May 2005 I attended a 3 day course with the Starfish Project, a non – profit making organisation which helps people who stammer. Among other things I was taught a breathing technique which helps me in controlling my stammer. It will not make the stammer go away but it gives me control over something which has controlled me since I was a young boy.
On that course I met Barry Rix who has become a really good friend of mine. Barry is a member of Toastmasters International who helped start Chelmsford Speakers Club in January 2007. I went to the first club meeting. I will always remember that night. I was asked to introduce myself and struggled to say my name. I thought “I can’t go back after that!” I’m really happy that I did not give up.
My Icebreaker speech was on 7 February 2007. Winning the best speaker ribbon was amazing. It is still framed and hanging on my wall at home.
I had planned to do the Competent Communicator. Then one of the more experienced Toastmasters at the club said that completing the Competent Leader manual at the same time would help me a lot. I took his advice and did my CL manual and benefited enormously. The night I was the Contest Chair at Chelmsford Speakers really showed me how far I had come, how much more confident I was getting and how much I was pushing out my comfort zone.
Until joining the club committee in 2010 I had not realised how much goes on in a Toastmasters club. The meetings do not happen by magic. I was the Chelmsford Speakers Club President 2012 –13 which was a big step for me to take. I joined Brentwood Speakers and helped to mentor the club in 2013-14. I joined Kings Speakers in 2013 which is a Toastmasters club for people who stammer or have social anxiety. The plan was to do a few speeches and to help out at a few meetings. However, the club has really helped me a lot mainly because I’m helping other people. Seeing how well all the other club members are doing has spurred me on.
Taking the next step to be Area Governor means I’m continuing to learn. I am doing the High Performance Leadership project to help me gain the Advanced Leader Silver award. One more step towards becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster.
My confidence has really grown. If someone had asked me before May 2005 about joining a speaking club I would have told them to go away and not to be so silly.
My favourite saying – If you keep doing what you have always done you will keep getting what you have always got. So do something different!
Brian Skelton ACS ALB, Area 33 Governor, Division L, District 91 September 2014