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!

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