We had a galaxy of stars at our contest night on Monday! So many eager contestants that it really was hard to fit in everyone who wanted to speak. But we did try. Justin Pybus and I were ‘newbies’ to organising a contest, but backed by the expertise of long-standing club members, and with the enthusiastic assistance of newer members too, with a wonderful team effort, we got there. And not forgetting those staunch Toastmasters from other clubs who were willing to head out on a dark winter’s night and give a hand. This is what I really love about Toastmasters – the community working together to create something fantastic!

So thank you to everyone who helped, before, or during the contest. Our timekeepers, Rohan and Matthijs, ballot counters Elizabeth and Paul Dowdeswell (taking time out from his Sergeant-at-arms job), videographer, Rohan, ushers, Paul Hickson and Mark Peacock. To Elizabeth for her warm-down, evoking memories of snow. To our two contest chairs, Doris Sew Hoy and Paul van der Hagen, keeping control over the proceedings and each lending their own personal touch. To Lloyd for valuable advice beforehand and help with printing, trophies and publicity. Very much to Patrick Ebbs, our chief judge, and to all the other judges, from ESC and Mole Valley clubs (you know who you were, though you weren’t supposed to let on, at the time).

And so to the speakers. There were seven entrants to the international Speech Contest, and each one, in his own way, sought to inspire and enthuse us – to raise our spirits and fire our imaginations!

Peter Parker gave us his three keys to success – the one that inspired me was to picture yourself in that winning situation, feel what it would be like to be there in that moment.

Dave Lane took us on a visit to Goodenough Street and showed us that great achievements can be made in ordinary ways, just by keeping on doing whatever you are able to do. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be good enough!

Dave Goodman gave us a thrilling story of first-aid rescue (with his trade-mark comic punch-line) and urged us to take up first-aid training so we could be prepared for that moment when the worst happens.

Justin told us his personal story of endeavour and risk, in starting his own business, and quoted from Mark Twain ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails!”

Charlie talked about removing the barriers to success. These are often just a question of attitude, created somewhere along your life when someone else persuades you that you can’t succeed.

Costa asked us where are you heading? A clear explanation of how to set and achieve realistic goals.

Dan Magill shared personal moments with us. How much difference can an hour make? 5 minutes, even one minute, could make all the difference, could be the point when a life changes.

In the Evaluation contest, we were honoured to have experienced speaker Bob Nisbett from Camberley and Guildford clubs with his speech ‘The Flying Monk’: a real tour-de-force – he had us on the edge of our seats, and a master class in many ways. Despite this, our intrepid evaluators, Amanda, Penny, Charlie, Phoebus, Dave Goodman, Doris, Peter and Dan Magill managed to find a few points for possible improvement, amongst all those shining virtues, so very well done to them, too. Definitely not an easy task.

At the end of the evening, Patrick Ebbs presented certificates and trophies. In the evaluation contest, first place went to Charlie Warshawski, second, Amanda Zwarts and third to Penny Williams.

In the International Speech Contest, first place was Dan Magill, second, Charlie Warshawski and third, Dave Goodman.

Very well done to our winners, and to all of the contestants!

Two winners from each contest will now go on to the Area contests at Mole Valley Speakers on April 11th. You are all encouraged to attend!