Keith Dickerson

Keith DickersonKeith CROP 2015 1 IMG_6690

Occupation: Company Director and president of Colchester Speakers Club Joined Colchester

Speakers Club: April 2010 but has been a member of Felixstowe Speakers Club ‘off and on’ since 1986. I am currently president of the Colchester club while at Felixstowe I’ve held just about every committee post, including President (twice) and Education Director and Treasurer. I am also a member of the South East District Executive of the Association of Speakers Clubs.

Why did you feel you needed to improve your public speaking?

I originally joined Felixstowe Speakers Club back in 1986 – my late wife sent me!  At the time I worked for BT and we were both suffering sleepless nights every time I had to do a presentation the next day!

What is your career to date?

I spent 30 years working for BT and before that I worked for Marconi Avionics designing flight control systems.  I’ve got a PhD in computer communications and helped to invent the Internet which was then part of the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPAnet).  I worked on what was (back then) a new system of routing messages electronicallywhich is how Internet messaging systems work today!

When did you realise you had a problem speaking to large groups?

When I started work for BT in 1980 I was expected to give presentations to large groups, and in my 20s the prospect of presenting to senior BT managers terrified me. I would be up half the night worrying – which made the whole thing so much worse.  I was lacking two things: confidence and speaking skills.

How did you find out about the Speakers Club?

My wife first saw an advert for Felixstowe Speakers Club in the Felixstowe Town Crier and encouraged me to join it.  A colleague at BT, Sujit Ganguly, was already a member and took me along to it. Later I found out about the Colchester Club and started coming to that as well.

What was your first meeting like?

It was very nice actually.  It was held in the Cavendish Hotel on the seafront in Felixstowe (now demolished unfortunately) and I found it very relaxing because I could buy a pint at the bar and take it upstairs to the meeting room! I was made to feel very welcome although there were some real characters back then a chap called Mike Saucede terrified me, and then there was Trevor White who wore a leather jacket and rode a motor bike. I did my icebreaker at my second meeting which was all about how my wife had sent me along to the speakers club and I wrote it from her perspective.

What stage are you up to in the Speakers Guide?

I completed all 10 assignments back in the early 90s but I never received my certificate!  Then I had a gap of 10 years while I moved to work in Brussels.  Unfortunately my wife died over there and I had to bring up two teenage daughters.  However, once they had gone off to university I rejoined the speakers club and decided to go through the Speakers Guide assignments again – so now I have my certificate!

What have been the benefits of the Speakers Club for you?

The benefits are that I can now give presentations off the cuff without much notice.  This week I’ve given presentations on Energy Efficiency and Smart Grids to two entirely different audiences with different requirements.  I could never have done that without the speakers club.

What would you say to anyone anxious about speaking in public?

People outside think you have to be an excellent speaker to join a speakers club which is not true.  We are not all brilliant speakers but we are people who want to be better speakers. So I would say to people who are anxious about public speaking don’t worry, we know how you feel, but if you join a speakers club you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve!