In May 2005 I attended a three Day Speech Therapy course with the Starfish Project which is a non – profit making organisation that helps people who stammer.
During those three days, amongst other things, I was taught a breathing technique that helps me to control my stammer. It will not make my stammer go away but it gives me control over something that 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 helps to run the Essex Starfish Support group. He told us about Toastmasters at one of the meetings and how much it had helped him. Barry helped to start Chelmsford Speakers. I went to the first meeting in January 2007.
There have been a few turning points for me since I completed my CC and CL awards and the night that I was the Contest Chair of the Humorous Speech and Table Topic contest at Chelmsford Speakers was one of them. It really showed me how far I had come, how much more confident I was getting and how much I was pushing out of my comfort zones.
Until I joined the Committee in 2010 as the Sergeant At Arms I had not realised how much work goes on in a Toastmasters club. The meetings once a fortnight apparently do not happen by magic. And I also saw that the Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) award would be my biggest challenge if I wanted to go for the Distinguish Toastmaster (DTM) award. I was advised that if I was the President of a Club it would help me if I wanted to be an Area Director.
I became 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 moved from Chelmsford Speakers in 2014, because I needed to push myself and joining the London clubs really helped me to do that.
I joined Kings Speakers in 2013, which is a Toastmasters club for people who stammer or have social anxiety. I first went along only intending to do a few speeches and to help out at a few meetings but I found that the club has really helped me a lot. I think it is because I am helping other people and seeing how well all the other club members are doing has really pushed me on.
Following on from this I became the Area 33 Director 2014-15. It was hard work and I learnt so much doing this job and I am continuing to learn all the time. I think what helped me was that I was new to Area 33, meaning that I had to go and introduce myself to all the Presidents and the members of the clubs in the Area. My assistant, Sophie Xu, who was a member of St Pauls Speakers in Area 33 really helped me a lot. I also did the High Performance Leadership project on being the Area 33 Director which helped me to gain the ALS award.
When I was made the Area Director of the Year 2014-15 for District 91 it was an amazing moment, I really could not believe it. When I went up to collect the award from District 91 Governor Hillary Briggs I was in tears.
I also completed the Advanced Communicator Gold (ACG) award helping to mentor new member Chrystele Scariot from Kings Cross Speakers. It was so rewarding seeing Chrystele grow in confidence and really pushing her out of her comfort zones, as I had done before.
I planned and held a Workshop at Kings Speakers called “How to listen effectively.” It was a great thing to do and receiving a lot of positive feedback was fantastic.
I did my first Icebreaker Speech at Chelmsford Speakers February 2007 and my last speech for my AG August 2016 at Kings Cross Speakers. I am proud to have received my DTM award. 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. I would like to thank everybody at Toastmasters for all their help over the years. I’d especially like to thank Barry Rix who introduced me to Toastmasters.
My favourite saying is – If you keep on doing what you have always done you will keep on getting what you have always got.
Brian Skelton DTM
Area C33 Assistant Area Director