Public speaking isn’t most people’s idea of fun. I get that. But with a background as a barrister and a secret yearning to be on the stage, it’s always appealed to me. Which is why, back in 2014, I found myself pushing open the door of the Tythe Barn in Horsham, with just a slight sense of intrepidation!
When someone I know suggested I should try going to Horsham Speakers Club, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting to like it. In fact, I was expecting old boys in smoking jackets, a touch of pomposity perhaps and a large dose of boredom. But I was wrong, very wrong.
So what’s a Speakers Club?
Speakers Clubs are part of something called the Association of Speakers Clubs. It’s a national organisation with a network of clubs, and Horsham in Sussex just happens to have one of the most diverse and dynamic clubs in the country. The club itself is effectively a safe, supportive, and very friendly place where you can go to learn about public speaking and practice a variety of speaking and presentation skills.
Far from old boys in smoking jackets, there are members from all walks of life who have joined for a variety of reasons. The more experienced speakers support and provide feedback to the newer members but it’s all done kindly and at your own pace. Oh, and I should probably mention, that unlike many public speaking training facilities, Horsham Speakers Club is not expensive.
What do you talk about?
I get asked that a lot and the answer is pretty much anything you want. The idea is that you learn public speaking techniques and you do that by way of prepared speeches, impromptu sessions, feedback, educational sessions, and by having fun. Yes, it is actually fun and most of Horsham Speakers Club’s meetings are filled with much kindness and laughter. We make mistakes, we get nervous, we forget our words and we say completely the wrong thing. But I like to think of my friends at Speakers Club as a net – which catches me as I fall and gently picks me up and puts me back on my feet. I have improved and learnt more than I ever thought possible and continue to learn with every meeting I go to.
The meetings follow quite a structured programme and you generally find that whatever stage of the programme you’re working at, it will automatically generate some subject matter ideas. You’ll also find you get much inspiration and information from other speakers.
It’s a curious journey
People go to a Speakers Club meeting for very different reasons: for work, for a wedding speech, for a hobby and that makes the experience all the richer. Some members just join for a little while, but many stay for the long haul. It’s strangely addictive as a sort of high adrenaline cerebral sport. For my part, I joined with a great sense of suspicion but I quickly made great friends, joined the committee, and eventually became Club President. My journey has taken to me York, and then Edinburgh where I competed in the national speaking finals and came second in two events. It’s also led me to join the Senior Leadership Team at national level where I’m building on my leadership skills and making new friends from across the country. We speak often, we laugh more and I get the feeling when we’re all eventually allowed to meet up again, it will be quite a party. Us speakers know how to have a good time!
One of Sussex’s best kept secrets
Horsham Speakers Club is currently meeting by Zoom and I genuinely think it’s one of our county’s best-kept secrets. We’re a motley but enthusiastic crew, and one of the real joys of lockdown that has kept me going is logging on to a Zoom call on a Tuesday night and seeing the cheerful and familiar faces of my fellow speakers, willing to get out of their comfort zones and try something new.
So, if you’re looking for a hobby that’s a little bit odd but will teach you valuable skills. If you’d like to meet new people who are also probably a little bit odd but some of the nicest and most supportive people I’ve ever known. If you’d like a new challenge and to push yourself … well, you now know where you’ll find all these things, on a Tuesday night in the Tythe Barn in Horsham.