Simon Bucknall takes 2nd place in the 2017 World Championship of Public Speaking

A great result for the UK, Simon Bucknall having progressed from his London based club up through the various contests to the international stage and the World Championships.

If you have 8 mins to spare, grab a cuppa and watch Simon’s speech (see below) plus others from the final to see what is possible by learning the skill of public speaking and by participanting in the speaking contests offered through Toastmasters. If you are interested you can find your local speaking club by searching here.

Click on the play button below to play the video and enjoy ūüôā


What have social media and Marmite got in common?

I know social media is a little bit like Marmite, you either ‘love it or you hate it’! I have over the past few years tended toward the less positive response, but, that said, I have recently changed my mind. I shall explain….

Having just taken on the role of PR for the Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club and I have used Meet Up before but not for a few years. It is a website site that allows you to post news of any group meeting to the world whatever the topic, rambling, knitting, car repairs, Shakespeare or in our case, public speaking. I was a little sceptical but thought, well you don’t know until you try and I must admit what happened left me more than surprised. At the time of writing this we have in only 3 weeks gained 22 members to the Meet Up group and 4 new guests attended our last meeting on 22nd Aug. Ok, I can hear you thinking, 4 people, is that all, now hold on a second.

As Francis Drake said; “Great things have small beginnings”

So I am sticking with Francis on this one. Each of those four people know many others so in a few weeks with those four, and the 18 we haven’t yet met, it may be we have too many people for our meeting and we need to find a bigger room! What a great place to be in. Ok, ok, calm down I can hear you thinking, but isn’t it fun to ask ….what if.

Well, what I am pretty certain of is that without Meet Up we might have had one new person, perhaps two but 100% more than that, I doubt it. So, the long and short of it is, social media has worked and helped up connect to other interested in public speaking that we probably would not have reached. Overall, it was fantastic result, it was great to welcome so many new guests and we want to welcome a lot more. In fact, in our table topics Julia took on the experienced members and jointly shares the glory of the table topics trophy (see below). So, if you are reading this and have thoght about coming along and finding out about improving your public speaking then perhaps, just perhaps you might be one of three, four or five new guests at our next meeting.

That said, however many guests there are at the next meeting on 12th Sept, there will be a smiling face to welcome you. In fact the 12th Sept will hopefully feature lots of smiling faces as it is the annual Humorous Speech Contest night. It will feature up to 4 speakers each giving a speech 5-7 minutes long. If you are free that night and you are tempted to come along please be our guest and we can have a chat in the break to find out what the club might offer you.


Are you a untapped fountain of knowledge?

The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela

I recently returned from a short trip to Kerry in Ireland, as is the way in Ireland I got chatting to people, a lot!!

As we talked I often got onto the topic of the speakers club and public speaking in general. The agreement from most was that public speaking was an exceptionally scary thing to do and something they would shy away from at any opportunity. No story from my short time away was more interesting than a gentleman who, a few years ago, had written an article on a soldier at the Battle of Trafalgar. This article was very well received in the historic fraternity and as a result he received numerous invitations to go and speak about this. One such invite came from a meeting being held at Oxford University, I would love to say he went along and spoke and that led to other engagements and he now makes his living talking about the naval things he is passionate about. I would like to say that because that is the fairy tale that I played out in my head when listening to him.

However, as you might imagine, that is not what played out, he did not speak at that meeting, or any of the others he was invited to. Now, I am not saying that was the wrong thing to do but his fear stopped him unlocking opportunities which could have changed his life.

As you might imagine I am an optimist, I imagine good things will happen, I see opportunity in most things and creating new possibilities. We are not all like that but his fear of public speaking held him man back. He is happy in his life now, and so I am happy about that. But, we don’t know what else might have happened, could creating an alternative path have helped him be even happier? The film Sliding Doors visually creates this idea of alternative lives based on the small things that happen each day.

So if you are like this guy, if you have opportunities to speak about topics you are knowledgeable on, I say don’t miss that chance, ask yourself what is the worst that can happen? Face that fear and stand up and speak and create new possibilities

The 10th Oct is Face your Fears day, if public speaking is one you want to crack then come along to one of our meetings and you will find a warm, welcoming bunch who want to see you learn, grow and succeed.

What have you got to lose, little. What have you got to gain, well that is to be seen?……………..

Tunbridge Wells Speakers club – we meet every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month. Come along for free as a guest and see what it’s all about. Click here for details.

Chris ūüôā



8th Aug 2017 Meeting

I have just walked in from tonight’s meeting so keen to let people know how it went.

We were delighted to welcome two guests tonight and our two newest members. Indu who has been part of toastmasters in India and Eddie who has visited us once before so great to see him back again. What was lovely was they gave some fantastic feedback about how we ran things as we are keen to see what people think and share their experiences. Indu shared experiences she has of Toastmasters in India and gave us some ideas about how we might jazz up the Table Topics so watch this space……

We only had one speech tonight which was from me and it was my second speech from the Competent Communicator manual so it was focused on organising a speech. The title was ‘ Are you a lucky or an unlucky person’, the speech talked about The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman and translated this into lessons we might all take on board to welcome more luck into our lives! As with each speech given at Toastmasters there was a full and excellent evaluation, this time from Graham Archbold which helps the speaker identify not only what they did well but also what they might do differently to further improve both the speech and their abilities as a speaker.

