Member Story: My Motivation for Joining Toastmasters

A number of years ago I lost my job. Unfortunately, I was unemployed for just over two years. During this time I lost my confidence. It was difficult to meet people and even harder to speak to them when I did. The thought of going out in the big wide world was a real challenge.

After almost two years, I’d become a recluse. Although I eventually found a job, I still found it hard to interact with anyone, which is not ideal for a role in sales! I struggled to meet targets and became depressed. At one point I became so desperate I didn’t know which way to turn. What can I do? Who do I go to? Where should I turn? All questions I couldn’t find the answer to, and in the end my doctor had me on antidepressants - it was an incredibly low point in my life.

One day, my boss sent me to a seminar aimed at helping salespeople. Grabbing any opportunity to get out of the office, I attended the seminar where I met the keynote speaker, a gentleman called Frank Furness. He addressed the audience with ease and confidence. I was envious, but also eager to learn how I could do what he did. At the end of the session, we met up and I plagued him with questions and wrote down all his answers.

He told me that he had been a professional speaker for over 30 years and made a living from it. In fact, he had a new bootcamp coming up for aspiring speakers where he was going to teach people how to present and speak in front of an audience.

Wow, what an incredible opportunity! I took a big gamble and invested in his bootcamp. It was an extraordinary amount of money, but I managed to scrape it together and attend the three day course held at a hotel over what turned out to be the hottest weekend of the year.

It was very intense. There were 12 of us in attendance, all novices. It was highly interactive, and incredibly nerve wracking. During the weekend, a number of the delegates kept mentioning something called Toastmasters. I kept thinking, “What on earth is that? Red coat and Gavel?” On returning home I did some research and found that there was one club in my home town of Leeds, and I decided to attend a meeting to see what all the fuss was about.

My goodness, what a night it was. A room full of people, over 45 in total, all there to develop as communicators. I was petrified. Someone asked me if I would like to speak in an improv session called 'Table Topics' – NO CHANCE! I was too nervous, but I was enthralled by what the others had to say. Two weeks later I ventured back and was asked the same question – would I like to speak for at least a minute? Knowing that this was the reason I wanted to attend something like this, to increase my confidence, I decided to give it a go. “You can speak for up to two and a half minutes if you want,” said the Table Topics Master. I froze and my first table topic lasted a whopping 23 seconds. Knees knocking, palms sweating, cheeks red I could not wait to sit down. I somehow managed to get to my seat, it’s all a bit of a blurr.

From then, I made a decision that eventually changed my life – I decided to join.

A small initial joining fee plus a regular monthly subscription - it was peanuts compared to what I had paid for Frank Furness’ bootcamp, but I got so much out of it. Progressing through the project books and taking on leadership roles across the Club, Area and District took me on the magical journey that got me to where I am today. After joining, I secured a better job where, with practice, I was able to stand in front of audiences of all sizes and give sales presentations. I met new friends, increased my confidence, and am now able to speak without fear – I have finally overcome my public speaking nightmare.

I now offer development support to others, helping individuals improve their speech and presentation skills, overcome their fear, get better jobs and most importantly, increase their confidence. The joy I feel when I see a nervous person transform into a powerful speaker knows no bounds.

If you ever want to learn the skills that make a strong communicator in a safe, supportive environment, there is no better place than Toastmasters International. People from all walks of life join for a variety of reasons, both personally and professionally, embarking on their journey to becoming a clear, confident, concise communicator - Toastmasters truly can change your life.

Join us as a guest at a meeting to find out how it can help you. We meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

Phil Heath

Treasurer and Found Member of Strictly Speaking Harrogate Toastmasters

About Phil

Phil Heath – DTM As a trainer/consultant in International Standards, Phil visited many countries in the last few years. Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine, every time he left the country there was a riot, a bombing, or an invasion! Phil joined Toastmasters in 2003 and has the honour of being a twice Distinguished Toastmaster. Before Phil became a professional speaker he was a trainer and sales consultant for many companies. As philthefunnel he now coaches organisations and individuals in the art of presentations with a focus on confident communication.

Phil Heath – Creating Confidence with Communication

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