Time to join a Speakers Club
We’ve looked at writing your speech, we’ve looked at practising your speech, what next?
You’ve got it… you have to deliver your speech in front of a real live audience.
Calm down, calm down!
I’m not suggesting that you book a spot at the Albert Hall for your first speech, I’m suggesting that you start off in a more relaxed environment. One where you feel safe, comfortable and get lots of support….. sounds to me like a Speakers Club.
“There’s only one proven way to improve at Public Speaking – give speeches. As with any other human endeavor, you get better with experience and practise, so you need opportunities to speak.”
Malcolm Kushner – Public Speaking for Dummies
What is a Speakers Club?
A Speakers Club is a collection of people who get together to practise and improve their Public Speaking and Presentation Skills, simple as that. The club doesn’t even have to be called a Speakers Club… some are and some aren’t.
They are generally educational, non profit organisations, but you have to pay a membership fee, which covers room hire, materials etc.
Most Clubs meet about twice a month and meetings are well structured in order for you to get the most out of a meeting.
Once you are a member of a Speakers Club… you usually speak at every meeting… unless you can produce a note from your mum.
The important thing about all Speakers Clubs is that they are made up of people who want to overcome their fears and improve their Public Speaking skills… just like you and me.
What Speakers Clubs are out there?
There are independent speakers clubs as well as several speakers club organisations. The main organisations are:
- The Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) – for clubs throughout the UK.
- Toastmasters International – for clubs in the UK and internationally.
Both are great organisations that will really help with your Public Speaking. What you need to do is visit a few clubs, talk to the members and see which one you like.
Most clubs allow you a couple of free visits to see if you like them.
“Although all clubs follow a similar basic format, not all clubs are identical. Look for a club that has 15 to 20 members who attend regularly.
And make sure that the speech critiques are more than just supportive; that they give you specific things that you can do to improve.
You might have to check out several clubs before you find the one that’s right for you.”
John Cantu – San Francisco comedy coach
Here’s a bit of info about each plus contact details:
Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC)
The Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) was formed in 1972 and now has about 120 Clubs throughout the UK with approximately 1800 members.
The ASC exists to promote effective speaking, communication, and the conduct of meetings. It is a non-profit organisation uniting groups of individuals into Clubs.
The ASC sets standards which Club members aim to attain in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, produces resources to enable members to practice the techniques of effective communication and runs speaking competitions.
Finding an ASC Club
Head on over to the Association of Speakers Club website and open their Find an ASC Club page and you will see a map of the UK. Click on your area and you will see a map showing all the clubs in that area. Click on a club and contact details will be displayed.
With so many clubs spread across the UK, you should be able to find one near you.
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations.
Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organization has more than 250,000 members in more than 12,500 clubs in 106 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience.
Finding a Toastmasters Club
Toastmasters have a great website where you can find a club. Open up their Find a Toastmasters Club page and you will be presented with three drop down lists – follow through the options until you find a club near you.
For example: my options were, United Kingdom / England / Solihull.
What will you learn at a Speakers Club?
Speakers clubs are all different but most of them cover….
Prepared speeches are the sort of speeches we’re all familiar with. Speeches where you have time to prepare notes and plan what you are going to say.
For your prepared speeches you will generally work your way through a series of assignments such as:
- Making a start – your first speech… tell us a bit about yourself
- Mean what you say – how to speak with conviction and passion
- Speech construction – make it easy for the audience to follow your speech
- Use of gestures – reinforce your words with dynamic gestures
- Use your voice – learn how to vary pace and pitch and how to use… the pause
- Vocabulary and word pictures – use words to paint pictures
- The use of notes – how to use your notes without losing eye contact
- Use of humour – how to make the audience smile… or even laugh
- Audience rapport – how to get the audience involved
- The Masterpiece – putting it all together
Each assignment builds on previous assignments and adds a new skill to your Public Speaking repertoire.
Impromptu speeches are speeches given off the cuff… someone gives you a subject, you walk forward and give a two or three minute speech on that subject. Or for the politicians out there… on a completely different subject.
It’s a bit like real life.
Without any notes, you can concentrate on making eye contact with the audience… a great way to build confidence.
