The Road to Panto…O yes it was!…

Carl Smith, 1 March 2018

For a long time I had wondered why certain people could stand up in a crowd and deliver a speech without appearing to be nervous or anxious. The mere thought of doing this made me quake with fear. But I like many people in business had to give presentations, provide training or speak during meetings.

Then I would become painfully self-conscious, my throat seemed to shrink and I found it hard to pronounce my words. All eyes were on me and I hated it, and if I caught someone’s eye in the audience and they appeared disinterested, I felt even worst… all I really wanted to do was just run off the stage and hide.

Like many, my go-to source for knowledge is Google, and that is where I discovered Newbury Speakers ( and that they met twice a month on Tuesday evenings.

What have I got to lose I thought as I rocked-up the next Tuesday. Like many encounters with a new group, you might not know anybody, I certainly had my reservations, especially as they seemed so good at speaking, again I felt very out-of-my-depth. But they all seemed nice people and ever so welcoming, so I sat down to enjoy the show.

Mastering public speaking is a lot to do with practice…the practice of speaking in front of people. The club encourages you to do that at every given opportunity, it is after all, the only way you can get better at this skill.

From when I first joined in 2010, the thing that I have noticed about our club is the warm-heartedness shown to our members and particularly guests visiting us for the first time. Also, the energy and “buzz” that at times can almost be palpable.

Often guests become members because they need to speak at work, some just because they want to hone their speaking skills, it can be because of a social event like a wedding, yet others use it as an opportunity to socialise.

Personally, I think getting better at public speaking can give you greater confidence and can open many different avenues for you, both socially and in your career, probably many that you had never dreamt of.

I have followed the Toastmasters’ path through the 10 speeches of the competent communicator and am progressing towards my advanced communicator bronze. The club has been supportive in nudging me towards advancement without feeling pressured to perform.

The process of becoming a better speaker has helped me in many ways, but to cite a couple of instances:

A few years ago my Father passed away and I stepped up to give the eulogy. I was glad that I delivered this speech as it gave me the opportunity to celebrate and honour my Father. I was proud to deliver this tribute and I know without attending Newbury Speakers I would not been able to have made such a speech.

On I lighter note, a few years ago I moved to a village just outside of Newbury called Stockcross. At Christmas time the village stages a Panto to raise money for the community, there was a post on Facebook asking for volunteers. I went along to the audition and got the part of Captain Smollet in Treasure Island. Of course I was nervous at times and I wondered what I had let myself in for. I had never done any amateur dramatics before! But, this gave me a great opportunity to get to know the locals and was very rewarding. Taking that step, venturing out of my comfort zone meant I had to face my fears.  But, the skills and confidence I had gained from attending Newbury Speakers and being a public speaker carried me through. O yes it did!

My first two Years with Newbury Speakers

Rob Hoblin, 31 January 2018

Having completed a long and successful career in policing in 2014, I wanted to set myself some new personal challenges whilst working as an International trainer with my own company. I did look at some voluntary work initially but as there were so many choices, I didn’t know which one to choose and I also knew that I couldn’t commit fully to this due to my sporadic availability undertaking training delivery commitments.

One late winter evening just before Christmas in 2015, I found an advert in our local ‘what’s on’ magazine and it mentioned Newbury Speakers and particularly, the focus on improving your public speaking capability and joining a group of like-minded people.

This was exactly what I needed. On a cold and wet early December evening I drove the short journey to Newbury Rugby Football Club’s ground and found the meeting room. Having pre-announced my intended attendance by email to the information email address supplied, I was warmly welcomed by what can only be described as a very friendly welcoming committee.

The evening was split into two parts with the second part being multiple two minute table topic speaking slots, one of which I volunteered to undertake. Although I was a fairly confident police audience speaker, I found this to be a bit of a nervous experience and quite challenging but enjoyable in a funny sort of way.

I was hooked. I liked the people, the concept and the fact that I could pursue a ten-speech journey with the Competent Communicator manual and have a mentor to help me on my way. Having joined up that evening, I then had to go home and digest my public speaker’s journey.

Initially I was a bit bold and thought that I could do the ten speeches within a 12 month period but alas, this was not to be as I hadn’t taken into consideration the fact that I did a lot of training delivery abroad and that this would take me out of the country for up to 4 weeks at a time.

The ten speeches were crafted in such a way that as I progressed, the challenge of the speech type made me do more work and more practising in order to achieve the objectives set. Receiving feedback on a one to one basis and from the group, really did help to shape my future speech deliveries.

I picked up lots of hints and tips on breathing, voice projection, voice tone, use of verbal language and for me, most importantly, use of body language including my hands. I found the latter point the most difficult to achieve as I wasn’t used to using my hands and started the first few speeches with them clasped together as if they’d been superglued!

By November 2017, I successfully completed my Competent Communicator journey. I can honestly say that it’s been a challenging but very enjoyable experience and I’m really looking forward to the next chapter and hope that others can come and join me too.

