- Author and Professional Speaker
- Been a member of speakers clubs since 1990
- Joined Colchester Speakers Club April 2000
The first speakers club I joined was in Glasgow about 20 years ago in 1990. My manager at the time thought I would benefit from improving my presentation skills.
As soon as I got there, I knew he was right. I was always a confident presenter and soon realised just how much I could improve. At that speakers club, I discovered my niche – I found I was good at speaking straight off the bat but I knew I had a lot to learn and that the speakers club was the place to get really good at it.
Why did you feel you needed to improve your public speaking?
I started working as a trainer about 20 years ago. When I stood up in front of a large group of people I discovered I had a gift. I wasn’t satisfied with that and wanted to be the best and by wanting to improve, I was really chasing perfection!
What is your career to date?
So many things, including welder, scaffolder, telecoms engineer, social worker, IT trainer and IT manager and my hobbies are as absorbing and nearly as time consuming as my paid work. I am an amateur radio enthusiast, I walk and my professional speaking takes me all over the world.
When did you realise you had a problem speaking to large groups?
It was the reverse really. I had a go at public speaking and found I loved it and people seemed to enjoy the way I put things across. I just wanted to improve.
How did you find out about the Colchester Speakers Club?
I gave up public speaking for about ten years when I moved from Glasgow to Slough for my work but in 2000, I moved to a new job in Essex and decided to take it up again. I searched for a speakers club on the internet and found Colchester Speakers Club which at that time was small with declining members. I joined and a year later the numbers had declined so much it folded! In 2003 I decided to revive it and the rest is history!
What was your first meeting like?
It was terrifying! It was held in the Corn Exchange in Glasgow, an imposing building on a grand scale and they held the Speakers Club meetings in the Board Room. The oak table was so large everyone could sit round it. The president and chair sat in very high chairs at the end of the table. That year the club had changed its rules to accepting women – I think there was one woman there, all the rest were men. I asked to do a table topic and I can’t remember what I talked about but I was made to feel very welcome. So I went back and did my Ice Breaker at the next meeting.
What stage are you up to in your Speakers Guide?
I’ve completed the basic and advanced programmes so things like speech construction, voice, humour, rapport, gesture, use of visual aides, lecturing, business presentations, impromptu speaking, chairing skills and I’ve also completed a programme on evaluating other people’s speeches.
What have been the benefits of the Speakers Club for you?
Over the years, the benefits have changed for me. At the beginning I wanted to learn about new techniques, to create my style and build my confidence. Now the speakers club provides me with the opportunity to practice and to practice regularly. I am still honing my skills as improving at speaking is a journey you never complete. I’m also a keen competitor and the Speakers Club has lots of competitions – I try out my speeches at the speakers club and then deliver them again in the competitions. You can take speakers club just as far as you want to take it. I have taken public speaking further than most people and have won prizes for example:
- National Association of Speakers Club UK Champion 2006
- Runner Up National Association of Speakers Clubs 2008
- Ipswich Speakers Club – champion 7 times
- District Championships – champion 4 times
- Club Evaluation Contests – champion 5 times
- Area Evaluation Contests – champion 7 times
- Club Table Topics Contest – champion 8 times
- Area Table Topic Contests – champion 6 times
- District Table Topics Contest – champion twice
- National table topics contest – champion once
What would you say to anyone anxious about speaking in public?
It’s life-changing. If you improve your skills in one area they automatically improve in other areas too, especially your self confidence and there’s no better, no more supportive way to achieve these sorts of changes than in a speakers club.