Dear Toastmasters,

The 112th meeting of Istanbul Toastmasters was held Wednesday January 4, 2012 at the Taksim Metro Park Hotel. Maybe due to its being the first meeting in 2012 or maybe due the unusual theme “Cheese Mania!” selected by our Toastmaster of the Evening Alper Rozanes we had a very large attendance with many people having to squeeze in behind the tables and against the walls to participate.

After our Sgt-at-Arms Özgür Çelik called the meeting to order our President, Bülent Özsoy, welcomed everyone to the first meeting in the New Year and pointed out that as a change we were celebrating the New Year now in the “New Year” rather than as usual at the end of the “Old Year”. Our TMOE, Alper, then began the meeting proper and we learned that amongst our many guests for 5 of them it was the very first time they attended a Toastmasters meeting. Alper then went on to explain that the reason for Toastmaster’s meetings is to allow people to overcome their inherent fear of public speaking by creating an environment that is friendly, fun and encourages participation by all members and guests. Alper explained that the typical meeting has 3 sections: Prepared Speeches, a Table Topics Session, and finally an Evaluation Session. Alper then asked the Role Holders, who help meetings run smoothly, to introduce themselves. On Wednesday the Table Topics Master was Önder Çoban, Word Master was Bengü Durgun who gave us a comprehensive explanation of the word of the day “Evaporate”, Vote Counter was Mert Nuhoğlu, Timer was Sema Özsoy, Listener was Gaspard Bizimana and General Evaluator was Deniz Şenelt.

Then Alper went on to explain what I was really curious about, namely, why he had choosen a theme of Cheese. Well the reason was simple, because when he woke up on the first day of the New Year he had a tremendous craving for cheese and satisfied this by eating a nice slice of Roquefort Cheese. This cheese which is made by evaporting and allowing mold to grow on sheep’s milk has an interesting story. It was apparently discovered due to the love of a Shepard who discovered that the cheese he had left behind in pursuit of his love was covered by spots of mold on his return. Alper then showed us a brief film that showed to what extremes people are willing to go in their pursuit of a good round of cheese. During the Cooper’s Hill festival http://www.cheese-rolling.co.uk which apparently has a 200 year long tradition participants pay money to run down a hill in pursuit of a roll of Double Gloucester Cheese risking sprains, broken bones, concussions and other serious bodily injury in their aim to capture the Cheese. Great topic Alper!

Alper then introduced the first speaker of the evening Peren Özturan who presented her 3rd speech titled “The Best Medicine”. Peren began her speech by asking us why we were here and pointing out that it was probably to improve our communication. She said that there is something magical about the oral communication process. You practice and practice and yet you are nervous to the point of hearing your heart beat and causing your voice to tremble. Yet in spite of this we are asked to communicate orally. Why is this so? She said that the reason for this was “Catharsis” or some type of emotional cleansing and special transformational connection that occurs between the speaker and the audience during a public speech. Since public speaking allows the presenter to add their voice, gestures, and personality to emphasize specific points it is infinitely more effective than written communication. Done correctly the speaker can communicate and mesmerize their audience in a way not possible with any other form of communication. Thank you Peren for sharing this story which motivated us to improve our public speaking styles and congratulations on your well-presented speech!

The next speaker Alper introduced was Bahar Biçer who presented her 4th speech titled “Happiness”. Bahar began by asking us to rate our happiness on a scale of 1 to 10. She then said that while many of us may not have rated themselves a 10 she had an example of what a 10 rated happy person was like and showed us a slide of the cutest smiling young gentleman, her 5 year old son! This person is happy just to be around his Mom! Yet, Peren said, when she talks to colleagues and looks around there are so many unhappy people. Most people say, if only I had a new purse or car or some other elusive (mostly material) thing they would be happy. Peren then said that in spite of all life experiences all people have a Set Baseline Level of Happiness which is determined by their genetics and early childhood experiences both of which cannot be changed. Peren then pointed out that there are organizations that specialize in researching how to improve overall happiness and most interestingly, while setting goals, managing energy, keeping hopes and keeping a childlike attitude are all identified as ways to improve happiness increasing money and thus material possessions has not been identified as a way to improve happiness once basic needs have been met. Paradoxically, these organizations have determined that exactly the opposite of what most people think they need to be happy is true. Rather than the accumulation of monetary wealth, it is the giving away of this surplus wealth that makes people the most happy. Apparently, the most voracious givers actually experience drug like emotional highs of happiness while engaged in the process of giving their money away! So Peren concluded that the ancient Chinese were right when they concluded: If you want happiness for an hour; take a nap (or eat some cheese). If you want happiness for a day; go fishing. If you want happiness for a month; get married. If you want happiness for a year; inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime; help someone else. Thank you for enlightening us Bahar and congratulations on your 4th speech!

