From Nicola Jones, London Athenians
How to spice up a regular club meeting
At London Athenians we’re always looking out for new ways to engage, entertain and challenge our members; in particular tailoring the content while retaining the core programme of table topics, speeches and evaluators. We would like to share the highlights of one of our special meetings, the Campfire Night, with the wider London Speaker community and share our top tips on adding some spice to the regular meetings. Our special night had stories, debates and singing around the campfire, all with a Halloween theme.
So let’s take a look at what was different from a regular meeting night:
• Theme – as our Campfire Night was on the 27th October, a Halloween theme was an obvious choice. We are lucky that our venue is usually already decorated for Halloween, but a few members brought some additional spooky items to set the scene.
• Campfire – clearly there are health and safety issues around having a real fire! The next best option was to ask members to bring along lanterns and candles, which were set up in a circle in the middle of the room. It was really effective and we found that members felt empowered walking around the circle of light.
• Room layout – deviating from the norm the chairs were laid out in a circle using the whole space. We had about 40 members and guests and this was a very inclusive and sociable layout. It encouraged people to take part without feeling intimidated by reducing the formality.
• Agenda – the agenda format was adapted in EasySpeak to align with our revised format. We amended the timing to allocate Table Topics time for up to 40 speakers! We also added a couple of entertainment timeslots, adapted a couple of the speaker slots for debaters and increased the overall number of prepared speeches. This was important as we needed to know we could tailor the programme, but still finish the meeting at 9.30pm.
• Tailoring the core programme – Table Topics with a twist! All attendees were given a number from 1 to 3 and everyone in the circle had the opportunity to speak; the 1s asked impromptu questions, the 2s responded in 1 minute and the 3s evaluated. The round robin Table Topics were a great success, encouraging even new guests to speak.
Candlelight was a fitting setting for a couple of spooky tales in the prepared speeches, followed by a friendly “roast” about our President, Ashen Dachtler.
As you may know London Athenians is blessed with members and guests from around the world. To make the most of that, in another deviation from the norm, we heard a debate between a Danish member and an Italian member, each attempting to persuade the audience that their country was better than the other. Votes were cast and Italy won the day for that particular debate!
• Be surprising – Marta Mathea Radwan and her fellow singing enthusiasts from the London Open Choir were invited to warm up our voices with some fun and energetic vocal exercises. We started with the fundamentals including breathing, sound and volume. Shedding any fear of looking foolish, everyone threw themselves into the experience and soon Marta had the whole room making sweet music with our voices and not an instrument in sight. The London Open Choir welcomes any amateurs, musicians, singers and actors who are curious and enjoy a creative atmosphere to improve your musical skills.
With careful planning and unbounded enthusiasm, our Campfire Night was a resounding success and we hope you can take away some ideas for tailoring your meetings.
We meet every Tuesday evening at 7.15pm, upstairs at the Hop Poles Pub in Hammersmith, W6. London Athenians Toastmasters Club website
Darkness falls and the Campfire Night begins…