Alumni Evening at London Victorians

Report by: Jack S


An alumni-themed evening with four great speeches, five table topics, six uses of the word fossick, and seven(ish) chocolates for the best listeners.


Our President, Eleanor, kicked things off by invoking the statesman Colin Powell and reminding us of three key elements to success: preparation, practice and embracing failure. After which it was onto our very own statesman Susanne, Toastmaster for the evening, who introduced the theme of ALUMNI – schools, universities, jobs – a great theme that had us all murmuring about what a small world it is. Susanne herself is an alumnus of Chicago Booth Business School, making her a “Boothie”.

Susanne being our Toastmaster for the evening

Our functionaries were up next: David (Durham Uni #1) as timekeeper, apparently the most important role; Chris B (TSB) as grammarian, who introduced many of us to a new word – “fossick” – and challenged us to use it throughout the evening; Chris W (Birkbeck) as harkmaster, responsible for rewarding those that listened carefully with delicious treats; and, last but not least, Jack (Wymondham College), who had the actual most important job: penning this report.

After which it was onto the speeches.


First up was Rebecca (JET Programme), who gave us a warm and witty account of her relationship with running. She told of her transition from positive-thinking-sofa-dweller to Paula Radcliffe-esque conqueror of her Swiss sister-in-law. Evaluating, Ariel (Durham Uni #2) commended Rebecca on a confident and polished speech, then fossicked around for a recommendation on more vocal variety.


Ariel evaluating

Next was Steph (Wits Uni), who told us that people have on average 60-80,000 thoughts per day, then proceeded to provoke plenty of thoughts for all of us with an illuminating talk on OCD which explained how obsession and compulsion can have a devastating impact. She finished with wise words from Plato reminding us all of the importance of being kind. Evaluating, Eleanor (POCA alien fan club), praised Steph’s professional tone and encouraged her to introduce even more of the witty dialogue, hand gestures and movement that peppered her speech.

Four great speeches!

Third was Priyendan (Bath Uni #1), who spoke on the topic of spontaneous decisions, like, for example, how far can you get on a single tank of fuel? For him it was Slovenia and Croatia, where ignoring his mum’s advice landed him on a boat party with David Guetta tunes uniting a diverse crowd. Evaluating, Matthew (unnamed school) focused on Priyendan’s vocal variety – speed, volume, pitch, emphasis – paying tribute to his conversational style and suggesting a few more pauses and greater volume for next time.

Last up was Andy (Kings Taunton school), who wowed us all with an energetic speech on his whirlwind romance and a spider-infested delve into the jungle – none of which actually happened – all to demonstrate the dangers of over-thinking the future. Evaluating, Florian (Bath Uni #2), highlighted the power of storytelling in Andy’s speech, and recommended slowing down a touch in future for maximum persuasive impact.

Andy speaking

Guests, Table Topics and Wrap-Up

Jackie (Rhodes Uni), introduced our guests – all ten of them! – who all either loved or hated public speaking. Both equally valid reasons for joining London Victorians.

We were then onto table topics, where Michelle (Barcelona Uni) celebrated Chinese New Year by challenging five brave souls to speak on whatever topic popped out of a fortune cookie. We all enjoyed Lucy, Rennie, Gayle, Anna and Edo regaling us on topics from the mundane – buying dinner for friends – to the salacious – texting old flames. They were evaluated collectively by Batool (Shrewsbury School), who offered a couple of suggestions for buying time when kicking off a table topic: first, thinking out loud and, second, starting with a quick, humorous response. She particularly commended our speakers for filling time effectively whilst opening their cookies. Kudos to all of them.

Edo collecting his fortune cookie table topic

Rounding off the evening, our grammarian, Chris B, counted six uses of the word fossick and a remarkable lack of filler words from our speakers. He praised the alliterative abilities of our able articulators. For those of us not full up on fortune cookies, our harkmaster, Chris W, provided chocolates in return for answering his questions – “What didn’t happen on Priyendan’s yacht…?” Anna (Cardiff Journalism School – hopefully approving of this writer’s efforts), summed everything up as our general evaluator, giving a whistlestop tour of the 13 roles that hadn’t already been evaluated, covering the lot in seven minutes. Phew!

Last but not least, our award winners!

  • Best table topics – Lucy
  • Best evaluator – Florian
  • And the big one, best speech – Andy

Lucy picking up her award

David also picked up his certificate for completing Level 1 of Presentation Mastery.

Well done to everyone and a special thank you to Susanne for marshalling proceedings with style and grace.

Guests are more than welcome at all our meetings. Just turn up – any Tuesday – we’d love to see you.