A ‘hot’ evening at Zuriberg Toastmaster Club – Meeting June 6th

Dear Fellows of Zuriberg Toastmaster Club and Friends

The wonderful news is that Summer finally arrived in Zürich – the not so great news however is, that last night, despite summer tempartures – at Blue Monkey’s ‘Thai Heaven’ – (the big guild hall was for once not available) the heating was working full blast, providing all 24 attending members with a literal ‘hot seat’! The Club had restricted the meeting for members because of the smaller location – an action that proved itself as highly appropriate – as much we all regretted the absence of guests. With a densely packed program (5 Speeches, one presentation being a keynote speech of 22 min.) the impeccably prepared evening was marked by sharp attention to detail, engagement, a demonstration of  of relaxed efficiency and fun. Denisse Sevastian treated the audience to a well worded speech about the many intricacies when traveling and confronted with foreign cultures. She managed to bring her presentation to life with wonderfully detailed descriptions and a very per sonal touch. Elias Miano held a fictive commencement speech at his MBA alma matter, marked by his willingness to share intimate details of his life and the motives and emotions they encompassed. As Michelle Sabatini – his evaluator – correctly stated though; as strong as Elias’ message was, through the missing clear link to the highly personal first part of Elias’ speech the elevated requirements of a keynote speech were likely not fully met. Rafael Toledano elaborated in a perfectly structured, interesting and well presented speech abut the shortcomings of humans when attempting for foretell, i.e. prospect their own fortunes – or rather misfortunes! Rafael’s title of ‘Best Speaker’ of the evening was well deserved – among other things because he gave a textbook example of delivering a speech with a certain complexity in a understandable and clear way. Our new member Ana Maria Fluorescu gave her ‘Icebreaker’ and did indeed ‘break the ice’, el oquently, charming and… head first, as promised with the title of her speech! Last but certainly not least Kevin von Niederhäusern gave us a great sample of good vocal intonation and variety with his speech about communication styles: ‘It’s time to wake up, kiddo!

Sascha Merian as Table Topics Master of the evening demonstrated his love for stories by starting a mysterious narration with continuations by several members, each chosen by her/his predecessor. An excellent variation of impromptu speech – and a telling demonstration of ‘collective creativity’!

Under housekeeping yours truly reminded everybody that coming Tuesday, June 13th there will be no club-meeting as this is the day your Committee is at work. We’ll reconvene on June 20th with the meeting-theme ‘Rhythm’! At the end of next meeting we’ll also hold a short e.o. General Assembly (GA) to ratify the two amendments of the Association’s statutes, explained during the GA on May 9th 2023 and the appointment of Johanna Wolska as Secretary and Kevin von Niederhäusern as SAA (separate invitation to follow). 

With best wishes for enjoyable and productive weeks ahead
Please click here for details of our next club meeting

Roland Straub

Illusions – meeting April 25th

On Tuesday evening, we enjoyed another regular meeting in our beloved Blue Monkey Restaurant.

Vanessa, acting as President in Roland’s absence, opened the meeting. She gave an enthusiastic report on the Division E speech contest, mentioning members who were involved. Alice and Monica took second place against stiff competition in the Evaluation and International Speech Contests respectively. The contest was organised by Harry (Contest Chairman) and Karina (Division Director). Vanessa chaired the Evaluation contest and Anna was the chief timekeeper.

The theme of the evening’s meeting was ‘illusions’ and the Toastmaster of the evening (TME), Gabriel Espadas, used it throughout the evening to present us examples of illusions in art, acoustics and how they inspire people in their everyday lives. Every speaker had to answer a well-thought-out question on how we bring the benefit of illusions into our lives.

We had 4 great speeches from our members.

Samira shared with us an important life lesson, “The value of speaking up” through the personal transformation she experienced at her first job. Illustrating that teams progress through the collective intelligence and everyone in the hierarchy has something to say and value to add. Speak up!

