But what to talk about?

So you have have joined Toastmasters and you are the thinking what do I talk about? I must admit I love this process.

Why ?

For me it’s the unexpected benefit of public speaking and not often spoken about. Its the introspection needed to craft a speech. The reflection on your life and the re- living of memories.

I have re-lived bonfire nights and childhood memories, told stories of seeing tiger and talked about my love of books.

Themed nights are great at the club as we have a topic that we focus on and weave it into the evening. These have included inspiration,animals and jobs .

Pathways are educational program will get you to focus on a speech topic. In the past year I have to do a speech on my communication style which involved me observing and note taking on my Communcation style and deliver a speech on my findings. This was guided through the tutorials on my Path.

One of my favourite speeches and most nerve wracking was I had to do a speech about someone who had mentored me. Firstly I thought of all the people that had helped me on the way and then focussed on one particular colleague. I wrote the speech and decided I would invite him.

Asked him to attend and he really didn’t know why I had asked him. As my nervy speech unfolded it dawned on him that he was the subject. He looked surprised,delighted and come the end emotional. He said that it meant the world to him , his friendship did to me so it seemed a fair trade.

Every time I have got up and spoken I have learnt something about myself . Internalised and relived an experience and learning to be a better speaker and storyteller just seems an added bonus!


It keeps growing!

I joined Toastemasters to improve my communication skills and then I became obsessed with everyone’s!

I now look at everyone and wonder and learn. It can be a meeting at work, my daughter around the dinner table or waiter in a restaurant.People are leaking there emotions through their body and words.

Are they joyfully throwing their arms like my daughter when she speaks or is it the warm smile the waiter gave me.

Politicians on the TV , their style and quirks . What made me believe them? What made me uneasy ? Of course it’s the words. I am fascinated by the way Donald Trump speaks , his choices of words and gestures.

The links from Saturday night tv hosts and live news reporting and the slick links they use. I marvel at their skill. They make it look it easy and it really isn’t.

I seeing all speaking as a craft and skill . Something you can hone and polish.Learn to do it and it can touch every facet of your life. Another reason to love Toastmasters !

Time to give back!

I have never been on a committee for anything. Had never been asked and never thought about being on one. I was asked if I would be interested in joining our clubs committee and thought I would take a look.

Now I had reservations, I have two kids ,full time job and like everyone else I am trying to keep fit and balance everything. I am really conscience that I have time for the important things.

This plays out against wanting to make a contribution and pushing myself. The biggest factor in me wishing to find out about our committee is that I wanted to give back to the club. I have had such enjoyable experience that I wanted to help if I could. Pass on what I have learnt and the enjoyment I have had.

The first committee meeting that I observed I was taken aback by the dedication of these volunteers. Websites, finances, room bookings, printing agendas , the list was endless. Everything was thought of , especially the cake and nibbles to keep the meeting flowing ( it’s worth joining for the nibbles).

I was asked if I would be Pathways champion. This at the time the time was the new education program Toastmasters was rolling out. Of course I would do it I was looking for a challenge after completing the Competent communication manual.

I enjoyed learning about it and I enjoyed helping the members discover it’s potential. It was great talking to someone and knowing they had 11 unique paths they could follow from Visionary Leadership to Presentation Mastery , it had something for everyone.

This was followed up with becoming Vice President of Education, I would be looking after meeting agendas and making sure our members hit their educational goals. It was another step up and again something I enjoy doing.

I love talking to members about their goals and aspirations and how we can help. I always think it’s such a privilege to be part of it. I am always impressed that although people come from many different fields and have many different challenges they all want to better themselves.

Often as I drive home after a meeting I think we created that. The beautiful laid out room, agenda ,the equipment, the atmosphere and all that energy .

So if you are ever asked , say yes,I don’t think you’ll regret being part of a committee!

Friends with benefits….

No it’s not that kind of post and it’s not that sort of club. So what type of people do you get at Worthing Speakers?

In short, the best. My initial completely sceptical view is that it would be full of people who loved the sound of their own voices . That couldn’t be further from the truth. I couldn’t wish to spend two Thursday evenings a month with a better bunch of people.

They are friendly, funny and inspiring. Everyone seems happy to put guests at ease and be open when they speak , nothing to hide , nothing to brag about just people speaking and sharing stories. Being able to laugh at yourself seems a pre- requisite.

It’s such a diverse group , from all walks of life and a lovely spread of ages and experiences. The membership has a smattering of members who have grown up in different parts of the world .

This leads it’s self on to beautiful speeches. You don’t know what you are going to get. Many a times I have sat in audience and thought I didn’t see that coming or I didn’t know anything about that. I think there is something quite magical about a good speech.

Now the wonderful benefits of this friends is that they are knowledgeable. Happy to advise you on how to improve your speaking and the skills required. I have learnt so much from the them.

