It was a ten minute speech about me..


It was a ten minute speech about me, how hard can that be? As it turns out it was pretty hard and I struggled. I had always been a fairly confident speaker but perhaps my confidence outweighed my technical ability and I simply managed by blundering my way through. But this speech was important. I turned down the opportunity the first time round.

I found the Toastmaster group, Ipswich Electrifiers, on the internet. The idea of trying my speech out on someone else first was appealing so I duly joined. After a year of practice and evaluation and I was ready for the speech. The only thing worrying me was that the opportunity might not be available to me again, but as it happened, it did and this time I took it.

The opportunity was standing for the position of head of my professional body. A body comprising of around 44 000 safety and health professionals from nearly 100 countries, a daunting prospect. But first I had to secure the nomination of the bodies Council of Management against two other candidates. Hence the speech.

The format I had studied for years. Up to the lectern, put your notes out and address the chamber. I had other ideas; I am very keen on not using lecterns or notes. My reasoning was sound: it was something I was passionate about and that needed to come across in my speech, also I didn’t think it would look good reading from a piece of paper hiding behind a prop. I was going to stand proudly in front and demand to be elected!

I was called to the front of the room, stood as tall as I could and then someone called a point of order! I was just ready to speak and a discussion started about the process, completely putting off my line of thought. My heart was going like a train. I knew the point was not valid, but I didn’t enter the discussion. It was sorted and I was invited to start again. I got a bit flustered and missed something in my first line, I don’t believe that the audience picked up on it though. I used to get really flustered by things like that, but not any more, I just carried on. I got through the speech with lots of passion, hitting my points in threes and subtle body language to reinforce them. My biggest weakness is the pace at which I talk, my evaluators always pick me up on it but I had put in plenty of big pauses and had the word SLOW written on my hand. I go for the big finish and then a big pause whilst they all digested the speech before a thank you and a sit down. Confidence is everything in my speeches although inside this time I was anything but! The other candidates were very strong.

We were invited to leave the room and our proposers gave speeches. There was a tense atmosphere as something was read out, I’m not sure what happened but people were smiling and shaking my hand and patting me on the back. It appears that I won!

It’s a role of many things, but one strand is being an ambassador which requires lots of public speaking to audiences large and small across the globe. I am getting a bit of a reputation for not using notes and lecterns and perhaps being a bit flippant about public speaking. Little do they know how much hard work goes on in a small meeting room in Ipswich, UK which translates into speeches to thousands of Safety and Health professionals around the globe.

Ian Harper