Stars of speech

By David Kavanagh | posted on August 17, 2019

AN ALBANY public speaking group that in the past decade has helped dozens from the town and surrounding areas face their fear of talking in front of crowds is putting the call out for new members.

The Southern Star Speaking Club has been running weekly get-togethers at the Albany Bridge Club on Mills Street since June 2008 and earlier this year convened its 450th meeting.

Current President Chris Walker said the group aimed to provide members with the opportunity to learn how to speak in public, make presentations and chair meetings successfully.

“It comes down to confidence building a lot of the time. People have this inbuilt fear of public speaking and we try to put that fear to one side by providing a self-paced learning environment for them,” he said.

“We do this by giving comments at the end of the meeting not necessarily on what they said but on how they said it.

“It’s so important in these days of texting that when you do need to communicate face-to-face, one-on-one or in a group, you can stand there and know you’ve got the right idea.”

Mr Walker has been involved with the club since 1981 when it was still known as Rostrum Club 41 after the state public speaking coaching organisation Rostrum Western Australia.

He won the 1988 Rostrum WA Speaker of the Year competition and said the skills he has learned have assisted with everything from job interviews to selling life insurance.

According to Mr Walker, while membership numbers have varied sporadically since the group’s inception, the club continued to attract people from all segments of the community including retirees and young people going off to university.

“We used to do sessions with the primary schools around the area a few years back, as well as debating competitions at high schools [like Albany Senior High School and North Albany Senior High School],” he said.

“Getting to 450 meetings was brilliant, getting to 500 will be better and getting to 1000 will be even better.”

Mr Walker added that new visitors were more than welcome to come in and see what it was all about.

“The one thing we wouldn’t do is put you out in front of the group on your first night … we try not to put people under pressure because if you do that people would be out the door so fast,” he said.

“Public speaking is something you’re constantly revising and learning and you just have to let yourself be open to it.”

The Southern Star Speaking Club convenes every Wednesday night, except on school holidays, at 6:30pm.