WIBF/Toastmasters (public speaking club)

Not everyone is a natural when it comes to public speaking, quite often the prospect of standing up and speaking in front of a large audience has even the most confident person heading for the toilet cubicle and locking the door.  To make matters worse, the further up the career ladder you climb, it is almost assumed that you are comfortable with such a feat!

WIBF Speakers has two branches that meet on alternate Wednesdays at 17:45 for an 18:00 start at Credit Suisse, One Cabot Square, Canary Wharf and RBS, 135 Bishopsgate, City of London. The meeting lasts two hours. We are delighted to welcome guests at no charge and guests are not obliged to speak at the meeting, although they are usually asked to introduce themselves. For security reasons, visits must be made by prior arrangement with a club member – see the Contact Us section for the club of your choice.

The aim of the session is to enable women to practice their public speaking in a friendly and informal environment and receive feedback in order to fine-tune these skills.  The session is split into two, one practice session for members and non members and one session where members showcase a practiced speech to obtain the feedback from the group.

The session starts with a series of introductions to the various members who are performing certain roles for the evening.  There is Madam Speaker who hosts the overall event, the time-keeper (who watches the time taken for each speech and provides feedback at the end on timing), the Grammarian (who is  watching out for your grammar and your ehms and ahh’s).  I found the prospect of someone listening to my grammar particularly daunting. Finally, there is an evaluator who provides overall feedback to all speakers at the end.

The main role is the session host who facilitates the session, she provides a series of table topics (which she has picked) and selects members of the group to come up and practice their public speaking skills for 2 mins on a given subject.  I was chosen (despite averting the hosts gaze) to come up and talk about a time where I did not get my own way with a colleague at work.  The Evaluator and Grammatician were listening and watching, and the timekeeper was sitting at the front showing me Red, Amber and Green cards depending on where I was time wise during my speech, e.g after a minute a half she showed me an amber card to indicate that I should start to wrap up, had I gone over she would have showed me the red card.  There are 8 table topics and roughly 20 attendees so there seems an even mix in terms of who gets a turn.  The host also chose a word of the day which the speakers have to try and build into their speech, in our case the word was “convoluted”.

I see this as a great forum for women who need to perform presentations at work

After the table topics, the attendees vote for the best speech, the evaluator and the timekeeper provide you with individual feedback (my feedback was that I was comical, good use of body language, my style was conversational (which is not always a good thing dependent on the audience) and I need to stop looking at the floor – so in a work context, would my colleague’s have been honest enough to provide that feedback  and would I have taken it as well if similar comments would have come from my boss  – I doubt it!

The 2nd session is where you get to watch two practiced speeches from guest speakers, these tend to be around a particular theme, e.g when I attended the two practiced subjects were around the use of presentation aids (flip chart and projector) and the other was the use of different voice projection or tones.  Again these are evaluated and timed and the audience voted for the best speech and provided written feedback on pieces of paper handed back to Madam Speaker.  It’s all very polite but don’t believe for a minute that that prevents honest and constructive feedback, and that is the key value and aim of the session.

From a recommendation perspective, I see this as a great forum for women who need to perform presentations at work and have concerns about their ability to speak in public.  Being with a group of similar women who also feel they need to improve their public speaking skills and grow their own confidence, creates an ideal forum to practice.  In addition, receiving constructive feedback in an environment which is very relaxed and by individuals who do not judge your performance for a year end or review (e.g your boss or peers) is a great environment by which to learn.    If you want to take your involvement to another level you can join the toastmasters association for a small fee, you receive a cracking guidance book on public speaking plus the opportunity to play one of the many roles at future sessions.     To become a member of WIBF and to attend invitations to their many events costs £65.00 per annum.  To join the toastmasters association costs £15.00 per annum plus quarterly subs.  For more information click here.

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