Who am I?
- Successful international speaker and trainer, ‘The Speech Sculptor’
- Passion for helping others deliver their speech confidently
- Enjoyed 30-year career in education as a teacher, Headteacher and consultant
- Accredited as one of the top Headteachers in the country and designated a National Leader in Education
- Toastmaster District 91 Impromptu Speaking Champion 2014
Milestones on my speech journey
Becoming a confident speaker is a process that is different for everyone. As with so much in life, with hindsight I can identify several influential events on my journey that at the time I viewed as ‘ordinary’. I did not see them as significant then, but I now recognise them as milestones in my journey to becoming a confident speaker.
I found it helpful to look at my journey in three stages. Firstly, when I considered myself as not yet a speaker, to feeling like an emerging speaker, to finally believing myself to be an accomplished speaker.
Not yet a speaker: Tongue-tied teen
At secondary school, I used to look with envy at classmates who were able to stand up and confidently talk about a vast array of subjects with clarity and self-assurance. Not only was I small in stature, but also small of voice. In these scenarios, I used my small and slight stature to help me vanish into the background like a snail retreating into its shell. “How do they do it?” I would ask myself. Whenever I did try to contribute at school, others shot down my ideas or just spoke over me.
I decided that keeping quiet was the safest option. How my classmates had the confidence to express their views remained a mystery to me throughout my secondary school life.
Emerging speaker: My words have meaning
As a child, I loved ballet and gymnastics – but, with the flexibility of an ironing board and coordination of a new-born giraffe on roller blades, I was certainly not a natural! I spent more time watching others than participating. I would, however, give little pointers to friends. This led to me coaching small groups, and then eventually teaching a whole class. Suddenly, my words had meaning for others!
Not getting the right grades in my ‘O’ levels scuppered my ambition to be a meteorologist. But having just got a near perfect score in my gymnastics coaching award, I opted for teaching.
I started uni in much the same way as I finished school; not speaking out and in awe of the other students’ confidence. However, that all changed the day we had to give our first presentation. Working in groups of three, we were tasked with giving a presentation about how we would approach teaching a topic to a class of seven-year-olds. I loved preparing the ideas and resources, but, as always, I dreaded the presentation. I did not have the confidence to voice this to the others in my group.
Before I knew it, one of the others had volunteered our group to go first and ‘my friend’ swiftly handed the speaking role over to me! Half an hour later, it was all over. l looked out at the stunned faces of students and lecturers. I braced myself for the feedback, but, to my surprise I was left speechless by the compliments on the high quality of both the content and delivery of my presentation.
How had I done that? I had no idea, but I didn’t worry about that. I was just so delighted that what I said had been valued and that I had a voice.
A speaker emerges
By the time I finished university, I had delivered an after-dinner speech in response to the principle, spoken on behalf of the student body at academic board meetings and wowed outside assessors with my eloquent delivery in my dissertation viva. And, in the classroom, I was able to keep 30 children spellbound through the magic of the stories I told.
An accomplished speaker: Torture or hobby?
Years later, as a successful headteacher, I was looking for a hobby to distract me from the stresses of the job. I turned to public speaking, and soon I was entering speech contests. Whilst many would consider this self-inflicted torture, for me it was a way to completely switch off from the stress of my job.
I entered the impromptu speech contest. The good news was that I only needed to speak for 2 minutes – the bad news? I would only be given the subject as I walked up on stage, and I had only 20 seconds to prepare.
I made it to the finals, and, as I walked to the stage, I knew the 350 members of the audience were expecting two minutes of magic – but would I deliver?
Half an hour later I was announced the 2014 UK Toastmasters Impromptu Speech Champion (see my winning speech below). In the following hours, days and months I was often asked “How did you do that?” “How did you come up with such an original idea?” “How were you able to structure your talk?” “How did you manage to make it so entertaining?” “How did you stay so calm?” “How…?”
All the questions I had pondered as a ‘tongue-tied teen’ were now being asked of me!
It’s a treat!
How did I do it? During my six-week journey through 3 rounds of competitions and the final, I looked at some speeches by former winners and at my own talks. I kept returning to the question, ‘But how do they do that?” Essentially, I wanted a fool-proof strategy that would work on any topic with just 20 seconds of preparation. I just kept drilling down further and asking “how?”
The end result: I developed the TREAT™ acronym. I focused on the audience, and considered the two minutes of their time that they were gifting to me. How could I best repay them? My five step TREAT™ process helped me to make my talk a treat for the audience to hear and for me to deliver.
Since then, I have used these five elements to help me write and deliver both prepared and impromptu talks.
A teacher for life
The teacher in me was ready for a new challenge. I now teach people the art and craft of public speaking and presentation skills using my five TREAT™ elements (Thought, Reason, Engagement, Anchor and Take-away). Liberated from the constraints of school, I can deliver a personalised curriculum using the techniques and methods best suited to the needs of those I am working with.
We all have something to communicate. Just like a sculptor shapes, moulds and builds up a piece of clay into a beautiful and unique sculpture, I work with people to help them create talks and presentations that are successful expressions of their voice. For more experienced speakers, working with what they have developed so far is like the sculptor assessing the finished piece, making those final tweaks and adjustments so that it stands out as something special.
Spiral of learning
I love teaching people the art and craft of a great talk; empowering them to speak with clarity and confidence. The great thing about teaching speaking and presentation skills is that everyone can succeed. You don’t need any special talent and it is never too late to succeed. Becoming skilled in speaking and presenting is like drawing a spiral. The centre point is where you are now. From there, learning the art and skills involved enables you to expand the spiral at your own pace. You can go back and revisit core skills, but each time from a more complex level.
Growing your shell
Just as each snail grows a unique shell, so too will you uncover your own unique speaking style. With experience, you will be practising just like any craftsman. Having the skills and the tools is not enough. It is through practising and actively using these skills that the great artist emerges. Unlike the snail, you will no longer want to use your shell to hide away from speaking in public. You will stand tall and share your message with those who need it.
Whether you consider yourself to be not yet a speaker, an emerging speaker or an accomplished speaker, if you are thinking, “I really want to take my speaking skills to the next level,” then get in touch for a free 30-minute consultation to see how I would be able to help. In the meantime, click here to receive my ‘Top Tips’ for making the next talk you give a treat for you and your audience. These are my top 5 things to do when planning your talk, and the 5 things to consider for the next time you deliver your talk.