Guest Blog: Facing my fears of public speaking

Guest Blog by Wimbledon Speakers Club member, Josie Hai Diep

Josie DiepHi, my name is Josie and I joined the Wimbledon Speakers Club in 2017. For two decades of my life I had avoided public speaking due to a bad experience at school which I have shared below. If you aren’t feeling confident about public speaking but there is a part of you know that knows you would like to address it, I hope my personal story will go some way to encourage you to come along to a local speakers group where you can learn and feel supported in a friendly environment.

I have a fear of public speaking ever since my first experience at middle school and in music class we were put into groups and pretend that we were in a band and create our own piece of music. My team decided to create a rap song – I can’t rap. I should’ve known it would be a recipe for disaster but I still went ahead as I didn’t want to let the team down. After my group rapped in front of the class, there was a deathly silence. I looked at my music teacher’s face. He had those kind of faces where when he gets angry his cheeks gets flushed and I could the pink was turning a darker shade of red and he exploded. Our performance was so bad he thought we were taking the brief he gave seriously and he shouted at us for mocking him. The class all laughed. You know those embarrassing moments where you fear humiliation and being judged? Yes, that’s what happened, the class all laughed. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and everything else under the thesaurus for mortified.

I then did what many other people might do if they have experienced hurt and embarrassment, they avoid repeating the situation as they don’t want to be put in the same situation and be put at risk of it happening again. It makes common sense right? But the downside of this strategy meant for a long time I avoided doing things that involved public speaking, this also meant not going for jobs that interested me because I didn’t want to present. Not sharing what I know to more people for fear of being rejected. There was only one other time at University where I had to speak and that also didn’t go well as the colleague came up to me and said ‘your legs shook like jelly, you were like Shakin’ Stevens’ and then laughed. I thought to myself, I am not destined to be a public speaker.

It wasn’t until much later that I realised that I was tired of myself trying to run away from my own fear. I didn’t want to keep avoiding and the only way around this was to do something about it. I decided to do something scary courageous and set myself the challenge of singing on my own in Leicester Square and I did it. I have since joined my local speakers group and I recently participated in the annual club contest and won the annual competition! Then I participated in the area level competition where I decided to try and write a witty speech which was a bit of a risk as I didn’t know who the audience were, and whether it would be well received – it surpassed my expectations, as the audience laughed throughout the whole speech.  I came 2nd and was really pleased to have gone that far. Although the adrenalin was rushing through my blood and I was shaking, there was also the excitement and I actually got a taste that public speaking can be enjoyable!

Whilst I still feel the nerves, what I have gained is the confidence in knowing that I am willing to face up to my fears and to be myself when I take centre stage. If there is a part of you that wants to speak out more and develop the art of speaking more confidently in groups, then I recommend joining a local speakers group. And if you are joining Wimbledon Speakers Club, then I look forward to seeing you there! And maybe we can be Shakin’ Stevens together?!

A Wimbledon Winner!

Wimbledon Speakers Club kept up its fine tradition in competition this weekend as Bilwa won the Evaluation contest at the Area meeting in Central London on Saturday.

Many congratulations to Bilwa who goes on to fly the flag for WSC in the next round. Special mentions and congratulations also go to John, who was runner-up in the Topics contest and to Josie, who came runner-up in the speech contest. A magnificent effort!


Bilwa collects her prize from Chief Judge, Neil Harvey.


Meeting Review! Wednesday February 14th

How fitting that the latest meeting of Wimbledon Speakers Club, held on St. Valentine’s Day, was tinged with passion and emotion, as we bade a fond farewell to William Morris House, our home ever since the club was formed back in 1998. But before we said hello to our new home at Wimbledon Library in a couple of weeks, there was time to send the old place off in fine style!


And we did just that, as Sam took the chair to welcome the audience to an action-packed evening, the highlight of which was the Annual Speech Evaluation Contest, for which we were honoured to have Suzanne Taylor Warren from Chaucer Speakers Club (and former National Evaluation Finalist) in attendance to judge the competition.

After the traditional icebreaker where Sam asked us all to introduce ourselves and tell us about one memorable place we’d been to in our lives, he then moved onto the Topics session, which this week centred around one of his passions – horse racing! Having noted some of the wonderful words and phrases that owners give to their horses, he gave each participant the name of one horse that ran the previous weekend and asked them to speak for 2 minutes in any particular way about that word or phrase. Our Topics Evaluator for the evening, Bilwa, noted the fantastic and inventive responses that were given to all Topics, including ‘Deeds Not Words’ by Katherine, ‘Whatswrongwithyou’ by Debra and ‘Shortbackandsides’ by William, but Michael took the honours for the final time at William Morris House, with his response to ‘Bloody Nose’! Special mentions must also go to our three newcomers on the evening – Anne, Natasha and Roya, who all participated brilliantly on their first visit.

After the brief business session and a cup of tea, it was time for the Main Event. Ben provided the Target Speech for the contest – a Level 3 ‘Mean What You Say’ speech entitled ‘From Duckling To Dolphin’ – where he told the audience of his experience of training for his first triathlon. John, Bilwa and Joseph took part in the contest and, after careful consideration and describing the key things she was looking for in the evaluation, Suzanne announced that Bilwa was this year’s champion. Many congratulations to Bilwa who goes on to represent our club in the next round of the competition. As Sam remarked, our new venue has a large mantelpiece that would look great with a trophy on it……


After some last quick-fire topics, it was time for Michael to close the evening with his general evaluation – a fitting way to bring the curtain down on 20 years at William Morris House. And with that, Debra, our Club Secretary and Founder, closed the door for the final time….


And so now it’s time for pastures new!! We look forward to our next meeting on Wednesday 28th February (kick off 7.30pm) which will take place in our new home of Wimbledon Library (2 minutes walk from Wimbledon train / underground station) for more practice and progress! Everyone welcome – especially new visitors!

1 2 3