The EBS 60 Second Interview – Hilary Briggs
Hilary Briggs is a management consultant, focused on accelerating the growth and performance of small companies. She’s also the first District Governor for D91 covering UK south, with over 3,500 members.
When she’s not working or carrying out Toastmasters duties, she can normally be found either playing the cello in chamber music groups or doing some form of exercise – with cycling, swimming and walking being her preferences at the moment.
What first brought you to Toastmasters?
I was setting up my own business and wanted to improve my speaking skills – particularly around giving seminars – as I felt that could be a good way to win business.
Was it everything you expected?
I was surprised at just how structured the meetings were.
How long have you been a Member?
Did you have any expectations before you came?
Yes, my expectations were about improving and getting more polished as a speaker.
Were your expectations fulfilled?
What surprised you most about the experience?
The initial thing I noticed was how much you could deliver in only 7 minutes, and how effective it could be. (I was used to doing 30-40 minute Powerpoint type presentations in a business context). I was blown away by the speech evaluation process in terms of what people were able to pick up and feedback. The real value has come from the leadership side though.
What has been your greatest learning as a Toastmaster?
I’ve learnt to “follow the energy”. In terms of leading people, I do my best to get people engaged, but I don’t fret if things don’t work out with everyone. Work with the people who are ready and going. I picked up somewhere else that this is probably only likely to be around 1/3 of people, which I have seen in practice. If I can get more I know I’m ahead.
How did it come about that you founded Early Bird Speakers?
I was a member of the business group BNI and aware that a lot of business people were used to doing early morning meetings and really needed to improve their presenting skills. I’d also had experience of members dropping out of evening meetings because they got held up at work. Starting a morning club seemed an ideal way to take away the excuses. Whilst it felt a very daunting challenge, I was encouraged by experienced Toastmasters and a workshop at the District Conference in November 2004.
What do you like best about coming to our Club?
The energy, enthusiasm and seeing that the original vision and values I had for the club have come to life thanks to great work by a succession of Presidents and Committee members.
What do your friends and family say about you since you first became a Toastmaster?
Whilst a few aren’t really sure why I put so much into Toastmasters, the majority are amazed at situations I can handle that would petrify them e.g. speaking unprepared with no notes etc (and it would have petrified me not so long ago too J)
How has becoming a member of Toastmasters affected you/your life?
Thanks to the opportunities I’ve had in particular being on the District team for over 3 years now, I’ve got a much better understanding of how to work with disparate groups of people and get the best from them. As well as being much more relaxed around any speaking occasion.
What was your biggest fear before you came?
Not being prepared – e.g. if running a seminar or training event and having a gap because I’d got through the material. For evaluations, I had fears that I might say something that would offend.
Is that still your biggest fear?
Absolutely not! I realised this when I diverted off script and created an engaging 2 hours session on the fly as part of a 2 day workshop. It worked really well and became routine in that series of sessions. With evaluations, I’ve realised that as long as your intention is to help the person and you choose respectful language, you can say what needs saying. In fact, not giving your views sincerely is far worse, not only for the speaker, but also for the audience as poor habits go unchallenged.
How does public speaking impact your life?
I get invited to speak at events for business, and also end up doing some elements socially (e.g. introducing pieces of music at concerts). My Toastmasters journey has contributed so much more though. Learning to manage volunteers has really focused me on how you get the best out of people, work with diverse interests and get people working together – which has all been most valuable in my day job working with entrepreneurs. Also self-organisation – it’s always easy to make the excuse that one hasn’t got time for something. Being on the District team for over 3 years has sharpened my ability to get things done and work under pressure – and there’s always more to learn!