by Angela Estwick, Former VPPR, MNI Speakers
‘Pride and Enthusiasm’ – undoubtedly, these were the Words of the Day, describing the emotions of the 13 current members of Montserrat’s prestigious Toastmasters Club, MNI Speakers, on February 16th and February 26th.
The sole Toastmasters Club on the island, successfully hosted two contests at its February 16th meeting: the Club Level events for both the International Speech Contest and the Evaluation Contest were convened, virtually. The contests represented the first step in the Club’s ambition towards participation at the International Level Speech Contest and the District Level Evaluation Contest. These are just two of the five traditional Toastmasters contests, with the other three being: Humorous, Tall Tales and Table Topics Contests.
Winners of Club Level contests advance to progressive Area, Division and District levels. For the Speech Contest, only, the District level winner advances to the Regional Quarter Final, Semi-final and ultimately the World Championship of Public Speaking.
Toastmasters, Daphne Furlonge, K. Vanessa White, Susan Hodge and Zelma White competed in the MNI Speakers’ inaugural Club Level International Speech Contest.
Toastmaster(TM) Daphne’s winning speech, Think, Believe, Start, referenced the mental barrier initially broken by Track and Field Runner, Roger Bannister, in 1954. According to Track and Field experts, it was impossible to break the ‘4-minute mile barrier’….in effect, it was not humanly possible for someone to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Twenty-five-year-old, medical student, Bannister challenged the experts and completed a mile in 3:59:4 minutes – a feat that was swiftly emulated by 336 other persons in the ten years after. TM Daphne shared how she applied that ‘power of the mind’ in her personal triumph against Stage 4 cervical cancer in 2014; she had received a prognosis that her chances of survival were slim to nil! She used her first-hand experience to affirm the ideologies that Earl Nightingale (‘our minds contain riches beyond our wildest dreams, …will return anything you plant in it.’), Buddha (‘thought dictates everything’), James Allen (‘mind is the master power that moulds and makes…environment is but his looking glass’) and Napoleon Hill (‘thoughts are things and powerful things at that’) strongly promoted, highlighting the deeper meaning of the notion of how one’s thoughts and beliefs influence an individual’s ability to achieve.
TM Susan Hodge, based in Anguilla, secured third place with a speech entitled, The Hike, based on her decision to step way out of her comfort zone to the ‘mystical’ better place. The feeling was ushered in due to a series of losses, including deaths of persons close to her, from 2017- 2021. This occurred alongside a need to pay closer attention to her personal health. With initial reluctance, she embarked upon a hiking adventure with her gym class, pledged not to repeat the activity due to the misadventures of the first hike, but was out pursuing a similar challenge 4 weeks after… Susan coached the audience to yield to Maya Angelou’s, “…if you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be…”
TM Zelma White also presented a speech entitled Mumble and Crumble or Hope and Cope. The concepts of death and grief were the subject of her delivery. She spoke of her personal experience with death, her main tool for coping with grief, and provided highly recommended tips for coping with grief. She expressed her faith in God’s promises, drawn from scriptures such as, Psalm 46 Verse 1: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ and Matthew 5 Verse 4: Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted’. TM Zelma encouraged grieving persons to sing Bible based songs and pray. Reflecting, writing poems, journalling about progress through grief, exercising and personal bodily attention were her top tips for coping. She suggested joining a group and seeking professional bereavement therapy as additional aids. Drawing on her own testimony of strong hope, which helped her to cope during grief, Zelma shared how she participated in this International Speech Contest, just 5 days after laying her beloved mom to rest. Her delivery closed with an open invitation to grieving persons, to reach out to her for other supporting tips.
The Evaluation Contest was won by TM Romilly Murrain. Second and third place were awarded to TM Daphne Furlonge and TM Denise Silcott respectively. The evaluations were undertaken on a test speech entitled, Not Smart, Not Strong, Just a Finisher presented by TM Palesa Kathleo from South Africa. The speech centred around ‘J’ – a mining engineer who took 13 years to complete a 4-year course and suffered 2 ‘academic exclusions’ due to ‘dismal’ failing, but eventually achieved his degree in Engineering with 58%. Palesa described J’s ‘fairy-tale ending’ as the fact that ‘he finished’. She firmly pointed out that ‘those who win in life are not the smartest, but those who ‘finish’. The three evaluators commended TM Palesa on factors such as the captivating topic of her presentation, good use of vocal variety and eye contact, her use of a realistic storyline, facial expressions and gestures; the informational, humorous and motivational aspects of the delivery were also acknowledged. In keeping with good Toastmaster delivery standards, the evaluators recommended that attention be paid to camera positioning, lighting, length of speech title, and enunciation.
TMs Florence Griffith Joseph and Pyrcy Morson (based in the UK) co-chaired the competition. The Chief Judge was Distinguished Toast Master Corren Thomas from Jamaica.
On 26th February, as the winners of the Club Level contests, TM Daphne and TM Romilly advanced to the Area Level District 25 International Speech and Evaluation Contests, where they both secured third places, respectively. MNI Speakers competed against three Antigua based clubs: American University of Antigua, Antigua and Wadadli Toastmasters Clubs. Distinguished Toastmaster Mark Young of the Antigua Toastmasters and Black Pineapple Toastmasters Clubs emerged the winner of both contests. He will proceed to the Division Level Contests in both categories.
At its charter date, 29 January, 2021, the MNI Speaker’s Club membership stood at 22 persons. At present, it includes members from Montserrat, Anguilla, Canada and the UK. The Club’s current
Executive comprises President (Ms. Daphne Furlonge ACB CL), Vice President (Mrs. K. Vanessa White), Vice President Public Relations (Mrs. Florence Griffith Joseph), Secretary (Mrs. Zelma White), Treasurer (Ms. Romilly Murrain) and Sergeant at Arms (Ms. Denise Silcott). The team consistently works assiduously in supporting the members in pursuing and achieving the objectives of their chosen Pathways. Eleven Pathways options are available; members select their Path, with a view to improving specific aspects of their communication skills. Pathways includes skills such as Leadership Development, Visionary Communication, Innovative Planning, Persuasive Influence and Motivational Strategies. MNI Speakers Club meets virtually every two weeks (Wednesday 6pm). They remain keen in their commitment and drive which served as the founding reasons for their existence: to build better and more confident communicators and leaders. They uphold Toastmasters International’s 4 core values: Integrity, Respect, Service and Excellence. President TM Daphne expressed that the Club’s desire is to quench the leadership capacity ‘drought’ as they realise the objectives of seeing an emergence of more eloquent communicators, with greater self-confidence.
Three Cheers, on your one-year accomplishments, MNI Speakers!!!