Nicola von Lutterotti (evaluated by Adrian Engler) got the evening off to an interesting start by thinking about the nature of communication. Citing research on primates, she suggested that only humans have the capacity to cooperate and, correspondingly, communicate. While I would have liked to debate Nicola with some rivalling research that clearly shows animals exhibiting altruism and cooperative behaviour, I applaud her efforts to make us feel good about communication and to think more deeply about it.
Inspired by a TED talk, David Ermen (evaluated by Celine Horan) continued the scientific agenda by asking if our body language can actually have an effect on ourselves (not just on our audience). Using his own body as an example on stage, David explained how different poses affect people’s confidence and even their hormone levels. His speech was as interesting as it was practical for everyday life, not least for the topic of public speaking without fear.
Olivia Coker (evaluated by Nicholas Allan) delivered a colourful speech on the colourless prints by Paul Gauguin. Setting the scene – and drawing the audience into it – at the Kunsthaus Zurich, Olivia painted a vivid picture of the artist who at the end of his life described himself as a savage. “We, the Oviri” was a tour de force of art, civilization, and psychology – passionately delivered and sparingly supported by visuals, to mark yet another highlight in Olivia’s outstanding collection of speeches she delivered over the past years.
Fiona Wallace-Mason’s table topics were distinctly amusing and reminded me of “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, as she asked a number of people to pick obscure items from a bag and talk about them spontaneously. Objects included a chocolate bar, a broom stick, a pack of (magical?) mushrooms, and cinnamon sticks.
Winners of the evening were Nicholas Allan (Best Evaluator), Robert MacKenzie (Best Table Topic Speaker and guest), and Olivia Coker (Best Speaker).
The session was concluded by Marcel Cattin, who almost brought the house to tears with two rather sassy jokes.