With the extra time we had, we fitted in two rounds of Table Topics, these are impromptu speeches delivered for a minute, so the adrenaline rush hit most people twice tonight. The topics varied from; ‚ÄėHome is your Sanctuary‚Äô, to; ‚ÄėIf you could ask one person from any point in time one question who would it be and what would your question be‚Äô.

Our proud winners tonight were Ritesh and Katy, Katy wasn’t so keen to be in the photo so you’ll have to imagine her standing on the right in the picture below ūüôā

Overall a great evening despite being light on speeches it meant that everyone had at least two opportunities to stand up and speak and hence get evaluated.

Thanks goes to everyone this evening and our next meeting is on Tues 22nd August from 7.15pm upstairs at the Tunbridge Wells Bridge Club if you’d like to come along please just turn up and you will be made most welcome.

Picture of Table Topics Winner Ritesh and Katy 8th Aug 2017


We are back :-)

Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club has had a short break on the blog front but the good news the club is still going strong and we will again be posting regular on what we have been up to so it gives anyone reading this a good idea of what we do and whether that is something you might want to be part of.

So, to refresh what we are about. If you need to give a speech, you are nervous about speaking in front of people and or want to improve your speaking skills, whatever it is, coming along to the Speakers Club will help you take a step in the right direction.

There is a great summary of what we do on the website which you can read here. Those that have visited recently have commented on the friendly welcoming atmosphere and that goes through the heart of what the club is about. As we are part of Toastmaster International any speaker receives friendly and constructive evaluation of any speech they give so over time and with practise you can grow in your skill and confidence. We all share the same passion regarding getting better at speaking and the added bonus is you do this in a friendly, fun and supportive environment. You can progress at whatever pace you want so even if you just want to visit and see what it’s like then come in and meet everyone then pop along and see what it is all about.

Below is a picture of Steve Edwards winning last weeks table topics speaking about Donald Trump, these are impromptu 1-2min speeches which you can choose to participate in to improve your ability to speak ‘off the cuff’



It’s a TREAT…

At the end of every meeting the President always invites any guests that¬†have attended to give some feedback on their experience of the evening. It is a two way thing isn’t it? We want to make sure that our guests have enjoyed themselves, and their¬†feedback helps us to consider ways we can¬†improve. Last night was no exception and¬†it was rewarding to hear when our guest replied¬†” I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and I did not expect to laugh so much”¬†

Table Topics is a regular feature of every Tunbridge Wells Speakers¬†meeting and it provides an opportunity for people to give¬†an impromptu speech, lasting around 2 minutes, on a subject determined by the Table Topics Master. No-one is forced to take part and guests do, on occasion, decide to be spectators only, as they acclimatise to the environment of a meeting. ¬†Last night our guest¬†opted not to participate and sat happily laughing and enjoying all the other two minute contributions by the members of the club. At the end however, when the Table Topics Master was about to pass the responsibility of the meeting back to the Toastmaster, our guests hand shot up and¬†with a smile she asked “can I do one”? I believe¬†taking that plunge and summoning the courage to get involved helped to contribute to an enjoyable and rewarding evening for her, and that rewarding feeling was extended to everyone, as we have all been in that place, hesitant and a little anxious, concerned what people may think of us, nervous at making ourselves vulnerable.

District 91 of Toastmaster International held their Spring 2016 conference in London last weekend. One¬†of the afternoon workshops was facilitated by Elizabeth Toohig and her subject was “Table Topics. It’s a TREAT!” During her workshop Elizabeth shared some of the strategies she adopted which helped her prepare for the 2014 District 91 Table Topics contest, which she won. Clearly it was a winning strategy for Elizabeth and full details can be found on her website by following this link¬†

The strategy outlined by Elizabeth is not limited just to Table Topics and can be adopted to help with all sorts of life events, like business meetings, interviews, impromptu talks at weddings or parties, there is no end to the value that can be gained.

It would be great to see more guests joining us for an evening, if only to find out what goes on and discover why people enjoy themselves so much…


Half of us is other people…

I borrowed the heading for this post from the 5th Chapter, entitled Do I need you?, of David Eagleman’s book “the Brain – The Story of you”, and I’m using it because we had such a fun meeting this week at Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club. The¬†energy in the room vibrated¬†as we welcomed 9 guests, some new and some who had visited us before.¬† They got involved in the warm-up, where the Toastmaster for the evening helps relax people by¬†creating an opportunity for people to say a few words based on a random suggestion. This week, the suggestion was to provide 3 uses for a paperclip other than what it was designed for. And then later in the evening, after the main speeches, they ¬†all volunteered to take part¬†in the Table Topics session, which was beautifully facilitated by Richard Green who provided some challenging and interesting topics for us to attempt to¬†speak about for up to 2 minutes.

