Friday, December 8, 2000
Profile: George Romanski
Technical individuals usually aren't known for communications expertise or for being particularly funny. George Romanski proves the exception. This fall he won two local humorous speech contests with a talk about his epistolary exchange with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
An engineer by trade, Romanski specializes in safety and certification of software intended for highly regulated platforms such as airplanes and nuclear reactors. An employee of Verocel in Westford, he delivers complex talks monthly about his company's software. Strong presentation skills are key to his and the company's success. About two years ago, Romanski decided to hone his vocal expertise by joining the Alcott Toastmasters Club. Part of Toastmasters International (an organization that promotes the development of public speaking), the accredited club meets the second and fourth Mondays of the month at the Concord Free Public Library.
"George can take complicated subjects and convert them into lay words," says Alice Rosen, president of the Alcott Toastmasters. Rosen praised Romanski's confidence and commitment as a speaker, but admitted to surprise when Romanski entered a competition that involved humor. "He always has had such a serious demeanor," Rosen explains. "He took a real step forward in trying this."
According to Rosen, Romanski's talk showcased his "dry sense of humor." (See sidebar for speech transcript.) He won the local club and area contests before placing second at the district level. Winners continue on to division, regional and international competition.
Applying technology to hops
Born in Aylesbury, England Romanski still holds a British citizenship. He came to the United States in 1987, acquired a green card, and someday hopes to become an American citizen. Long-time town residents, Romanski and his wife Janice live in a dove-colored Colonial with gray-blue shutters on Ember Lane. Two of their three children attended the Carlisle Public Schools, and all three were graduated from the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. The household's two cats Babbage and Pascal, named after the inventor of the first computer and the famous mathematician, betray their owner's predilection for technology.
"I am a purely technical guy," he admits. "I do really boring well, other people consider it very specialized work. I enjoy what I do."
Romanski also likes to tinker with gadgets, engineer designs, and build machines. Upon discovering that he couldn't find any American beers that approached the quality of English bitter, he decided to tackle the problem. He didn't buy a brewing kit, but developed and constructed his own solution.
"The beer machine is fairly sophisticated," says Romanski. "It has the food grade circulating pump underneath, and a counter-flow chiller on the top, temperature sensors, and a control heater inside. It took awhile to make." Using well water, he brews about five to ten gallons a month. Last year he had a larger yield than usual for his daughter's wedding.
In his free time, Romanski plays the guitar to relax. He began strumming while a teenager in England, yet he professes not to play very well. Nonetheless, he demonstrated a wide variety of techniques and advanced skill as part of a Toastmasters speech last spring.
Learning from others
The Toastmasters international organization helps develop speakers through a well-defined educational process. Clubs meet weekly or biweekly, and the gatherings are formally structured with participants taking on a variety of speaker or evaluator roles. All members begin with the fundamental materials of the Communication and Leadership Program and must complete ten thematic speeches to reach the first level of competency. Members have seven years to achieve this level upon joining the organization. Most average three years, but it is not uncommon to take more.
Romanski became a Competent Toastmaster in an aggressive one-and-a-half years. He subsequently began a manual for technical speeches (with two completed thus far) and one for humorous speeches (with his first humorous speech delivered in competition). Romanski believes in taking risks, an enviable characteristic in a speaker.
Modest as ever, Romanski claims not to be funny, and adds wisely, "A humorous speech doesn't have to be very funny. It has to be entertaining."
However, according to fellow Carlisle resident and Toastmaster Frank Finizio, Romanski is quite funny. "He's very colorful," says Finizio, "He has a British wit."
Romanski found the speech competition very helpful. After he delivered his talk, he was able to incorporate audience feedback and improve the next time around. He attended the division competition as an observer, and considered this another valuable learning experience.
"Some of the presentations were very clever and all were very polished," says Romanski.
"The people who were giving speeches in the competition were `word perfect.' I reckon if they gave the speech again, they would give it exactly the same way, using exactly the same words.
If I give the same speech twice, it comes out differently. I memorize the points, the concept, but not the sentences."
Romanski's approach results in a relaxed and sincere delivery, and this may in fact contribute to his excellence as a speaker. IRS employees can certainly attest to his skills as a communicator and audiences assure you, George Romanski will make you laugh.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito