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When you were born, you had only two innate fears - speaking wasn't one of them. You have learned to fear speaking and many other things too. But the good news is you can un-learn the fears. Find out how - check out our section on Fear of Speaking.

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Last Updated: (Oct, 2021)

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Ipswich Speakers Club and The ASC -
Helping people become better speakers, better presenters and better leaders.

Association of Speakers Club

Overcoming Fear, Nerves and Anxiety

You have learned to fear speaking - now take control and unlearn it.

Know one thing - fear of speaking is incredibly common. In this section we look at the causes of and solutions to fear, nerves and anxiety. This applies to more than just speaking too!

The brain - New and Old

Before you do anything else, if you are one of the many people who get nervous or uncomfortable speaking in public, or worse still downright terrified then you should take a moment to understand wny these feelings arise. A little insight will help you realise that there is plenty that you can do to aleviate the cause and the symptoms. Better to treat the cause than the symptoms of course. Here's the thing - your brain is made up of numerous regions all of which do different and quite miraculous things. But some of the components evolved earlier than others and have simply been added to. Survival - fight or flight. When we were subject to predators ..... This website provides summaries and insights into not only the core materials provided in the guide but also provides more detail, examples and often up to date thinking from influences such as NLP. Core material available in the guide is tried and test and you may find other examples that are more appropriate to your needs here. You will also find video links to instructional resources or examples of good (or bad) speaking.

Once you join the club you will be presented with 'The Speakers Guide'. The first part of the guide covers the basic building blocks of speaking and communicating in public. There are 9 assignments each of which will give you insight into techniques that you will find invaluable foundations. Clients tend to work through the assignments in sequence but you should certainly read ahead and get a grasp of the basics. Speakers Club is so successful because clients practice and get regular feedback in a safe and supportive environment. Once you are ready you will be able to move on to another assignment, but if you still need a little more practice and development you'll be asked to repeat an assignment. This is to ensure that clients are clear about each particular aspect before moving. Confidence is based on a sound understanding and not false or insincere feedback.


- framework of educational development.

Certificate of achievement

- The association is aimed at all levels of speakers from those with a natural ability to the majority of us who need practice and tuition to help us on what is a difficult task, even when the audience is small. Memebers are encouraged to work through the ten assignments and on completion of these to an acceptable standard, the member will be awarded a Certificate of Achievement. Whilst this is not a professionally recognised qualification or accreditation it will assure you of a very sound level of speaking competence. Members who wish to stretch their abilities further can complete a number of advanced assignments and go on to receive the Advanced Certificate of Achievement.

Preparing a Speech

- The basis of any speech is in its preparation. The amount of preparation will depend on your level of experience, how well you know the material and they type of content. Initially chose a subject you know well that flows easily from one section to another. Preparation is required on how you will delvier the material, for example, whether any audio visual aids are required. Use of multimedia technologies such as MicrosSoft© PowerPoint and Prezi are very common and we have a separate section dedicated to effective use of these media. (How NOT to do Death by Bullet Point).

The effectiveness of any speech will depend on the preparation you put into the speech itself and into your delivery on the day. Read more on Preparing a Speech.

The “B” Assignments.

Making a start

Otherwise known an IceBreaker is just an opportunity for you to say hello and for an evaluator to gauge your level of speaking confidence. Most clients just give a short introduction about themselves, family, hobbies and any aspirations or challenges that they may be facing.

Read more Making a start

Mean What You Say

- The circumstances and subject matter will vary considerably but for the purposes of practicing at the club people often chose more easygoing topics about hobbies. The key is to pick a subject about which you can talk with some conviction and enthusiasm. If you feel enthusiastic about a subject it will come across in your body language and chances are you will enthuse the audience. The topic should be something you are quite familiar with so that you don't struggle from the outset. Finally, make sure that you've thought about the general overall point of your talk is. More about this in Preparation. You have nine speeches to deliver so if you are struggling for material, consider newpapers, magazines, interest forums or just get talking to people at the club. You might be pleasantly surprised by the contacts you make and the topics you learn about.

Read more about Mean What you Say and getting your point across

Learnings styles


Structuring a Speech

- When you read a book, watch a film or listen to a good speech you may be unaware of the structure of it, but there will be an overarching theme or story, with other material pinned in to give interest. That's what makes it enjoyable and easy to digest or absorb. If you've ever watched a poor film and you felt lost, well you'll know how and audience feels when they are not adequately guided through a speech. But it's surprising how many speakers just assume that their audience will come along for the ride and be grateful - how very wrong! Most audiences are willing and receptive, at first at least. You need to signpost where you are going, make things clear allowing time for people to digest what you have said and repeating material to drive home and reinforce.

Read more about constructing a speech

Quick Reference : Preparing a speech checklist

Use of Gestures and Non-Verbal Communication

- A psychologist by the name of Albert Mehrabian is often misquoted when people talk of NVCs (Non Verbal Communication). It can be a very powerful tool in your armoury and very subtle too especially when used for persuasion and rapport. Perhaps more importantly though, done wrong or badly it can be a real put off or distraction for your audience. So when Merhrabian talked about 70% of the message coming from NVCs, what he really meant was that you have 70% scope for blowing it. Put simply, gestures should emphasize and establish comfortable rapport with your audience as if you were having a one to one conversation with someone. Try observing couples in conversation then look at how speakers perform. Often they become clumsy and inhibited.

