Manner of Speaking: A Matrimonial Meeting
Club honors engaged couple with a wedding-themed meeting.
By Tony Bieniosek, DTM
Luiz da Silva and Jody Berwick met in the fall of 2007, when Luiz joined Flagship Speakers Toastmasters club a few months after Jody joined. They attended the District 25 Speech Evaluation Contest, and afterward Luiz asked Jody out to dinner.
Thus, a romance was born. Luiz and Jody fell in love, sharing a mutual interest in Toastmasters and pursuing personal development together in our club, which meets at American Airlines headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. Nearly two years after they met, the couple happily announced their engagement during a club meeting.
What better way to honor our friends than to host a wedding-themed club meeting? The future bride and groom were a little anxious about what to expect but agreed to our offer. The resulting meeting was a truly special occasion, filled with speeches from Luiz and Jody about their love for each other and a Table Topics session providing insights about marriage – and Toastmasters.
“We were very, very grateful to the club for doing that for us,” says Luiz, who works in information technology for American Airlines. “The meeting was a good opportunity to practice before the wedding.”
In planning the theme meeting, a group of members gathered information from the couple, such as their wedding colors and wedding theme, so we could decorate the room appropriately. When the day of the meeting arrived, agendas were printed on wedding-announcement paper, and members and guests signed a guest book before walking to their seats. (Many of Luiz and Jody’s co-workers at American Airlines attended as first-time club guests.) In keeping with the matrimonial spirit, the word of the day was “cherish” – with noisemakers used for emphasis.
The meeting ambiance was certainly worthy of a wedding: The Toastmaster of the day donned a tuxedo; love songs quietly played on a portable stereo in the corner; sparkling cider, punch and decorated cupcakes were served; and a door prize was awarded to the person who was in the longest-lasting marriage. Even a photographer was there to document the event.
The future bride and groom sat at the front of the room, facing each other from either side of the lectern. They were the two speakers that day, scheduled to deliver toasts to one another. Luiz went first. He mentioned that Jody was a scheduled speaker at the first Flagship Speakers meeting he ever attended. Quipped Luiz: “For those of you thinking that it was love at first speech, actually it was not – she had way too many ahs and ums.”
Then, getting serious, he spoke of what he loved about his fiancée – her sensitivity, her volunteer work, how she had helped him become a better person. He praised the way Jody had helped many people in the club become better communicators. Five to seven minutes didn’t seem long enough for Luiz to extol the many attributes of his future bride – but he did qualify for time.
In her speech, “I Found Love at Toastmasters,” Jody, a senior analyst for American Airlines, spoke of how she and Luiz perfectly complemented each other, and how much she appreciated his enduring support and encouragement.
In their respective speeches, each also mentioned how much Toastmasters meant to them. Luiz and Jody both served as club officers and as Distinguished Area Governors in 2008-2009.
The Flagship Family
Toastmasters is a communications and leadership program; however, the Flagship Speakers club operates more like a family, with many members sharing personal experiences through the years. It was poignant for both Luiz and Jody to stand in front of a group that knew them both so well and talk about their new beginning together, fostered in our club’s encouraging, safe and transparent environment.
Our extended round of Table Topics featured toasts to the future bride and groom, as well as questions on marriage. Table Topics speakers were asked to give advice on marriage-related topics, and many of them referenced Toastmasters strategies in their answers, such as:
- Like a good Toastmasters evaluation, your day together should always begin and end on a positive note. (Don’t let the sun go down with anger in your heart.)
- Be open and honest with your answers to each other.
- Greet your spouse’s friends and guests warmly.
- Tell your spouse what he or she did well today.
- Pause when you’re not sure what to say.
- Remember that your body language and vocal variety, or lack thereof, can communicate more than your actual words.
The wedding-themed Toastmasters meeting was a big hit with everyone. Many first-timers were introduced to our club, and all had a good time and learned something new.
It just goes to show: Toastmasters is great training, not only for your career but for every part of your life – including dating and marriage!
Postscript: Luiz and Jody were married two weeks after the wedding-themed meeting, on October 10, 2009. What better way to lead into their big day than our festive Toastmasters event? At the end of our special club meeting, a group photo was taken and copies were shared with the club. An enlarged print was framed and delivered as the club’s wedding gift to Luiz and Jody, and it is now proudly displayed in Jody’s office.
Luiz says the practice he gained at the club meeting when speaking about Jody and the marriage was greatly helpful on the wedding day, especially when it came time to say the wedding vows, deliver the toasts and say a few words at the cake cutting.
The Flagship Speakers club holds a permanent place in both their hearts. “It’s very special to us,” Luiz says. “That’s why we stay very involved with Toastmasters.”
Tony Bieniosek, DTM, is president of Flagship Speakers in Fort Worth, Texas, and is manager of International Sales Programs for American Airlines. Tony can be reached at Tony.Bieniosek@aa.com.