Laughing, Learning and Inspiring: All in a Toastmasters day in Winchester

From Richard Blackman Area 46 Governor

Area J46 International Speech Contest and Evaluation Contest

Toastmasters from Reading, Basingstoke, Winchester and Southampton gathered for the Area 46 spring conference and international speech and evaluation contests on Saturday 11 April 2015. Location was the Badger Farm Community Centre to the south of Winchester. It was the perfect sett(ing) for an energising and entertaining toastmaster day.

During the first half of the day participants were treated to an interactive workshop on humorous speaking led by toastmaster and award winning presenter and humorist, Alan Donegan. Entitled “Have the Audience Rolling in the Aisles: How to Add Humour to Your Speech”, the workshop itself generated much laughter. We went home inspired and more knowledgeable in the construction of jokes, and with many images etched in our minds. Elephants on the UK’s road network, backside slapping at supermarkets, business uses of roadkill, and the pleasures of gardening all resulted in laughter!

Then the contests…

The speech contests, the more serious business of the day, took place after a convivial lunch of eating and networking. Both contests were smoothly and professionally chaired by Steve Vear, with Dorothea Stuart as Chief Judge

Pictured at the top of post: All eight contestants with Contest Chair and Area Governor (Back row left to right: Debs Wallace, Andrew Keevil, Alex Reid, Steve Vear, Ken Amy, Eric Skates; Front row left to right: Gerard de Jong, Saday Appan, Richard Blackman, John Spry)

The Area J46 International Speech Contest

First up in the International Speech Contest was Debs Wallace (Basingstoke Speakers) with a personal story of how toastmasters had helped her overcome enormous disbelief. She was followed by Eric Skates (Wessex Speakers) on taking a step of faith based on his experiences over the past decade in Uganda. Third in the sequence was Gerard de Jong (Reading Speakers) with an entertaining personal story. Ken Amy (Hamwic Speakers) completed the quartet of area finalists with his speech in praise of toastmasters, given dressed in a luminous “counter-cultural tutu”.

The Area J46 Evaluation Contest

Testing the speakers in the Evaluation Contest was a target speech given by Russell Streeter, President of Solent Speakers in Fareham. Based around sailing and containing a message for his son, Russell’s great speech challenged the contestants to develop their analytical skills, but also more importantly to give the speaker some recommendations on how to improve an already great speech. Our four contestants, Andrew Keevil (Wessex Speakers), Saday Appan (Basingstoke Speakers), Alex Reid (Reading Speakers) and John Spry (Hamwic Speakers) all lived up to the task giving some excellent evaluations.

And the winners were…

Area J46 Evaluation winner John Spry Apr 2015First place in the Evaluation Contest went to Hamwic Speakers’ John Spry, with Saday Appan as runner up. (John pictured left with Richard)

First place in the International Speech Contest went to Reading Speakers’ Gerard de Jong, with Eric Skates as runner up.

As ever at a toastmaster event all the participants went away as winners, having achieved so much. That said only those judged to be in first place qualified for the Division J finals in Swindon on 19 April. Book your place via

Area J46 International Speech Contest Winner Gerard de Jong Good luck to John and Gerard in Swindon!

(Gerard pictured left with Richard and Steve)

A big thank you goes to Wessex Speakers for their organisation and hosting of a great day.

Thank you to our photographers Diane Chamberlain, Margaret Amy and Peter Jagger.

Last Updated on 7th October 2020 by Susan Rayner