St. Andrews common room was a buzz. Then as Chloe Latto, Sargent-at-arms, called the room to order a transformation was triggered to a pregnant silence signifying the start of the Area E4 International Speech Contest. All ears were pricked up as John Stapleton, Contest Chair, was introduced. John gave the structure rule by rule under which Toastmasters contests take place, building that formal atmosphere that is most suited for upping the game in a contest.

With club level contest winners to compete in this contest from clubs consistently producing division level winners, the level and standard of the contestants were phenomenally high for an area contest.

The five speakers came up one at a time to the front of the room, taking centre stage, as each was introduced by John in the tete-a-tete contest fashion of name/speech title then speech title/name.

Speaker 1) Jonelle Lancashire      – Police
Speaker 2) Raymond Kemp          – 5 Crowns
Speaker 3) Andrew Neal               – Terrace@12
Speaker 4) Rahul Madaan            – Police
Speaker 5) Grace Xu                      – Terrace@12

Jonelle Lancashire, “Can You Imagine”: Had a hard-hitting opening, as vivid words painted Jonnelle’s experiences at 19 of encountering as a new Police Officer her first cadaver in a mortuary – not pleasant. The result from the deadly and reprehensible actions of a drunk drive Jonnelle went on to implored us not to drink and drive and to slow down by 5 kph.

She also recovered faultlessly from technical failure with her video playback of an 1989 Don’t Drink & Driving campaign, by using more vivid descriptions which substituted for the video flawlessly.

Raymond Kemp, “Visualising Success”:
Professionally structured, professionally delivered, step by step instructions on the effectiveness of Visualising Success. Not just the macro goal but more importantly each micro step and micro goal needed to get there. Raymond also interlaced and illustrated with personal stories of challenges creating a great balance between entertainment and the opportunity to learn the power of Visualising success.

Andrew Neal, “A light conversation”: Was laid out from the start to be a light-hearted and humorous conversation with the audience that doubled down on the meaning of “light” by also being about the “Red, Amber, Green” lights found in our Toastmasters lights and in Traffic lights. By the end Andrew added a profundity of life learnings from his experience of no baby -Green light- zooming along, baby on its way -Amber Light- slowing, babies arrived -Red light-stopping, by explaining that when a baby arrives is actually -Green light- go again etc and a start of a new cycle in life.

Rahul Madan, “How to Buy a TV & more”: The seemingly easy wish to buy a great TV to fulfil a re-ignited dream from childhood – the days Rahul sat as a child in wonder for the first time in front of a black & white TV-and dreamt of buying his own – became a project to buy a new one for his family.

His emotions came across strong with repeated disappointment between the expectations given by deals on-line and the lacklustre reality of the real item he saw in stores. Hence his project to buy a TV had started, he still had his “Why buy” so went back to the related “What to buy” which with completed research he avered simplifies the “How to buy” because you know what you want. Rahul ended by boiling down for us the three steps of Why, What, How into essential life skills applicable to more than buying a TV.

Grace Xu, “What to do with your TV”: It was Rahual’s speech as a test speech for an Evaluation contest that inspired Grace to write hers but with a diametrically opposite view. And then she had good luck with the contest order coming directly afterwards. Enabling her to deftly connect and even “declare war”.

Grace’s message was straight forward “Turn off your TV”, and structure was clear too: Why you should, how to, and benefits of turning off your TV. As part of the why she gave personal stories like sedentary sitting on sofas whilst snacking on chips and the resulting sad toll on the body.  The “How” was a 3-day plan where you “turn off” the TV, “turn on” the radio, “turn on” going out etc. Following on was the 1-week plan, then the 2-week plan then you’re cured. She ended perspicuously with “Dear friends when you go home today, I encourage you to turn on a new lifestyle by turning off your TV”.

Pregnant silence fell again across the room, as the judges judged, filled in their ballots and handed them to be whisked away to be counted and counted. Before anticipation rose again as Pauline Gallagher, Chief Judge, came back with 1st, 2nd, 3rd certificates signed.

John Stapleton – Contest Chair presenting:

1st Grace Xu                                   – Terrace@12
2nd Raymond Kemp                    – 5 Crowns
3rd Jonelle Lancashire                – Police

Congratulations to the winners. Well done to the participants. And a big thank you to the chair, chief judge, judges, talley counters, and timers for making the contests happen.