FEATURE: Limited by a lack of loquaciousness? Well, would you like to talk about it in Hitchin?

North Herts Speakers.

North Herts Speakers. - Credit: Archant

Loquacious is not a word normally associated with those might describe themselves as lacking in confidence when it comes to speaking in public

But the night the Comet visited a Hitchin-based club designed to improve public speaking skills, it was at the top of the agenda.

The North Herts Speakers club is part of Toastmasters International, an educational organisation founded more than 90 years ago.

It was set up to help people who want to improve their public speaking skills in a friendly and supportive environment, and there’s always a particular word on the agenda.

The founder and president of the Hitchin branch of the club is John Kendall.

He told me: “Toastmasters teaches practical communication and leadership skills to help you gain confidence in public speaking, leadership and professional and social networking.

“Visitors are always welcome to come along free of charge and experience our meeting.

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“There’s a lovely camaraderie here, and everyone helps and supports everyone else – not only through positive encouragement, but also in terms of helpful feedback through evaluations given after speeches.

“We only started the Hitchin branch in October but already we have had up to 25 members attending, which is great.

“We also throw in a word of the week which all our speakers have to try and work into their speeches if possible – with this week’s word being ‘loquacious’.

“It’s good fun, and it’s great to have such wonderful feedback from speakers who feel they have benefitted from our meetings.

“What is also interesting is many stories from our speakers are extremely personal and moving.”

Maybe it’s the Comet’s presence but John tells us the crowd is unusually quiet to start with.

However, the evening comes to life when successful businesswoman and entrepreneur Julie New gives a speech with the simple title My Journey To Boots The Chemist.

It’s not just an everyday tale of picking up a prescription – it’s a gripping account about her life with her late husband Rob, and his legacy.

She told her audience: “Rob suffered a devastating motorcycle accident which left him in a wheelchair.

“Unfortunately it also left him unable to be able to perform sexually which was frustrating to both of us. We used Viagra but it didn’t work.

“So we decided to develop our own medical marital aid product to help our lovemaking.

“Sadly Rob died two years ago, but I’m so proud he left a lasting legacy to men and women everywhere – and I can also now proudly state our support ring is now actually on sale in Boots.”

A rapturous round of applause followed as Julie finished.

Following Julie’s amazing story was teacher Malcolm Williams from Hitchin, who joined in the spirit of the night with a dry and entertaining talk about BBC Radio 4.

His title was Tour of Four and he was quickly up to the mark with the required buzz word of the week. “I like Nicholas Parsons in Just A Minute,” he said. “He’s certainly the most loquacious presenter on the station.”

Club member and marketing consultant Valentina Antipov tells me in the interval: “I started coming here last year.

“I think this is a fantastic club which has really helped me with my public speaking skills – which in turn helps me with my job.

“John is a great help, too – he’s the perfect leader, and not too loquacious.”

The club meets on the first and third Wednesdays of every month at the Sun Hotel, Sun Street, Hitchin.

For further details call 01462 627 428 or visit www.northhertsspeakers.org

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