Harry introduced us to the wilderness desert with his vivid descriptive language and usage of many rhetoric techniques to achieve this. Enabling us to visualise the comparison of the size of the desert to China, to demonstrate how big the Sahara actually is beyond the numbers of 9.2 million km2. He used multiple adjectives and vivid, colourful descriptions of the dunes, the oases, and the transportation means to describe the vast desert.

Kevin gave us an insightful speech of how he rationalised, implemented, and finally embraced the feedback he receives after his speeches to become a better speaker. What a great way to show the importance of the feedback we provide to the speakers and what an impact it may have on the speaker’s journey for personal development.  In this case, strengthening his public speaking skills.

Sabine gave us a well-filtrated analysis of how to plan and implement a project plan in only 3 minutes, as required by her project. She excelled on delivering the key elements of how to create and implement a plan for a long trip with a full agenda on personal development with humorous elements. We travelled to Uruguay and Argentina and enjoyed the story! Maybe some of us got inspired to plan a long trip for themselves. Samira and Harry shared the Best Speaker award.

Selma, Yesenia, Etienne, and Vanessa provided the evaluations, with Etienne awarded the Best Evaluator ribbon. Nicola as General Evaluator gave a thorough overview of the meeting and how the team executed flawlessly the roles, making the evening another enriching experience that lived up to the expectations of our high-quality meetings.

We broke the record with the usage of the word of the day – ‘expectations’ being used more than 20 times.

Denisse used her creativity to the maximum with the selection of Table topics; asking us to describe life situations that we all face during life. Pairs of speakers had to describe a situation, with one talking about the ‘expectations’ and the other one describing the ‘reality’. Michelle, with the profession of comedian as reality, won the session.

About one more great evening – and upcoming events!

Dear Zuriberg Toastmasters and Friends

Last night – yet again, Zuriberg TMC presented itself at its best! We were literally ‘enchanted’ (word of the day) by 4 beautiful (Beauty the theme of the evening) prepared speeches. Sasha Merian introduced himself to the Club with a very personal and thoughtful Icebreaker; ‘Confession of an addiction’, and Elias Milano brought appreciation and knowledge about the intricacies of Speciality Coffee with a short but meaningful presentation and a well organized Q & A under the title: ‘Brewtiful’ to our awareness. Emilio Lella’s play on words: ‘VAT’s up’ entailed the development of his professional career and how serendipity is offering us all chances in life – but that we need to be open and prepared to recognize and harness them. Finally Monica Vlad presented us with a personally lived example of how value assumptions are often the result of a particular perspective and thus may severely limit ou r longer term options in (professional) life – with her speech: ‘Network your way through life’! The excellent speeches were followed by equally valuable and well thought out evaluations by Roxy, Luca Selma and Kevin.

Harry Loots rounded the performance part of the evening with a treasure bag of objects (literally), triggering amazingly diverse table topic speeches. A big thanks goes to the highly talented and by now quite routined host of the evening, Vanessa Stournary and Alice Nuslaova as general evaluator as well as her team – covering the formal aspects of the meeting. 

There are two upcoming events I’d like to draw your special attention to:

Division Contest 22. April 2023
Please register to support our two well positioned competitors Alice Nuslova and Monica Vlad, who are competing in the evaluation and international speech contests respectively: https://d109dive.ch/registration/ As a bonus, there will be guestspeeches by Marcel Weinberger – an adventurer who travels to remote places and captures its beauty and Marco Albasio, a former Laser engineer, who lists among his interests Quantum physics, and now runs a Tea Store in Milan.

General Assembly and Election of Club Officers 9. May 2023
You might not be aware – but one of the ‘Specialities’ of Zuriberg Toastmaster Club is that the Club is in effect an Association under Swiss Law! By joining Zuriberg you automatically become a member of this association (more about this in a separate post). As such the Club will hold its Annual General Assembly on May 9th 2023 and of course all members are cordially invited (or to say it with other words: ‘friendly nudged’) to attend! So please safe the date – a separate official invitation will follow.