The third speaker Alper introduced was Özgür Çelik who presented his 5th speech titled “WYBIWYG: What you..is What you..” . Özgür stated that his speech was on perception and presented us with a most unusual image, “The Checker Shadow Illusion” by Professor Edwar Adelson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0i8ZKTyIaQc. Özgür used this amazing illusion to demonstrate that it is not reality but our perception of reality that creates what we believe to be our reality. With this image, only by applying a filter are you able to see that what you perceived to be true is in fact not true. And this amazing discovery, Özgür claimed, allows us to fully comprehend how much of a powerful impact we can have on our reality as we are the ones who can control our perception of it. Özgür then went on to say that in Quantum Mechanics there is now research that matter itself is made up of infinite possibilities when examined at a sufficiently detailed level. If this is true, if there are truly infinite possibilities and if our perceptions create our realities we can then deduce that all of our life experiences, our successes, failures, happiness and health are caused due to our own perceptions or molding of reality. Özgür concluded his speech by stating that Fatih Terim had it right when he stated: “Everything is, something happened…..”. Amazing and enlightening topic, great presentation and use of props for your 5th speech Özgür, congratulations!

Following the break Alper asked our guest to introduce themselves. Amongst our guests on Wednesday were Anna, Onur, Serhan, Aferdita, Sadik, Avril, Hatice, Aydın, Aybike, Aylin, Clarence, Sherly, Sevinç, Serdar and Koray. I am looking forward to seeing all of them as members soon and am curious to hear their first speeches! After learning who our guests where Alper introduced Önder Çoban as Table Topics Master. Önder asked random members of the audience to make presentations to answer the following questions:

(1) Why do people love to say “Cheese” when taking photos? – Answered by Bülent
(2) Why are there so many regional cheeses in Turkey? – Answered by David
(3) Why is cheese included in mezes in Turkey? – Mert
(4) President Charles Charles de Gaule of France is known to have said “How can one possible govern a country that has 350 different types of cheese?” Was he right? – Edith

After thus challenging everyone with random speeches Alper moved the meeting on to the evaluation session by introducing the General Evaluator of the Evening Deniz Şenelt. Deniz pointed out the importance of the evaluation portion of the meetings as speech evaluations can help speakers by pointing out their strengths and also offering them one or two areas that they could improve to become more effective communicators. After, having called all 3 speech evaluators to stage Deniz next asked for the “Ah Counter” report from which we learned that the evenings record of “Ahs and Uhms” for one speaker was 43 occurrences which surprised everyone but most of all the speaker. The Word Master informed us of the use of the word “evaporate” (it was not very popular that evening) and finally the Listener captured some interesting points from each speech which he asked the audience. Deniz concluded the evaluation session by providing some suggestions on how the Toastmaster Alper can improve the flow of the meeting and also congratulated him on the well prepared and executed hosting of the meeting and also on the nicely prepared and up-to-date agenda which now also includes role descriptions.

Alper then stated that sadly we were approaching the end of another Toastmasters meeting and announced the winners for each of the three categories: Best Evaluator, Best Table Topics Speaker and Best Speaker, all of whom now hold certificates to document their accomplishments. To close the meeting Alper called on Bülent who congratulated Alper and all participants and awarded everyone who attended the meeting with a New Year’s present. Bülent also pointed out that the founder of Istanbul Toastmasters, Matt Krause, had written a book titled “ A Light Wide Open Space” which he highly recommends. Thus, we concluded the 112th meeting, with a high level of energy and motivation to have many more even more exciting meetings in the weeks and months to come.

Best Wishes,
David Gökçedağ