An important skill if you have to chair meetings at work or the local golf club. You have to take charge and lead the audience through the evenings programme.
Whenever you give a speech, you will be evaluated by a more senior member of the Club.
They will tell you what was good about your speech and what could be improved.
As you progress through the Club, you in turn will evaluate the speeches of new members.
A great feature of Speakers Clubs – evaluations.
Learning how to control those nerves
As you work your way through the various assignments, something magical happens…. you begin to realise that you won’t drop dead in front of the audience, you can think under pressure and you have become a confident Public Speaker.
You’ve learned how to control those nerves.
My experience of Speakers Clubs
I’ve been a member of a local Speakers Club for about ten years. Sans Souci Speakers Club an ASC club in Solihull England. My wife spotted an article in the local newspaper so I went along to see what it was all about. I liked what I saw, was made to feel welcome and I joined a couple of weeks later.
When I joined I knew nothing about Public Speaking, but I was told what to do and shown how to do it. My confidence increased in tandem with my knowledge and I’ve never looked back.
Having been through the process, I’m convinced that anyone can master their nerves and become a decent Public Speaker. Including you! Don’t just think about it… do it… join a Speakers Club today.
Can’t find a Speakers Club? Start your own.
There are lots of Speakers Clubs out there but if you can’t find one in your area, why not start a new one?
Fortunately for you… and for me, Farnoosh over at Prolific Living has written a great post on how to start a new Speakers Club.
Farnoosh’s post is aimed at Creating an Advanced Toastmasters Club but many of the principles apply to starting any new Speakers Club.
I’ve listed the key steps below:
- Contact governing body, Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) or Toastmasters – find out what help and advice they can give you.
The Association of Speakers Clubs has a ““Starting a New Club document” and Toastmasters have a “Start a New Club page”.
- Get help from other Speakers Clubs in your area – the governing bodies will supply you with contact details of other Speakers Clubs in your area. Contact them, they are always ready to help new clubs.
- Find out what funds are available for setting up a new Speakers Club – you will need funds for advertising, setting up a Website, booking a meeting room etc. Most organisations provide funds to help you through the startup period.
- Find a suitable venue for your Club meetings – church hall or posh hotel? Serviced by public transport or will members have to drive? Depends on your location and how much you can afford. Room hire charges will be your biggest expense so choose wisely.
- Decide on the Club name – take a look round at other Speakers Clubs names before deciding.
A word of caution – make sure that your Club name is easy to remember and spell. My own club is called Sans Souci Speakers Club. Try spelling that on a radio programme!
Also bear in mind that your Club name will probably become part of your Website domain name, so try and include a geographic locator i.e. if you meet in Leicester, try and include Leicester in your club name.
- Decide frequency of meetings, meeting times and dates – how often should you meet? My own club meets every two weeks but as a new club you may decide to meet say once a month. As membership builds up you can increase the frequency of your meetings.
What’s the best time to meet? Depends if you think members will come straight from work or go home and eat first.
Make sure dates and times are clearly shown on your website so that people can plan ahead.
- Setup a Club Website – your Website is likely to be your major form of advertising. Set it up early to get that publicity moving. For an idea, take a look at this great looking speakers club website.
- Organise other forms of publicity – your Website should be your main form of advertisig, as I always say, “least effort most reward” but think about supplementing it with other forms of publicity.
Articles in local newspapers, poster in the local library, members doing outside assignments etc.
- Prepare your first Club meeting – take a look at item 2 “Get help from other Speakers Clubs in your area” Experienced members from these clubs will help you set up your first meeting and will perform most of the jobs, chairman, evaluators etc.
Use their expertise until your own members are trained.
- Ongoing recruitment – recruitment is an ongoing process. Each season some members will join and some will leave. You should be aiming to have about 20 members.
Let us have your thoughts and recommendations
Are you a member of the Association of Speakers Clubs or Toastmasters?
Are there Clubs out there that I’ve missed?
Has being a member of a Speakers Club helped your Public Speaking and confidence.?
Tell us a bit about your own Speakers Club.
Which clubs would you recommend?
We’d love to hear from you.
My thanks and gratitude to stock.xchng for allowing me to use their Helping Hand image.