With best wishes for a productive rest of the week and kind regards
Please click here for details of our next club meeting

Roland Straub

On diversity, anti-mentors, and cheery blossoms – Meeting March 28th

Did you know that Zurich has a dedicated page only for cherry blossoms? Well, now you do, and it‘s our magnificent Toastmaster of the evening, Anna Franzen, to thank for that (look here for more https://www.zuerich.com/de/besuchen/jahreszeiten-in-zuerich/bluetenzauber). 

Harry Loots started the speeches with an insightful speech on how we as leaders are too small for boxes retrieved from online questionnaires, with proper examples that even though he‘s a democratic leader by the books, there are many situations where such notions don‘t apply.

A beautiful tale of encountering otherness was told by Michelle Sabatini of humans and animals and lost connections, of encounters with bears and the delusion of uniqueness as human beings.

Santhiago Alves Vieira told us how mentors who are always right are the best, but the worst are those who have a 50% chance of being right, and that anti-mentors who are always wrong still can be useful as anti-mentors.

Yesenia Sánchez opened with the most beautiful quote of the evening: „The wound is the place where the light enters you.“ and explained beautifully how and why diversity, equity and inclusion are so important.

Pietro Castoldi closed the speeches with his icebreaker which – as all agreed – was a great introduction to the club.

All being excellent speeches, our evaluators had an easy job finding what was done well and a hard time finding improvement opportunities. Denisse Sevastian gave her first ever evaluation, by no means an easy feat. Congratulations! 

Rafael Illan gave his debut as a Table Topics master, and chose, inspired by last weeks debate, many mini debates on hilarious topics like „Allergies are a conspiracy by the tissue industry to sell more tissues“ or „Why New Year’s resolutions should be moved to spring“.  

For the evening‘s roundup, General evaluator Roland Straub and his team consisting of Grammarian Selma Zeni, Ah & Vote counter Andrea Egger and Timer Alexander Merian gave an on-spot reports. Flamboyant, the pompous word of the day, was used an impressive 6 times. 

We‘re looking forward to seeing all of you again in the next heroic meeting on April 11th.

Richard Bruckner

Do we believe the freedom of speech has it’s limits? – Debate March 21st

Dear Fellows of the one and only Zuriberg Toastmasters Club, dear Guests and Friends

With much regret yours truly was not able to attend the evening of March 21st and what – so the unanimous reports – must have been a truly accomplished and successful debate evening. Kevin von Niederhäusern had taken on the responsibility of organizing the evening and I have asked him to provide you with a recount of the evening’s events. Here his summary:


Another great evening at Toastmasters Zuriberg! This time, we left the art of preparing and delivering accomplished speeches for a moment to tackle another tenet of public speaking: debates! Organized and brought to life by Kevin as Chairman, the debate laid out the proposition of-  and the opposition to the motion: “This house believes that freedom of speech has its limits”.

The two teams (proposition: Thomas & Santhiago; opposition: Ben & Gabriel) were well prepared for an engaged debate. They dived into extended research beforehand and defended their positionys energetically. The proposition brought many arguments supporting that a lack of constraints on speech leads to spread of fake news and hate speeches, jeopardizing lives and public health. They challenged the opposition with facts, statistics and well established research on how freedom of speech is monitored and categorized as potentially manipulative.

The opposition focused their arguments on the negative impact on minorities when freedom of speech is restrained. They raised the question of who decides what is worth being said and what may lead to unwanted situations. For example, citizens in dictatorships do not get the opportunity to have their voices heard. Freedom of speech allowed in the past years – in many countries – homosexuals to receive the same marriage rights as heterosexuals. In their view, the given examples show that freedom of speech should be protected at any cost .

As in any good debate, all speakers managed to be tough on the issue while soft on the people – they fully managed to make the audience think while respecting the perspectives of their opponents. But of course, there was only room for a single winning team – even though the vote ended as a tie, the opposition managed to convert more voters at the end of the debate (proposition to opposition 11 vs 4 at the opening, 8 vs 8 at the close).

