March 2019 and a warm welcome from the incredible Chennai Toastmasters team who arrived at the airport at 5am to Meet & Greet!
Now that's dedication!
Delivering keynote 'Effective Speaking is a Skill not a Gift!' at the DNA - 2019, Discover The New You, Toastmasters Division Conference, Chennai, India
Looking for a safe environment in which to practice Your Public Speaking Skills?
The World of Public Speaking - From Amateur to Professional - Here's my story...
People often ask me how I 'got into' public speaking as a career. The answer is: part design, part accident.
Back in May 2001, I had a nightmare speaking experience at my leaving drinks from my first job. At least, I thought it was a nightmare. Asked to give a speech without preparation, I froze up and felt terrible.
I managed to blurt out a few words - and talking to the audience members afterwards, they seemed very relaxed. But I wasn't. Far from it. I found the experience truly awful. This was not because I 'hated' speaking in front of audiences. In fact, from drama at school I knew that being in front of an audience was something I could quite enjoy.
What I found difficult was handling the adrenaline.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I made a decision:
"Simon, sunshine, you've GOT to get better at this."
So, I went in search of safe environments in which I could practice. Think of it as a bit like being on a quest for a decent gym membership - only for communication skills, not physical fitness.
Eventually, in early 2004, I was introduced to Toastmasters International - a global network of not-for-profit public speaking clubs. Having checked out a few different clubs around London, I found one I liked and, importantly, was conveniently located near Victoria Station, close to my place of work at the time.
The great strength of a Toastmasters speaking club is that not only does it provide an environment in which to practice, but also you receive constructive feedback from a fellow club member.
By this I mean properly constructive, quite unlike the harsh, negative and fundamentally unhelpful feedback so often provided in the workplace.
For the first two years of my membership, I was a member just like everyone else. Meetings were held twice a month on the first and third Monday. I'd pitch up and do a topic (Toastmasters jargon for 'impromptu speech'), fulfil a role or deliver a short prepared speech from my speaker's manual.
I must emphasise that I joined the club purely for my own personal development. The prospect of 'going professional' hadn't even entered my mind.
Indeed, like most people, I assumed that 'professional speaking' was only really open to former Presidents, Prime Ministers, celebrities and Olympic Gold Medallists.
As a result of a supportive speaking environment, surprise, surprise, I improved rapidly, in confidence if nothing else. When I started out in January 2004, I was absolutely convinced I would never be able to speak without notes, yet within six months, that's precisely what I did. Delivering a 7 minute speech without recourse to a single scrap of paper was one of the proudest moments of my amateur career......
[Fast forward] While I just missed out on the Toastmasters World Final in 2006, my experience was enough to attract the interest of Club Presidents across Southern England... and in 2017 placed 2nd out of 30,000+ competing speakers from all over the world in Vancouver, Canada.
So what is this magical organisation that transforms a person like me, terrified to even deliver an impromptu Thank You speech at my leaving drinks from my first job, into an international award-winning speaker? The answer is simple: Toastmasters International.
Take a look at their website: Toastmasters International if you are interested in taking your public speaking skills to the next level.
Article taken from my book The Best Man Speaker - Available on Amazon
Keynote 'Effective Speaking is a Skill not a Gift!' at the DNA 2019 Toastmasters Division Conference in Chennai, India, March 2019