Grammarian edition? Don’t be afraid, this meeting report will not be all about grammar. However, as I was the grammarian there, I would like you to have a taste of the interesting job the grammarian does throughout the evening.
First and foremost, the meeting was business-themed. That was reflected in the very beginning, when our new president, Ioana, opened the meeting with a rather unusual question:
“Would you like to have a Toastmasters meeting in a park?”
This was both refreshingly different from the usual questions and directly related to the club business. More importantly, it actually gave us a lot of important ideas for the outside meeting. Some people said they absolutely loved the idea of meeting in a park and wanted to go for it. However, few of us suggested caution, mostly because of we are Brno Business Toastmasters and meeting outside does not feel strictly professional, but agreed to try to meet in a park at least once. While we haven’t made any final decision yet, the debate certainly gave us a big incentive to go ahead and plan such a meeting.
Then Alexy took over and led the meeting. Personally, I must say the meeting was incredible even from the grammar point of view, which is what I am going to focus on. The following lines will be written from the perspective of a grammarian.
What are the duties of the grammarian role? First, you should listen carefully, notice all grammar mistakes and make a report before the end of the meeting. In Brno Business Toastmasters we have merged grammarian with another role – the ah counter, meaning the grammarian also takes note of the fillers we keep using during the course of the meeting. Last but not least the grammarian counts how many times various people use the word of the day.
This meeting I decided to try a different approach, as our past VPE Mary suggested. Instead of just correcting the mistakes, I would try to make the role funny and try to take the meeting atmosphere up instead of down. For most roles this comes naturally, but for the grammarian… not so much. The role is, by definition, negative. Also, similar to the quizmaster, you can’t just make things up, you have to work with the resources the other members give you (in this case mistakes).
I needed special mistakes that would be both clear and fun to correct. So I listened.
Throughout the meeting it was rather hard to focus on the mistakes, because the speeches were very nice to listen to. The icebreaker, obviously well prepared, caught my attention and I caught no mistakes. But then, at the QA, there came a question from the audience: “How did you feel?” Martha replied: “When I came here, my heart was …” and she searched for the correct word and somebody suggested: “beating”. When I heard this, I almost jumped with joy.
“When I came here, my heart was beating.” This I could work with. Basically, when you are nervous, your heart is pounding or racing. If your heart stops pounding, it is still beating (pounding just means it is beating more quickly and thus more loudly). If it ever stops beating, though, grammar usually is the least of your concerns.
The second speech was also amazing to listen to and I was totally convinced that there is no need for a TV at anybody’s home. Also we heard that “A dog got missed in a forest”, which would actually mean somebody took a shoot at a dog and missed. While that may definitely be true, the speaker probably wanted to say “a dog got lost in a forest”.
While we are talking about shooting, I must highlight the expression mentioned by our toastmaster of the evening, Alexy: “A ballot is stronger than a bullet”.
Table topics, while highly business-themed, were fun, too. Bogdan prepared two groups of papers – one listed company (TM International) departments and the other the speaker is applying for. The speaker’s goal was to persuade the audience (= TM board of directors) that he or she is the right candidate for the job. It was so much fun that I forgot to listen for mistakes.
Later, when I gave the grammar report, I limited the negative part and tried to focus primarily on the funny mistakes. I started with praising the good phrases, such as “You have the power”, “you can observe that “ and many more. Then I went into the negative – one particular mistake repeated multiple times – wrong usage of much and many and confusing the two. In retrospective, I should have ditched the negative part completely. It is obvious that the audience isn’t very interested in that. The funny mistakes, on the other hand, had much more success. Also I failed to meet the time regulations, but that only shows how much I was enjoying the role 🙂
Therefore, I believe that the best way to make the grammarian role more interesting while keeping it meaningful is to go with the funny mistakes. It is not easy, it is not simple, but at least in my opinion it does boost the meeting. Let us try that!
See you next meeting,
Josef Hertl, VP PR.