Thanks Toastmasters, for giving me confidence in my public speaking!
Before joining Toastmasters, I had set my sights on becoming a solicitor, specialising in office work.
Whilst the Bar was mentioned as a potential route whilst I was at University, I never really felt it was for me. In fact, only one other person from my cohort had committed to this path.
I assume as most of my classmates thought, that Barristers were scary and intimidating individuals with unstoppable self-confidence. It was the advocacy element which mostly put me off, the feeling of talking for extended periods of time, trying to sound in control, and most importantly, trying to persuade the Judge and Jury of your client’s case.
Around three years ago, I was given my first spoken law assessment. I had to speak for 15 minutes on criminal law and answer to Judicial intervention.
As a natural introvert, I could not recall speaking for more than 30 seconds at a time, never mind 15 minutes, not to mention in an assessed environment.
I was terrified. The palms of my hands already starting to sweat.
Naturally, my first step was to Google my symptoms.
A video on YouTube provided my medication. Dan Lok, a hugely successful entrepreneur, shared how he had utilised Toastmasters to overcome his severe anxiety while speaking in public. I would encourage you to watch it:
I then Googled Toastmasters and came across a local club in my hometown of Farnham, and, in October 2020, joined Farnham Speakers’ Club.
I was a part of the ‘Zoom’ generation. Whilst seen as an unpopular necessity for most, conducting my first few speeches online, in hindsight, proved to be a blessing in disguise.
I was not walking into a large hall for the first time, delivering a speech. I was not having to project my voice so those at the back could hear.
I was in the comfort of my own home, behind my laptop screen. While still undeniably nerve-wracking at first, I found this to be a less intimidating way to start my public speaking journey. (For those new to public speaking, I would encourage you to join a hybrid or online-only club, at least for your first few speeches).
Gradually, and with the unwavering support of my Toastmasters mentor, Janet Alkema DTM, I worked my way through my first pathway – ‘Engaging Humour.’
Using humour was a great tool for me to break the ice, and my confidence gradually grew and grew.
By the time I had finished my undergraduate degree, less than a year into my Toastmasters journey, I made the decision that I would become a Barrister.
I was transformed, and in July 2023, I was called to the Bar of England and Wales!