One thing apparent is the delight the membership takes in the achievement of other members. Nothing is better than seeing someone develop from nervy speaker to confident and knowing everyone is rooting for them.

I have enjoyed many a great conversation in the interval and at our social events and count these people not just fellow Toastmasters but as friends. I love the camaraderie.

It’s not only the members of our club I feel connected with. At competitions and training days it’s always good to speak with members from other clubs and hear and share their experiences. The Toastmaster magazine makes me aware of larger community we are in but share so much .

I know when we meet at the end of the night three things always happen. I will have laughed, learnt and been entertained. Friends with benefits for sure.

Time to break the Ice

The commitment was made and I was now a Toastmaster! A new world was opening up to me . As I joined in the summer of 2015 and I had two education paths to follow Competent Communication and Competent Leadership. Keen to get going I took on a couple of roles at meetings that required tentative steps in public speaking, Warm up master and Timekeeper.

It was then time to follow a Toastmasters right of passage. My first speech to the club , The Icebreaker!

All speeches have objectives and time frames.The Icebreaker is between 4-6 minutes and was the way of me introducing myself to the club. It’s a the way of getting a benchmark to discover any existing skills you may have or something you need to work on.

I had nerves a plenty when I arrived and saw my name on the agenda,

Sean Keet : David Attenborough made me broke . 4-6 minutes

And how was it? The time flew by and I missed bits out ,and bolted through the speech like I was racing away from zombie apocalypse! I had told a story of how David Attenborough has inspired me to travel and some of the places I had been. I was given a nice round of applause and took my seat. It’s rare to have a group of people focussed on you and not a phone for a whole 6 minutes ! I have always thought since that day that I wanted to make my speeches interesting and fun .

After every speech the Toastmaster asks for a minute on the clock and the members filling in slips of paper with recommendations and things they enjoyed about your speech. In the interval the members give them to the speakers .

It’s lovely to feel the encouragement.

Then as the second half of the meeting started I waited for my evaluation from our then President.Evaluations are the bedrock of improvement and the feedback is the driver for success. I was really nervous, it was out of my hands. The evaluation was positive, I had good eye contact and good structure but my pace was to fast and i barely paused for breath.

Something to work on.

I couldn’t sleep when I got in as I was still buzzing. I wanted to try again straight away to improve. All those slips of paper that the members gave me where to remain unread. I was to nervous to read them. Two days later after a couple of glasses of wine I plucked up the courage to read them. I am glad I did. Warmth and encouragement came through in bucket loads as well as sound hints and tips. To this day I have kept everyone one of them from every speech.

An evaluation form and the feedback from the members. So much helpful advice!

A Toastmasters Journey Begins

Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.

Those words by Jim Rohn got me thinking.
I certainly had never practiced my communication skills and had often walked away from a conversation with the lingering thought of why didn’t I say that? Did I get my point across ? I was always so wise after the event, lots of I should of or I could of ?
At the same time I was being mesmerised by Ted Talks that were thoughtful, smart and intriguing . These people were inspiring, their stories inspiring their words were inspiring. A penny dropped with me . Our world is shaped by words.
This lead me to want to become a better speaker and I needed it for my changing career roles.My world as an engineer had been all about working with my hands and practical skills and now it was about leadership.
You can’t lead if you can’t speak.
As everyone does these days I sort a remedy online and soon found Toastmasters. Luckily Worthing my home town had a club, Worthing Speakers Club. No excuses , 10 mins from house and nice venue on the beach The Burlington.
The only thing lacking was courage.
After a couple of not getting out the door I finally found myself standing on Worthing beach opposite the venue 15 mins before it started . A couple of deep breaths and in I went.

I didn’t know what to expect. Warmly greeted , I was sat next to a member who told me I had made it just because I got through the door. They would be my guide through the night. A President opened the meeting and handed over to the Toastmaster for the night and it all seemed very formal. Role holders were introduced a grammarian, General Evaluator and Timekeeper. Then the real speaking began with a warm up.

The warm up started and everyone was given 15 seconds to speak if they wished on the topic given by the Warm up master. What followed was people laughing , being open and making fun of themselves or sharing experiences.

It then proceeded to prepared speeches. 3 members gave wildly different but interesting speeches and I was hooked. The interval came and I was approached to see if I wanted to take part in Table topics and I thought why not give it a go.

When the second half started the prepared speeches were each given an evaluation of their speech from another member and then it came came the time for Table Topics. I was first up and had to speak for 1 to two minutes on my favourite childhood memory. If you had asked me and hour earlier if I would have done this I would have said no way! I didn’t even speak at my own Wedding and we only had 15 guests! And I did ok, I wouldn’t say great , but what an experience!

The meeting ended and the members were friendly and encouraging . I had found a place where I could practice and learn . I had a feeling that I have had many times since ,that I couldn’t wait to try again and see where this takes me.