In May 2005, I went on a 3-day speech therapy course, where I met Barry Rix. He has become a good friend and has helped me a lot over the years. It was Barry who told me about Toastmasters and how it had helped him with his confidence and stammer. I thought: me join a public speaking club? Don’t be silly! But in January 2007, I went to Chelmsford Speakers Club for the first time. I joined that same night and did my Ice Breaker four weeks later.
I’ve often thought about how I gave my Ice Breaker so soon after joining. I think that if I hadn’t thrown myself in at the deep end, I’d have started making excuses, delayed the big day…and who knows how that would have turned out?
One of my best decisions was to leave Chelmsford and join Kings Speakers, which gave me the opportunity to visit and join other London TM clubs.
I have always been pushing myself to look for different speaking opportunities. Now I’m proud to say I’ve spoken at different TM clubs, TM conferences, work, and at a Rotary club. I feel that I’ve made good progress but at the back of my mind, I’m always wondering if there are more speaking opportunities out there.
About two years ago I was at a TM event where I spoke to a lady from Spark. She explained it was a story-telling club. I joined the mailing list and received monthly emails about forthcoming events in London.
I wanted to go but I kept making excuses! At Spark you tell true stories and each meeting has a theme that your story must fit. So my excuse was always that I didn’t have a story that was based on the chosen theme.
In May, I received an email about a Spark event in Hackney. The theme was promises. This could be a promise you made to yourself or to somebody else. I thought no more excuses—I need to do this. Then I wondered what I could talk about.
That night I went to the venue alone. I introduced myself to the lady sitting at the entrance desk. I was very nervous and stammered on saying my name. Then I stopped, took a deep breath, made eye contact with her and said, “Brian Skelton”. I explained that I had a stammer to which she replied, “That’s not a problem, dear”. Then I said that I wanted to tell a story.
These venues are completely different from TM. It’s more like a club with tables and chairs where you can buy drinks. I counted twenty-five people as I sat at a table with only a soft drink for company, waiting to be called on stage.
The compare explained how the evening would go. He told the first story, then two other people went up and told theirs. Then it was my turn. You are allotted five minutes and I explained to the audience how I’d made a promise to myself to do something about my stammer. It took me a little while to get going and I noticed that I was speaking too fast. When I started to slow down, it made a big difference. In fact my story went well!
Another difference to TM is that you speak into a mike. I found this really odd, after being told that I have good voice projection.
There was a break after my speech, and I rewarded myself with a pint of cider, which went down really well! A lot of people came over and congratulated me. Then six more people told their stories. It was a great evening and I was really pleased I did it.
The people at Spark are all volunteers. They are fantastic and will help you with any problems or questions. It’s a really friendly event and you can feel that everybody is on your side, willing you to do well.
I know that Ben has been to Spark as well, so talk to me or him about it, if you’re interested in going. While it is different from TM, I know how important it is that we step outside our comfort zones. My advice? GO FOR IT!
The speech you can listen to here is a true story about a holiday I gave at another Spark event in July.