By Christopher Nye, Lewes Speakers Club
Lewes Speakers Club’s community outreach programme is based on two principles. Firstly, the need to always find new members. Secondly, our intention to continue the principle set forth by Ralph Smedley to help people in the community.
Lewes Speakers Club is a strange club in that since forming in 2012 it’s had a good membership of 25 to 30 people. Yet relatively few of us are from Lewes itself. So we always need to get our name out in the local community.
As a committee member I have always know that what I DON’T want from my club is to be cliquey and inward looking. You know the kind of club: smug, always the same old faces, same old speeches, same old banter.
The long-term success of a club depends on being outward looking and always seeking out fresh talent.
And not just talent; problems too. As I always tell people when we meet them at business and networking events, this isn’t a club for people who like public speaking, but for those who need the skills but find it terrifying.
And when you start out with that attitude, you can develop quite a campaigning spirit. As it says on the Toastmasters’ website: “Smedley saw a need for the men in the community to learn how to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs and work on committees, and he wanted to help them.” So do we.
But calling what we do “the Lewes Speakers Club’s community outreach programme” perhaps sounds grander than it is. In fact, people ask us to help out and we always say yes.
That has included, in the past couple of years, helping the police with their public speaking. Our founder member Jeff Grace was giving an interview on the Lewes Bonfire radio station. It’s not a big radio station, but the police appear to listen in. The chief of the local police was so inspired by Jeff that he asked us to come and run a workshop for his officers. Apparently, when reading the local ne’er-do-wells their rights they weren’t using enough vocal variety or the full potential of the stage. Also they needed help when required to address public meetings. So three of us went along and trained 30 or so senior officers. And then they asked us back next year.
We also act as judges each year for Youth Speaks, a national competition held by the Rotary Club. It’s fascinating and inspiring to hear state school kids competing in public speaking, and they appreciate that a local speaking club takes the time to offer encouragement and advice.
Of course it’s not purely altruistic. For those of us who love to speak and tell our stories and experiences, speaking at a local club for the elderly is a wonderful opportunity. We get to hear a few amazing stories back too.
We think that the need continues, to be at the heart of the community.