Read more about Gestures and Non-Verbal modes of communication

Use Your Voice

- We take the vocal apparatus largely for granted unless we have perhaps spoken or been involved in the theatre. We need to be heard clearly, that means speaking loudly enough but also enunciating carefully and not tripping over words. The voice also needs to be interesting in pitch and pace. It can be a useful analogy or metaphor to think of the voice as its own orchestra capable of making a broad range of sounds with great musicality.

Read more about the voice, how to train it and warm it up

Vocabulary and Word Pictures

- To be ... Or not to be ? Yes or No ? Two ways of saying the same thing different impact. (Video link to blind man video ?). Your words should convey your message clearly and concisely yes, but they are many way to lend greater emphasis, authority and potency to you message. This does not mean swallowing a dictionary but rather using the right words and grammatical constructs to make the most of your point. Much of the advice here is from classic rhetorical style. For example using triplets such as the famous "Education, Education, Education" is profoundly effective because it plays to an innate human tendency for patterns and order. Less than or more than three just doesn't have the same effect. So to pictures. As humans we mostly think in pictures. Pictures are much more difficult to forget than words. Trying pushing the image of a red London bus from your mind now and see how difficult it is. So that being the case you want to sow as many mental pictures in the minds of your audience as possible and pin the detail to them.

Read more about Words, Pictures, Metaphors, Rhetorical Methods and Persuasion

Use of Notes

- Most people need a memory jogger or prompt of some sort. Of course you may well know the subject so well that you don't need them. But if you are going to rely heavily on notes you should be prepared and aware that you will need to look at them. The more frequently you refer to notes the more likely you are to lose the flow and continuity but more importantly you will lose eye contact with your audience. Good eye contact is key to rapport as we will see later.

Read more about Using Notes

Use of humour

- A little bit of humour can go a long way to getting your audience on side and building rapport. That doesn't mean cracking jokes and worse still, laughing at your own, rather its about sharing experiences, finding common ground occasionally a bit of good old self-depracation. No one likes a smart alec.

Read more about Use of Humour

Audience Rapport

- This topics comes right at the end of the speakers guide, because it can be quite a subtle concept to master, but there is also much about rapport that is simple and intuitive and which speakers should draw upon right from the outset. Establishing rapport with your audience will put both you and your audience at greater ease, improving your connection, providing better and more immediate feedback and quickly alleviating some of the speakers initial fears, such as will the audience like me and what I have to say. In the same way that using poor gestures and NVC may put off your audience, failure to establish rapport will leave your audience cold, detached and uncomfortable and it you don't get it right from the start it can be hard to recover.

Read more about Rapport

The Masterpiece

Just to give you confidence that you can put it all together when you need to, the driving test of speaking. Of course this is only just the beginning but by now you will be well on the road to speaking confidence.

Read more about The Masterpiece

You'll need to deliver a speech for each of the above assignments reaching a certain level of ability before moving on.

OK - so those are really the basics, now all you need to do is put it all together, simple right? Of course not. Learning to speak and communication more effectively and confidently is like learning anything new. We go through four phases until we fully grasp each skill. Acquiring skills of course comes with regular practice and feedback and eventually our brains mould themselves to the task in hand so that we can function almost self consciously and then attend to other things. What initially felt like juggling or spinning plates becomes much more comfortable. You might want to consider leaning to juggle too, great fun once you have the hang of it. Then try rehearsing your speech whilst juggling. Once you've mastered that then speaking on its own becomes a doddle.

Of course there are different speaking challenges but you will become more able to draw on the skills acquired from the assignments and use them to best advantage. Practice is still key at this point until you reach increasing levels of confidence. You may have initially taken days or weeks to put together a speech at the start of the guide. As you progress you will find that it takes you less and less time and that a lot of what you did before becomes more automatic and less conscious. This in itself reduces the perception that speaking is costly and painful process.


- Sadly there is no silver bullet for learning to speak. It does take practice. But like anyone who has applied themselves to learning a musical instrument, practice reaps benefit. The brain is an incredibly plastic organ capable of adapting and reacting. Regular practice of the right sort will affect a strong and enduring change in ability and behaviour. One of the exercises we use at Speakers Club is the Topics Session. No preparation is required for topics. The chairman will give you a topic to talk about, usually with some kind of theme to give you some ideas to start with. Topics can feel like being thrown in at the deep end at first so it's important just to have a go and build up a little each time. It's great experience for thinking on your feet which is what happens in real life all the time. The topics leader will be sensitive to your level of experience and to what he knows about you. We have all sorts of tips and techniques to make sure that you never feel lost for words and will soon be delivering 2 minute topics with no trouble at all. We often find it difficult to shut speakers up after their allotted two minutes !

Read more about Preparing for a speech

Practice, feedback and lots of friendly encouragement and support - you'll find them all at Ipswich Speakers Club. Take it all at your own pace. But one size doesn't always fit all, so do come along and discuss your requirements.

A member of the National Association of Speakers Clubs, the Ipswich branch supports local people in achieving their speaking aspirations.

Practice, feedback and lots of friendly encouragement and support - you'll find them all at Ipswich Speakers Club. Take it all at your own pace. But one size doesn't always fit all, so do come along and discuss your requirements.