of laughter issuing from the village hall were testament to
the talents of the smartly-uniformed lady standing before us:
Marion Canning, one of a small number of female toastmasters
working today. Speaking entirely without notes she kept us enthralled
as she revealed the triumphs and disasters of her profession.
As might be expected, the hilarity was caused by the latter
when our speakers training, commonsense and caring
nature were sorely tested. When dealing with groups which might
be hundreds strong those qualities were crucial.
She told us clearly and concisely (her words) what
her job entailed and proved her expertise by holding us in the
palm of her hand all evening. The essence of her talent is communication
and an understanding of the behaviour of the human race, particularly
when determined to enjoy itself in large numbers.
After attending numerous formal occasions and noting the ineptitude
of of various toastmasters she voiced her opinion to her husband
that a woman could have done better. Taking her up on this he
challenged her to prove it and this was the start of her career.
Earlier in life she had been trained to use her excellent voice
by the GPO and then enrolled at the London Academy of Music
and Dramatic Art, gaining an understanding and control of her
voice, along with an ability to project her words which
she demonstrated enviably this evening. A microphone was definitely
Turning her qualifications to the job of toastmaster required
the direction of an existing professional and she contacted
the David Tilt Association which, after some sceptical comments,
agreed to train her for a few weeks. So it was that she found
herself on the Malvern Hills, booming out to assembled sheep
and startled tourists (while her tutor hid behind a gorse bush).
Having proved the strength of her delivery she was admitted
to the Association. Her work then took her to a variety of venues
for anniversaries, weddings, awards evenings, company
dinners and a wealth of other occasions.
The venues included hotels, corporate headquarters, castles,
halls, as well as private houses. Each one must be visited,
assessed and its potential evaluated. Being in charge of each
occasion means that she has to be prepared for the unexpected,
which inevitably occurs.
There were the false teeth which had to be retrieved from under
the high table, in view of the guests; the best mans trousers
which split so badly they had to be secured with safety pins;
the celebration cakes which could not be served because they
proved inedible. And the surprise dessert, containing numerous
sparklers, that set off the fire alarm.
Such problems were faced every day by Mrs Canning and delighted
her audience. Her command of her subject, sense of humour and
ability to mimic accents and mannerisms, made for a brilliant
evenings entertainment and our members counted themselves
fortunate that our committee had invited her to join us.
Other business: our next meeting, resolutions and discussion,
is on May 13, when Rosemary Prosser will be asking One
egg or two? Finding the answer should be interesting.
Business also included an announcement of a nationwide project,
supported by the WI, to provide a water pipeline to a village
in Cameroon; a report by Judith Walker of the Federation AGM
which she attended; and local events to which members will be
asked to contribute.