miércoles, 29 de noviembre de 2017

Cambios de última hora

La última sesión de Toastmasters Barcelona Club fue sobre los cambios de última hora. En un mundo lleno de rapidez y múltiples opciones, ¿qué mejor que hablar de cambios de última hora? Por lo que hemos podido ver, la gran mayoría de los cambios que nuestros miembros recuerdan están relacionados con vuelos (¿por qué será?).

Albert, cronometrador, nos explica su rol y nos cuenta la vez que perdió un vuelo de trabajo y tuvo que buscarse la vida cogiendo un tren. Por su lado, Zuzana, como contadora de muletillas de la noche, explica los "ahhmm uhmm ehmm" que hemos de evitar y nos deja ver como no dudó ni media muletilla para apuntarse a un viaje de última hora. Finalmente, en su papel de gramática, Isabel Beltrán explicó la palabra del día ("diletante") y el gran cambio de última hora que surgió cuando en su trabajo le dijeron que a la semana siguiente la enviaban a Estados Unidos (¡eso sí que es un cambio de última hora!).

Mona Teller nos proveyó de un fabuloso Rompehielos alrededor de su gran pasión y profesión: los perros. Con una friolera de nueve perros, Mona nos ha contado cómo vive el día a día con ellos y como la predilección que sienten por ella le jugó una vez una mala pasada: estando ella en un aeropuerto (¡otro aeropuerto en esta sesión!*), fue registrada por la policía cuando un precioso pastor alemán se le acercó para saludarla (¡ups!).
[Imagen de Mona]

"Aprende, entrénate y habla como un líder y…" ¿os suenan estas palabras? Son el eslogan del club y aparecen en nuestra web (permitidme unos momentos corporativos: [insertar web]). En su discurso, Manolo nos habló de las vueltas que da la vida y lo que apuntarse a Toastmasters significó para él: momentos profundos, amigos maravillosos y superar el miedo al cambio. Para acabar, nos reveló cuál era la última palabra del título "DIVIÉRTETE".
[Imagen de Manolo]

Después de que Isabel y Mariyana evaluasen los discursos de sus compañeras, Maria Luisa dio paso a uno de discursos más surrealistas que se haya vivido en la historia del club. La situación: una cena de navidad en la que cuatro hermanos tienen un secreto que contar. L@s herman@s: Enrique, Emilie, Ramón y nuestro invitado Louis (cuyo nombre espero haber escrito bien). Resultado: un cambio de sexo, una boda escondida por más de veinte años, una virginidad latente y una mudanza de última hora. Dejo a vuestra imaginación la correspondencia entre persona y caso (¡os invito a dejar vuestra apuesta en los comentarios!).
[Imagen de los TT]

Seguidamente, Sandra, evaluadora general de la noche, concluyó con sus comentarios de la sesión y dio paso a Sean, quien entregó a Mona el ribbon por su Rompehielos. Así acabó una sesión cuya moraleja podría ser "Los cambios dominan nuestro día a día, así que para qué evitarlos si podemos aprovecharlos."

*Y de verdad, os aseguro, que Vueling no nos patrocina (aunque oye, todo sería hablarlo…)

Fdo: María Blancas

domingo, 26 de noviembre de 2017

Conflict... What Conflict?

Although the very timely topic for the night was the management of difficult social exchanges, it certainly is not easy to think about skirmishes and strife while enjoying the genial atmosphere of Toastmasters Club BCN.

Nine visitors were present, and after they introduced themselves, our president, Sean Palit, presented us with the Circle of Success theory. We all wish, and have the potential, to be successful, but where can these tenets best be applied? In Toastmasters, of course, as well as in the challenges presented by sports.

Jelena Vetockina was the Toastmaster of this English-speaking session. Wisely aware of the necessity of successful conflict resolution, she promised us many take-home tips to resolve any difficult situation.

The technical team consisted of Ah-Counter, Soledad Castellano, who in addition to explaining her role, provided us with hints on how to avoid their use. First, she said, if you project your voice to the audience, you are less likely to need them. Second, make judicious use of pauses without fear. The truth is, the audience feels the pause length to be far shorter than the speaker. And lastly, recording your speech during your practice helps you hear the outcome, making you more conscious of your Ah-Um-Eeeh use.
Maria Luisa Gomes, our Grammarian, used an analogy to compare grammar use with photography. She explained that, just as the position of a camera has a huge influence on the resulting image, the correct (or incorrect) use of grammar can seriously alter the meaning and the message of your speech. The word of the night was “Trailblazer”, a very inspiring term that seems to define the hopes of many.
Sebastian Ortega, pinch-hitting as timekeeper, reminded us that, although Toastmasters was a bastion of British-like politeness, the use of time within the sessions was of Swiss-bred importance. And in case we did not get the message, veiled threats of throwing a bucket of ice water upon serious time-management offenders were added.

Roberto Dei Giudici took the stage for his second speech (“Anger, Aggression and How I’ve learned to Deal with It” – Competent Communication Manual – 2 – Organize Your Speech). He presented us his theory of what powers an angry reaction: that it is the outcome of feeling “stuck”, and frustration at not being able to move forward, and thus leads to blame. The solution, he feels, is to follow a three-step plan: empathy, so to relate to the other’s dilemma; an acknowledgment of the situation; and finally, the making of a suggestion or proposal towards corrective action.
Jelena remarked that Roberto’s speech was uncannily right on target, given that she had set conflict-management as the night’s theme.

