Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Communicating ideas clearly, presenting them openly with confidence in a public forum is a crucial component of success across a number of life domains. At work and in business, being a good public speaker can help you advance your career, demonstrate your authority in your chosen topic domain, grow your business, and help form strong relationships and collaborations.

I could have sat on my laurels and been happy with my current speaking practice. But where’s the fun in sitting back and coasting, especially when those around you will be upping their game? Don’t you want to be the best version of you that you can be?

The Case for Learning New Tricks

One of the things that working within and leading a small business in the service sector has taught me is that there is little if any difference between your personal and business brands.

As a futurist, I speak nationally and internationally about the emerging future by

  • Informing clients and event delegates about the drivers of future change
  • Inspiring them to explore plausible futures to help them develop flexible and resilient responses to exponential change
  • Persuading them that whilst technology may be a critical driver of change, it’s mindset and leadership that they need to address to be successful in a radically different future, and entertaining …. well, you’d better ask my audiences!

So how I come across, how I articulate propositions, explore new technologies, and explain plausible scenarios plays into my personal and business brand equally.

Now, I don’t see much benefit in hanging around, so having enjoyed two taster sessions in October, I joined the Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club on 1st November and dived right in. (With a surname like mine, I really couldn’t go to any other club!)

What are my Observations about Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club?

Clubs are social spaces and the nature of the interaction between the members is as valuable – if not more so – than the learning content itself. I have found this club the friendliest and most supportive learning environment I have experienced. But why is that? It may be different for different people of course, but for me it’s:

  • Social Aspect – the opportunity to get together with a group of people with a shared interest, in this case public speaking and a desire to learn.
  • Support and Guidance – this is a safe place to experiment and try things out, to openly seek to improve and to be given valuable enabling feedback through evaluations.
  • Meeting Structure – having the same structure for each meeting provides a wonderful container within which members are able to try, experiment, participate, and improve their speaking, particularly through the Toastmaster’s development programme.
  • Process – Facilitation and organisation of each meeting is crucial and at Tunbridge Wells it is managed brilliantly by a small team of dedicated members.
  • Feedback and Evaluation – The feedback and evaluation is built on a structured process of commendations and recommendations; a very subtle but welcome difference to common corporate positive and developmental feedback approaches.
  • Roles and Speaking Opportunities – Each meeting includes various roles that enable members to get involved, from speaking, evaluating, timekeeping, to preparing the room.

 So has it Made a Difference to Me?

The short answer is, “Youbetcha!”

While everyone’s journey will be different, my own reflection and feedback from colleagues and club members suggest I have already made progress in:

  • Preparation – taking more time to consider the presentation and what I am seeking to achieve
  • Structure – considering the structure of my presentations and how it will inform and reinforce key messages
  • Purpose – being clear in my mind about the reason for the presentation; informing, inspiring, persuading, or entertaining …. see above for disclaimer!
  • Clarity – consider the audience and be clear about my message and more technical details included in the talk
  • Pace – use changes in pace to emphasise some points but be conscious of ‘slowing down to speed up’ (a notion given to me by a previous boss)
  • Less is more – sometimes it’s not about quantity.


If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. But that’s just standing still while the world passes you by. My mind-set was to learn, to improve, and it’s already paying off.

Tunbridge Wells is a friendly, welcoming environment. If you have a role – especially at work or in your own business – where communication through speeches, presentations, and even in one-to-one situations is crucial, if you feel you need to increase your confidence in speaking in front of other people, I would encourage you to come and try us out. After all, what have you got to lose?


If you are fearful of public speaking what is the nature of your anxiety?

What might be the value to you / your business of improving your speaking?

What skills, capabilities, insights, and experiences have you got that you’d like to share with other people?

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash


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