Congrats to the winners of the debate Gabriel and Ben and honorable mentions to Santhiago and Thomas for their great arguments.After dinner, Luca went far and beyond the classic evaluation role by giving tactical advice inspired by the book of Arthur Schopenhauer “the art of always being right”. 

In her general evaluation, Anna confirmed that debates have their place at Toastmasters and that any good speaker needs to develop these skills. However, in order to involve more members in participating during the evening, she proposed to switch to the shorter debate format in the future, which would allow two debates in a single meeting.

The final words from the guests and the audience confirmed the general and high interest in debates and everybody lauded the professionalism in the organization from the Zuriberg Committee. Last but not least, thanks to the timer (Emilio) and the vote and ballot counters (Samira and Kostas) for their support.

The theme of the upcoming meeting on March 28th is SPRING – fully in synch with the longingly awaited and happily welcomed new season. It will be a classic meeting, back to the roots with no less than 5 prepared speeches scheduled.

Come and join us – practicing and celebrating the art of public speaking!

Kind reagards
Please click here for details of our next club meeting

Roland Straub

Nebulous – Meeting March 14th

Dear Zuriberg Toastmasters and Friends

After a somewhat prolonged hiatus of yours truly from writing and reporting about the Zuriberg Toastmasters activities I’m glad to be back. The regular meeting held past Tuesday, March 14th stood under the meeting theme: ‘NEBULOUS’! Derived from the latin word nebula, the word nebulous used as an adjective has a primary meaning of cloudy, misty or foggy and a figurative meaning of hazy, vague or formless! But let me be clear – according to expectations and form, the evening was anything but nebulous (in either sense)! Our dearest Club Secretary, Joanna Wolska performed for the first time the role of Toastmaster of the evening (TME) and delivered a charming and admirable performance! She was supported by the General Evaluator Samira Studer and her team (Andrea Egger as Grammarian, Yesenia Cardozo as Ah- and Vote Counter and Pietro Castoldi as Timer). It was a true pleasure to see relatively new members taking on roles (some of them for the first time) and performing wit h enthusiasm and clearly expressed joy – well done!

The heart of the evening were four prepared speeches by Roxy Yilmaz, Elias Miano, Denisse Sevastian and Gabriel Espadas. Roxy eloquently elaborated on the importance of setting boundaries and Elias presented a convincing essay on the difficult concept of adaptability with respect to our changing environment. Doing so he was confronted with the additional requirement to manage a difficult audience, interrupting him in his presentation (the difficult audience was role-played with excellence by several club members who had prepared their interruptions beforehand). Denisse found convincing arguments why we are all richer than we might think and Gabriel gave a dramatic recount from his life where he experienced first hand that the fall is indeed greater from the top. All evaluations were sincere, on topic and helpful. To round up the evening, Alice did take over as Table Topic Master from Kevin, who got stuck in Berlin because of air traffic difficulties. 

As the Club-Year soon enters the last third I closed the evening with some housekeeping and invited members who are interested in joining the Committee for the new Club-Year, starting on July 1st 2023, to announce their interest with an email addressed to me as President of the Club. Elections for the Club Committee will be held on May 9th! 

Please join us next Tuesday, March 21st for a special event: Debate Evening! Two teams delivering a highly structured verbal battle over the following Proposal: “This house believes that freedom of speech has its limits”! Enjoy and learn the high art of debating – a must for all aspiring public speakers.

Best regards
Please click here for details of our next club meeting

Roland Straub

If you want to change the world make your bed! – Meeting Jan 31st

Dear Zuriberg-Members and Friends

The meeting on Tuesday 31st of January 2023 (with the first month of the year already over) was conducted by a most experienced Toastmaster: our one and only Nicola von Lutterotti and stood under the meeting theme: Universe! Indeed  – we got presented a whole universe of worlds, with four prepared speeches and as a result of the diverse prompts for table topic speeches by the versed and well prepared table topic master of the evening Vanessa Stournari. 