It was Zuzana Smakalova’s turn next, to entertain us with a speech that transported us to Morocco (“Feel the Magic” – Competent Communication Manual – 4 – How to Say It). Camel rides, immense deserts, the experience of absolute silence while in the presence of others, and indigenous people equally awed by the expansiveness of their very own home. A special, one-off experience that she realized, upon returning to Spain and reality, could be repeated daily – if we take the time to observe our surroundings and surrender ourselves to the magic.

Mariyana came on stage dressed to lab researcher perfection, and described to us the discovery, development and the surprisingly variety of uses of a well-known pharmaceutical product. (“The Blue Diamond” – Speeches by Management – 1 – The Briefing) It was both informative and amusing, opening our eyes to the realm of possibilities contained within one little blue pill.

The evaluators of the evening (Emilie Jaquetton, Sean Palit and Manolo López) provided the three speakers with point-on praise and precise advice.

Members of the audience were encouraged by Cristina Gil to come up with a mini story based on three disparate words. Hailed by Jelena as a very creative Table Topics premise, Cristina explained that she had often entertained her niece and nephew with this game to pass the time on the way back from school. Thus, Isabel (mouse-bike-snake), guest-member Dan (window cleaner, traffic lights, penguin), Anna (milk truck, rainbow, sofa), Sebastian (key, carrot, scissors) and Yanina (screw driver, elephant, fireman) successfully built up a short but entertaining tale with the sparse tools provided them.

Enrique Alvarez, the overall evaluator, suggested certain logistic improvements (“more sheeeeets, please”) and in general praised all participants for their efforts during the session.

Lastly, before the gavel was sounded to end the session, we were reminded by our president that he and other TMC BCN members would be flying to Milan the next day, to take part in an important regional event. Also, this year’s Christmas party is to take place on the 16th of December – details to be announced – and that all were welcome. And finally, a reminder that the final session of 2017 was to take place on December 20th, in Spanish, and that all were encouraged to attend what would be a very special event. 
So, without further ado, we will apply the conflict-management skills skillfully summed up by Jelena Vetockina  throughout the week, as we look forward to the next session of TMC on November 29th. 

jueves, 16 de noviembre de 2017

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night... (October 18, 2017)

As our usual venue was unavailable, the kind offer of TMC Sagrada Familia to use their space was gratefully accepted. Now, a change of scenery is enough to nudge anyone from their comfort zone. Add to this an unexpected storm that did its best to “rain on our parade”, leaving the session to an apparently less-than-fortunate start.

However, nothing could dampen the spirits of the participants. We shook off the raindrops and settled to slowly dry out as the session proceeded. 
Participation was high – a total of nine invited guests had braved the storm – and soon the rumbles of genius and flashes of inspiration storming from the podium rivalled the tempest without.  

Did you know that our president Sean Palit could juggle? Well, surprise us all he did, by launching five colorful balls into the air along with metaphorical advice on balancing the important things in life. Equal motion is the key was our take-home message – just be sure the balls that represent the most important things in life - your relationships and health  - are kept aloft.

Tonight’s Toastmaster Zuzana Smakalova expressed her wonder upon hearing another member casually mention of a previous pastime, modeling and competing for “Miss Italy”. We all have a at least a bit of turbulence hidden within, she realized. So she invited us to “stop looking for your passion” and just live. The range of passions and special interests of tonight’s participants, as she related them, was outstanding: mountain-bike riding, climbing, surfing in Ireland (of all places!), collecting “sands of beaches”, creating an online magazine, water skiing and snow skiing (all in one person!), dedication to “Serious Play”, vegetable production, peak climbing, dancing and karaoke, Gordon Ramsay’s charms, highbrow reading (as opposed to the not-so-highbrow, a new puppy, and the secret to Casanova-like success. 

The word of the day was a provocative challenge. No one could have guessed that the expression “Lose My Bottle” came from the world of boxing! Only a few could boldly introduce it into their contributions, clearly determined not to “give up at the last minute”.

Cristina de Medrano held us rapt with her speech “Turn Your Passion to Your Purpose” (Communications Competence – 2 – Organize Your Speech). She informed us that there is a lot to be gained from defying the impossible and reaching for apparently unsurpassable goals. Who knows how many new adventures her message has inspired?

Manolo Lopez had us both shaking our heads with grief and laughing at life’s absurdity as he illustrated the basic laws of stupidity in his speech “Don’t Open the Emergency Exit Door” (The Entertaining Speaker – 3 – Make Them Laugh). It was amusing, it was informative… and it left us more than a little worried about the world’s future.

Table Topics was introduced with great flair by Paul Conde. In clear terms he reminded us of the fundamental importance of thinking on your feet. A skill to be honed daily because – you never know – you may have to impress someone someday… and a little ad-lib can go a long way. The four chosen extemporaneous speakers were well up to the challenge.

Our guest Alba Lucia Hincapie graciously served as General Evaluator. She was generous with her praise and judicious in her comments, reminding us of the importance of watching the small details as well as the bigger picture.

The evening was tempestuous, both indoors and out. But TMC Barcelona knows how to face up to any gale with broad smiles and edifying speeches.