Occupation: Communications and Marketing Consultant
Joined Colchester Speakers Club: April 2006
I joined the Speakers Club because I had been in avoidance about public speaking for years. I knew that it was not a matter of actually speaking, which I find easy, but about overcoming fear of speaking in public in front of a group of people.
Why did you feel you needed to improve your public speaking?
Because I was over-anxious when speaking to more than about 6 people at a time! No one noticed this fear at work and if I ever mentioned it they were surprised because I am an articulate and inspiring talker with 1:1 and small groups. I suppose I was competent at the public speaking required at work but the price I paid in nerves and over-preparation was ridiculous.
What is your career to date?
I started out as a stage manager which is the only profession I actually trained for. The pay is not very good in the theatre and the hours are incompatible with family life so I moved into advising people on their rights and especially their debts in citizens advice bureaux before moving to Colchester Borough Council as a welfare rights officer. Since then I have worked in a range of customer rights, communications, event and marketing roles within Suffolk County Council and for a partnership between Suffolk County Council and BT, the Houses of Parliament and the Seckford Foundation. I am currently researching and developing content for the National Trusts history web pages at Flatford.
When did you realise you had a problem speaking to large groups?
At university in the seminars. I had not experienced such fear ever before but there were about 20 students and I was asked something repeatedly by a tutor and I froze – I could not get a word out. Before then I had been super-confident and at school I had been part of a winning school debating team.
How did you find out about the Colchester Speakers Club?
I walked into Manningtree Library one Saturday and on the wall was a large pink A3 poster advertising it. I took down the number and rang James.
What was your first meeting like?
I was fine until I realised that table topics were part of it. I thought it was going to be all about honing the content of speeches and finding ways of getting your message across. I had not bargained for getting up with no notice and just talking about a subject and when I realised I refused to move from my seat saying I had not realised this was part of it.
What stage are you up to in your Speakers Club Guide?
I have just about finished the exercises in the guide but by no means finished learning.
What have been the benefits of the Speakers Club for you?
The benefits have been in learning to be spontaneous and just going for it when faced with a situation in which speaking is demanded on the spot, there and then. So, in meetings I no longer prepare for my turn, I no longer make notes in my margin about what points I am going to make I wait for my turn and then I speak. When I need to give a presentation I am confident I can prepare the material (because I could already do that) but am now confident I can show the material to best advantage.
What would you say to anyone anxious about speaking in public?
Facing your fear by joining a speakers club changes your life – you can be happier and more effective.