Elias Miano played with our minds in his speech: ‘Artificial Story’, concluding that in the new world of ChatGPT, reality is not necessarily what it seems (was it before?). Rafael Toledano introduced himself to the club with his icebreaker ‘Genes and Jeans’, presenting the oddities and hilarious situations growing up with his brother as identical twins. Joanna Wolska reached back to personal experiences to explain why ‘Trust in the Universe is a good way to learn to trust yourself’. Finally, and as the winning speech of the evening, Sabine Stary presented a mind-blowing rendition of Admiral McRavens speech: ‘If you want to change the world, make your bed’! The evaluations of the speeches were all of high quality and for good reason Alice, one of our youngest members earned great applause and a winning ribbon for her evaluation of Joanna’s speech. Table topics were won by the becoming superstar Santiago.

Coming Tuesday, 7th of February 2023 is properly named ‘Speech Marathon’! We expect to hear 7 prepared speeches with evaluations! The theme of the evening is appropriate for that time in February when St. Valentine rules: ‘Romance’! Please come and join us for an evening filled with suspense, drama and romance promising great entertainment and plenty of opportunities to learn.
Please click here for details of our next club meeting

Roland Straub

Club Contest 2023

Fellow Toastmasters,

This years club contest, the first non-virtual one for many members, was an amazing event enjoyed by a large crowd: more than 35 people attended the evening, including Division Director Karina Castella. 14 competitors had stepped  forward to challenge themselves in either the international speech, evaluation, and table topic contest.  Contest chair Harry Loots lost no time pointing out his amazement on how many  new members signed up.

Chief judge Vanessa, who next to Harry surely had the most effort in preparing this smooth-running event, explained the rules to everybody. To make sure a contest is according to toastmasters Standards is no easy feat by any means, filling all roles and briefing everybody to make sure compliance is kept.

The international speech contest featured four very experienced speakers. In Michelles speech about the importance of not being stuck in the past also gave advice on when it’s appropriate to wear wetsuits, this way not just giving good advice, but also insights about one of her big passions, open water swimming. 

Roland pondered in his speech “The power of choice” on whether we really have choices when things get tough and came to the convincing solution that yes, we do. 

Santhiago told us on how to “Think for yourself” on both airport queues and financial advices, making sure we’re now less likely to follow the crowd without second though.

As final speaker in the international speech, Monica held a speech with the boisterous title “The communication war in our sergeant role”, detailing her views on communication and information overloads in the 21st century and their impact on communities and us.

Harry presenting the winners of the International Speech Contest: Santhiago (1st) and Monica (2nd)

All being excellent speeches, it was a difficult choice for the judges.

Next up was the evaluation contest. Benjamin from TopNotch Toastmasters gave an insightful speech on Chat-GPT and related AI products and possible dangers and countermeasures, which was evaluated by Janna, Roxy, Alice, Sara and Samira in that order after a challenging 5 minute preparation time. While nervousness showed here and there, we all learned a lot. Congratulations to all, for 4 out of 5 evaluators it was their first contest.

Harry presenting the winners of the Evaluation Contest: Alice (1st), Samira (2nd) and Sara (3rd)

Last up was the table topic contest. Table topics are 1-2 minute impromptu speeches, and in a contest, all competitors have the same topic. This time, it was “A night at the movies”. Our Contestants Kevin’s, Thomas, Gabriel, Riccardo and Hugo enlightened us with a variety of interpretations, from their adventures in a moist 4DX cinema to appreciation of new experiences and cherishing the people that make you experience them. In a fitting finale, Hugo quite literally ended the Table Topic contest with a literal bang.

Harry presenting the winners of the Table Topics Contest: Gabriel (1st), Kevin (2nd) and Riccardo (3rd)

Thanks to all the Contributors & Organizers the evening went smoothly and enjoyably for all involved.

We want to congratulate all contestants and especially the top two places in each category of the Club Contest, who will represent Zuriberg Toastmasters at the Area Contest on the March 30th. Fingers Crossed!

Looking forward to seeing all of you again on our next regular meeting on January 31th, themed “Universe”.

All the best

Richard Bruckner

Curiosity – Meeting January 10th

Word of the Day

Dear Zuriberg Toastmasters and Friends

The new Calendar Year started for Zuriberg Toastmasters Club past Tuesday, 10th of January 2023 as lively and animated as the year 2022 ended. With ‘CURIOUS’ as the theme of the evening, an Evaluation Workshop, 4 prepared speeches and 4 great evaluations the agenda was packed and promising. And everybody delivered! Yours truly presented an introduction to Evaluation Theorie with emphasize on how to prioritize and structure successful feedback. Reference notes can be found here.

The speeches by Kevin von Niederhäusern, Gabriel Espadas, Svetlana Sailer and Hugo Schotman were varied and rich. We learnt about overcoming fear and apprehension when speaking in public, why we should never underestimate the (emotional) intelligence of animals, the wondrous relationship between neuropeptides and the human emotional stages and last but not least a lot about the motivation of Hugo Schotman to once more devote time and energy to the practices thought at Toastmasters! To all the speakers a great compliment for the effort and time they have put-in in preparing. 

As the evening was essentially an Evaluation Workshop, evaluators had to overcome a significant hurdle to deliver their assessment. In a twist to normal procedure, evaluations were given right after each speech and evaluators had only two minutes to prepare. The result was astounding: Precise, coherent and on-point feedback delivered in pleasant, encouraging ways. Admittedly, with one exception all evaluators were well versed in the art – but the one exception, Alice, did as well and eloquent as did the longstanding pillars of Toastmaster knowledge: Santhiago, Harry and Tatyana. A big thank you goes to Nicola and her evaluation team members: Yesenia, Rafael and Emilio for the supporting roles and great general feedback on the whole evening. 

The next meeting on January 24th 2023 is the Zuriberg Club Contest with 14 participants in 3 different categories! Please join us for an evening of great performances and help cheer and celebrate the brave girls and guys throwing their hat in the ring!

With kind regards and best wishes for a productive and successful (dry) January 
Please click here for details of our next club meeting

Roland Straub

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

Dear ‘Zuriberg’ Members, Friends and Guests

Past Tuesday, December 13th 2022 at the occasion of our Club Christmas Party – held in the beautifully decorated Guildhall at the Blue Monkey – I invited a festive and cheerful crowd to use the coming Holiday Season to reflect on their individual journey through this soon ending year 2022; be this in respect to their development as Toastmasters – be this in respect to their individual life path.

The ensuing joy- and cheerful evening with an interactive Christmas Quiz, co-hosted by the Quizmasters Alice and Richard, the rich and delectable Christmas Dinner and the christmasy-themed Table Topics hosted by Harry might have somewhat distracted from this invitation but certainly made for a wonderful and entertaining evening. Though nothing is lost – not even in respect to the suggested reflections – since the calmer days of the Holiday Season are still ahead. 

Toastmasters Zuriberg after a successful end of the Zuriberg Year (apart from Roland, who took the pic)

With that in mind I’d like to expand on the reflection theme some more and share a deeply felt wish with all of you:

I hope that in the year to come, you’ll make mistakes! Because only by making mistakes you’re actively expanding your horizon, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself and changing your world. As Toastmasters we avoid getting in a stalemate stage, we don’t stop and we don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect! Then whatever it is: work, family, love, or life in general we go on trying, making mistakes and in the process we receive the gift of getting better!

So my wish for all of you including myself: Whatever it is we’re scared of doing, let’s do it.

Marry Christmas to you all and a happy, joyful and fulfilling New Year
Please click here for details of our next club meeting

Roland Straub