Was it a stretch for some of us? The answer has to be a yes,¬†and that’s the point, isn’t it, to find a comfortable and safe place you can learn, a place to develop a new skill and to increase your confidence?¬†In his book, David Eagleman asks the question,

“What does your brain need to function normally? Beyond the nutrients from the food you eat, beyond the oxygen you breathe, beyond the water you drink, there’s something else, something equally as important: It needs other people. Normal brain function depends on the social web around us. Our neurons require other people’s neurons to thrive and survive.”¬†

It’s exciting to see us growing as a club. Each new visitor brings along new benefits¬†and new¬†opportunities to share stories, to interact, to learn from one another and grow as individuals.

We hope to see you soon.



The truth and nothing but…

There are many things¬†I enjoy about Toastmasters:¬†the¬†opportunity to increase¬†your confidence, develop ways to articulate yourself¬†through encouraging feedback,¬†and¬†exploring better ways to express yourself through gestures and body language. But what I especially like is the learning; by reflecting on the speeches as they are delivered, and subsequently after the evening has come to an end, I’ve learned a great deal about a number of things and a number of people. This week was no exception and we listened to three interesting speeches from club members. The title of the speeches were Make Life Interesting, Not Easy, Truth, and Matching and Mirroring.

All of the talks were interesting and made me¬†think. It is¬†also interesting, if you consider that the subject choices were all made independently, that¬†there was¬†a loose connection between them. In one way or another they dealt with the human condition which is only natural as we are all interested in life and are trying¬†to figure out how to make it a good life for the relatively short time we are here. For me, the most poignant of the 3 talks was the one¬†titled “Truth”, which opened with the speaker calling us all liars, but then went on to communicate his rational and ended with a thought-provoking poem he had written and that he¬†originally read out at a funeral of a friend.

His talk reminded me of an essay written by A C Grayling, a¬†British philosopher who until 2011 was the professor of philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, called¬†Lying. In his essay, he quotes Plato who said that lies are not only evil in themselves, but infect the soul of those who utter them. Grayling¬†then¬†goes on to counter this¬†austere view with examples that facilitate the idea of lying as an acceptable and almost needed reality. We accept that people within politics and government are often economical with the truth and find interesting ways to communicate their embellishments, and I think it is also reasonable to quote from his essay “It is acceptable to tell an untruth when it protects the other from injury, to his feelings or otherwise. ‘Am I ugly?’ asks your neighbour, who makes quasimodo look like a beauty queen. ‘I wouldn’t use the word “ugly” ‘, you reply; ‘you have a distinctive face.'”¬†

Just before the end of a Toastmaster meeting, we always award a prize for the person who gave the best Table Topic talk.  This is when those that have put their name forward are given the opportunity to do a short impromptu talk on a subject that is only given to them a few moments before they begin. This week it was awarded to Sophie, who is not a member but had come along to experience first-hand what an evening with Tunbridge Wells Speakers is like. Congratulations, Sophie! Your talk on chocolate was indulgent and fun, it made us all smile, and we hope you will come back to see us again soon. And that is the absolute truth! 

Happy Easter




International Women’s Day

Words are powerful and the ones¬†you choose and the way in which you ¬†deliver them ¬†is vital¬†to get across your message in the right way. ¬†In celebration of International women’s day I thought it would be fitting to post a YouTube video of “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou. It’s not all¬†about lecterns and podiums.


New members – New stories – New website

Recently we have had more new members join which is really exciting, not only because it introduces a different energy into the club but also it provides an opportunity to share more stories and experiences. Our stories and experiences are our shared life blood and play a significant role in helping us understand each other, they support our memories and enable us all to connect in more meaningful ways which, in today's technological world, has increasing importance.

How you communicate your story is  very important and can determine the difference between success and failure. Let's look at the job interview, as an example, is this just a "job interview" or is it an opportunity for you to meaningfully engage with the interviewer to influence them and persuade them you are the right person for the job? Or an internal negotiation at work, when you're vying for scarce resources in order to help your team achieve its objectives. Some people may question what these have to do with "public speaking" and I would suggest that it has everything to do with it. Of course, you are not necessarily standing up and talking to an audience but you are communicating and similar rules apply. There is a beginning, a middle and an end, to every interview, as there is to a negotiation a story or a speech, and it is vital that one considers these things carefully if the desired outcome (call to action) is to influence and persuade the interviewer to say, yes.

So, while you the reader, may not see yourself standing up and delivering speeches to small or large gatherings, there is value in increasing your confidence, learning to communicate more effectively and exploring how to influence and persuade people when you want to achieve something.

Tunbridge Wells Speakers have something we want to achieve, which is to help people develop these skills within a relaxed, encouraging and friendly environment. To help us achieve this we are currently reviewing our website to see how we can improve how we communicate with our audience, you.

Hope to see you at one of our meetings.