to get used to the space as all speakers should, first thing I noticed was that it was a long way up and a long way away from everyone sitting at tables. That can be both intimidating for a speaker, and it can leave an audience feeling separated from the main action. This is fine when you go to see a Broadway production, but this was still a “meeting”, where everyone needs to feel involved and included.

Turned out, my concerns were unfounded. First up, the organising committee did so much to make everyone feel welcome, which created just the right atmosphere. I mention this because I often see organisers looking very stressed before a meeting (or a show), and that stress always finds a way to bleed into the general atmosphere; but the committee under Elizabeth were so well organised, and in fact arrived so far ahead of time, that they could feel relaxed and enjoy themselves even while sorting last minute issues.

Ron’s signature naming of stragglers I guess was another way people felt included, albeit on the wrong list.

One of the surprises of the night, for me at least, was the way our normally sober President whipped up the audience as he called me onto the stage. That really got us off onto a flying start.

An efficient welcome by Wendy and Ian allowed us to move to a special surprise package – Andrew on the pipes, leading in the Parade of Presidents. It was a magnificent spectacle, and unambiguously a highlight of the night, delightfully hosted by Elizabeth, one of the few people in the room who would have known every president that she personally thanked.

The “smaller” assignments by Monique and John T, our larfmasters Vicki and Tom W, the cake cutting by Elizabeth, and the mini business session by Alicia didn’t just kept the night moving, but showed another reason why we are Parramatta – because even the smallest assignments are taken seriously and prepared – a point totally lost on many toastmasters who have been around long enough to feel comfortable winging it.

Prior to the meeting, I was really wondering about table topics, whether there would be a loss of energy with each wait for a speaker to make the trek from the table to the stage. Robyn foresaw the issue, and had a solution – all participants were marched onto stage at the start, providing the added bonus of allowing them minimal thinking time. A very dynamic solution.

The choice of guest speakers showed a perfect balance: Russ Walkington to provide the definitive story behind out formation – a story that I thought was lost to history, perennial favourite Greg North giving us a laugh, and a rare opportunity for club level toastmasters to hear an address by a current International President, Mike Storkey.

In my belief, though, the night was totally carried by the Parramatta key note speakers, Michael, Gary and David. Most of the discussion I heard after the night was about their speeches. Nothing could have more comprehensively illustrated the club’s sense of tradition, culture and excellence than their performances on Thursday night.

And something that only an MC will observe – David brought a copy of his artillery report that was assessed as NYC and left it on the lectern. He never showed it: it was not a prop, rather, it lent him a deeper sense of connection to his subject.

Finally, giving us an enjoyable finale to a long night, Ian’s reflections from guests did exactly what I had hoped, that was to leave people feeling like they were part of a meeting rather than watching someone else’s show.

As each speaker walked up the stairs and toward me to take over, their confidence and readiness for their task was completely evident. Each one of them looked me in the eye, shook my hand firmly, and held the gaze that little bit longer than usual, a gesture that acknowledges the MC in a very personal way, before they turned their attention to the audience, showing they were masters of the space and the moment.

I should have known things would have turned out. Having so many old friends get together to celebrate something we’re all proud of, the atmosphere will almost create itself. Of course it was underwritten by a committee that deserve the congratulations they received for creating what many have described as their all time favourite meeting.

– Demian Coorey

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Vice President Education – an all-round role

If you want the busiest but perhaps the most rewarding Executive role at Parramatta Toastmasters, the VPE role is for you. In an earlier blog, I explained what I’d learnt at the end of my first month. At that time, I’d created 3 programs. After creating many more, what more have I learnt?

1. You get to know everyone in the club. Your main aim is education so you need to know what education each club member wants. Creating balanced programs and rotating members around roles is one thing. Another is to find out specifically what manuals and skills each member wants to focus on, then build programs that tie it all together. And of course you get to understand why some members can’t attend meetings or need to become inactive for a while – everyone has their own story. It’s very satisfying as VPE seeing members progressing and improving.

2. None of this can happen without planning. Being the VPE stretches your planning skills to the limit. Not only the methodical planning but the miracle planning. The methodical planning is what you do to set up programs two weeks in advance, carefully creating those balanced programs. The miracle planning is what you do in the last couple of days, hours, and minutes as last-minute apologies come in before the meeting. Sometimes they come in after the meeting starts! In this case, you get to know the much appreciated miracle members who can step in at the last minute to help you out.

3. Team work is essential. Staying in touch with other members of the Executive team is top of the list because what you do as VPE has to align with what the rest of the Executive does. As VPE you’ll be in frequent touch with all of them. Club members are part of your team as well because everyone has to be involved for meetings to be educational and fun. You’ll also get to work with Toastmaster officers outside your club and see the bigger picture – particularly at the Area level.