Aletta Rochat – Leadership Workshop

David Brinsdon, 11 November 2017

Attending a workshop, presentation or lecture on a topic you are familiar with (or unfamiliar with) brings many benefits. Today, I attended (with a few others from Newbury Speakers) a Leadership workshop with Aletta Rochat and organised by Basingstoke Speakers. Aletta is the Region 11 director for Toastmasters International. Region 11 is huge, it spans from Scandinavia through all of Europe and into Africa right down the South Africa. The Regional Director was in the UK for a week, so this was a rare opportunity to meet, listen and learn from one of the most experienced and professional members of the Toastmasters International organisation.

The session was split into two parts:

Part 1 – Speaking as Leader

Aletta gave a talk sharing some top tips and pointers on Leadership. She covered the importance of listening, how to gain charisma, showing your ‘why’, how to deal with conflict and the importance of validating people.  She was able to reference other people’s work and gave pointers for the audience to further research the ideas she was presenting.

Part 2 – How to leverage Toastmasters Membership in your career

This was an interactive session for the group but also a great demonstration of facilitation skills by Aletta herself. She lead us on a journey by asking a series of questions designed to bring out examples of how we had benefited from Toastmasters outside of the club environment and then we shared these examples with the group. The examples of how people had benefited where multiple, relatable and served as a healthy reminder as to why we attend a Toastmasters club. We had examples of people gaining promotions, winning the best presentation award at a conference, gaining confidence in interviews, mentoring and more.

The communication and leadership skills we learn in Toastmasters are multiple and most importantly transferable to real life examples. One action – that those from Newbury Speakers took from the meeting – was to include a ‘Members Moment’ on the agenda on club meeting. A moment where we give a member 1-2 minutes to share a story of how attending Newbury Speakers has benefited them and ensure that we do not lose sight of the reason ‘why’ we come to Toastmasters.

Over the years I have taken many golden nuggets of information and lessons from many workshops and more recently webinars. The opportunities to learn from others are all around us, and those lessons normally come from many hours of trial and error on behalf of others – many hours of which I do not have the time in which to make the same errors – so giving up an evening or a day on the weekend from time to time is easily justified. Only question left is – where is the next learning opportunity?

Prepare For Your Next Job Interview

The ability to think on your feet is a key skill that will help you become more successful in both your business and personal life.

When you can translate your thoughts and ideas into coherent speech quickly, you ensure that your ideas are heard. You also come across as being confident, persuasive and trustworthy.

Table Topics is a regular part of a Toastmasters meeting. A Table Topic is an impromptu speech, usually two minutes long, which helps members develop their ability to think on their feet, organise their thoughts and present them in a clear and structured manner, building confidence along the way.

In much the same way, a job interview can be thought of as a series of Table Topics. You are asked a question (the Topic). You need to identify what the interviewer is looking for in the answer, then organise your thoughts and present them back in a clear and structured manner.

While we may not all be looking for our next job, being able to think on your feet and respond confidently and coherently to that awkward question may do wonders for your career prospects.

Wise Words on Leading Others

These quotes from celebrated thinkers and well-known leaders from around the world and throughout history provide powerful insights that can benefit both seasoned leaders and individuals tackling the leadership challenge for the first time.

“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed….Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.”
— Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”
— Ken Blanchard, management expert and author

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
— Maya Angelou, poet, performer and activist

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States

“A leader takes people where they would never go on their own.”
— Hans Finzel, author, speaker and leadership mentor

The Intro is Key

“Hello everyone—thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here” doesn’t really cut it as the opening to your speech. You need to start off with something that will capture the audience’s attention and bring energy to yourself and to your presentation.

If appropriate, share a short personal story, a brief commentary on a recent, relevant headline, or a quotation.

This will help get you over any opening jitters, get you warmed up and hopefully will have the audience impressed with an opening (and a speaker) who is more interesting than they expected.

Communication impacts everything!

In todays fast food, fast paced world, social media and society expectations are far removed from a time gone by. Our children are using tablets and technology, often before pre-school. The impact is now on our ability to ‘play’ in this multi-cultural, global village environment. So what to do? How does our measure up?

Delivering a Wedding SpeechTo this end, in the authors opinion, there is no real difference to the communication issue 20 or 30 years ago or today. When we go for a job interview or speak at a friends wedding, the communication dynamics remain the same. The speaker has to convince the prospective employer that they are a good bet! We have to engage with our audience and enrol them into our message. This means speaking with a degree of confidence. It means being clear in our thinking and being able to articulate a concept, idea or response in such a way that the audience (either one or many) understand the essence of our communication.

Improve Your Confidence in Job InterviewsToastmasters provides a proven framework in a safe environment through which lessons and therefore growth as a speaker can occur in a rewarding and positive manner. The by-product of this effort though speaks to an individual’s quest for their own development and also it speaks to how, in so many settings, the individual communicates effectively.

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