The VPE role is an all-round role. Rewarding and challenging, it’s a role where you get to know and appreciate your fellow club members, and a role with great personal learning potential. If you really want to stretch all your leadership skills, then the VPE role at Parramatta Toastmasters will do it. In many ways – organisation, time management, methodical planning, rapid decision-making, multi-tasking, diplomacy, negotiation, to name just a few. My suggestion is: when the role next becomes available, consider nominating yourself for it. You’ll contribute to the club and learn a lot.

I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has helped me develop in the role during the year. It’s been a very enjoyable year.

John New
Vice President Education, 2015-16

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Murder at the Juice Joint – A Night Of Murder, Mayhem, and Mastery Of Public Speaking?

As William Shakespeare once said “All the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players”. While many of us may remember the “Murder at the Juice Joint”, on 17 March 2016, as a night of fun and great costumes, one question we need to ask ourselves is: did it meet the objectives of Toastmasters International? The fundamental objective of Toastmasters is to educate men and women through the process of self-improvement and leadership training so they may increase their confidence in business, professional and community life.

The night started off with a call of order, with the owner of the Juice Joint, Rosie Marie (aka Monique Tonna) welcoming her guests to the party and calling all to remember her late husband, Louie. Following this everyone was given an envelope with their instructions for the first half of the evening and a wad of cash to spend as they saw fit. From forging alliances and giving/receiving bribes, not only were our speaking skills (e.g. forming an ice breaker and getting to the point) put to the test but they became essential in the game.

From the beginning of the night, we were introduced to the major players in the game: Notorious Nick (aka Sean Leise), the powerful and assertive north side mob boss who had plans of controlling the police department and the city; South Side Sal (aka Tom Woods), the southern mob boss who would stop at nothing to expand his territory; and Mayor Biggs (aka Ian Lipski), the head of the city with a dark past.

During the middle of the evening there was a sudden silence, only to find out that Notorious Nick had been murdered. PI Pinkerton (aka Sam Fenton) took on the role of the chairman for the investigation, to figure out the identity of the murderer.

Following this we were given a second envelope, with instructions on what to do. From putting together the clues to figure out the identity of the murderer, to working out what people had to gain or lose from the murder of Notorious Nick, not only did the second half of the night become like a round of table topics, where impromptu speaking became important, but also assessing people’s vocal variety and body language could be used in figuring out who the murderer was! The final segment of the night consisted of the lead investigator, PI Pinkerton summing up the evidence room the night, including the identity and motive of the murderer.

While many enjoyed the night for the chance to take on a new role and wear a great costume, little did we realize that it helped us improve our skills in public speaking, and also in role playing. “Murder at the Juice Joint” will be remembered for its ability to inspire us to take on new roles, but also become better speakers.

The Murderer (Chief Cameron, aka Andrew Emerson)

Note: You can read more about “Murder at the Juice Joint” here.

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Why I keep coming

In this modern world of speed, instantaneous achievement and quick fixes, the idea of working at a craft, persisting with a task and perfecting a skill is sometimes lost. But not at Toastmasters and that is why I keep coming. It would have been quite easy to take away from the 6 week Speechcraft course a tool kit of public speaking skills, perhaps enough to get you through a work presentation or public speaking assignment. So why make the commitment to attend regular Toastmaster meetings?

I am sure many members attend for the camaraderie as well as the entertainment of listening to others, but you can get both of those things at many other places; like a work or family BBQ. One of the reasons why I think members keep coming, in many cases for years and the reason why I continue to attend, is because I want to feel like I am heading towards “mastering” the skills of public speaking. Mastering anything takes time, practice and effort. I have seen speakers who I thought were brilliant at my first Toastmaster meeting, become even more accomplished when delivering other speeches or club assignments. When first listening to these accomplished speakers, I assumed they had nothing more to learn, but all members continually demonstrate that persisting at the skills of a craft is worthwhile and effort produces improved results.

There is another reason why I want to continue with Toastmasters. Every meeting you learn so much. The prepared speeches are usually on topics I know very little or nothing about. That is until they are complete. It is inevitable that the meeting of a group of people from such a wide background of careers, nationalities and family circumstances would produce a plethora of interesting topics to listen to, and it does.

Finally, you learn much by watching other people speak. We are a collaborative species, and in the positive and nurturing environment of Toastmasters the opportunity to pick up small nuances of speech craft and subtleties of presentation style surround us.

That’s why I hope to remain a Toastmaster for many years.

Vicki Sheehan

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