Get over your stage fright and discover how public speaking can enhance your life!
By Sophia Moss (follow Sophia on Twitter: @EndlessMoss)
Public speaking is one of the most terrifying things a human being can be asked to do. In fact, many people would rather be buried alive than speak in public. Public speaking is, however, an invaluable skill which can prove helpful in tonnes of different situations. Confidence in your ability to speak in public is necessary if you are ever required to speak at a business meeting or give a power point presentation, it is a pretty essential skill for teachers and lecturers, it’s invaluable for actors and performers, and it can help pretty much anyone become more confident and learn how to express themselves clearly and effectively.
Debating is another valuable tool which can help you learn how to make convincing and well-delivered arguments. You may be passionate about any number of things and you may have a genuine wish to help change people’s minds and make the world a better place, but if you do not know how to structure and deliver an argument then your words may fall on deaf ears. If you want to change people’s minds then you first have to make people listen.
If you want to find a public speaking club where you can relax and progress with like minded individuals then read on for our list of affordable public speaking clubs/debating clubs in London!
#1 | Cogers
The Society of Cogers is the oldest free speech forum in the world. They were founded in London in 1755 as a coffee bar debating society and over the years they have helped people debate, argue, improve their public speaking skills and increase their confidence. Coger’s meetings follow a fairly traditional set-up where a different club member is appointed each time as ‘the grand’ and they moderate the proceedings.
A member of the club will open the meetings by giving a 10-15 minute speech on the important events of the last month and then everyone else is invited to give a short speech (up to 5 minutes) on a topic which either relates to the opening speech or has something to do with news and current events. New members are welcome to attend the first few meeting for free and it is up to you whether you choose to speak or not.
Where? There are two main Cogers clubs in London. The City of Westminster Cogers meets 200 yards away from Victoria Station at The Plumber’s Arms, Lower Belgrave Street, Victoria, London SW1. The City of London Cogers meets at the Old Bank of England pub at 194 Fleet Street, London, EC4A2LT. The pub is located next to the law courts. For more information please see the Cogers website.
When? The City of Westminster Cogers meets on the 4th Wednesday of every month and the City of London Cogers meets on the 2nd Monday of every month and the. Meetings are held in the evening from 19:00 to around 21:15.
#2 | Toastmasters
Toastmasters is a large non-profit public speaking network with over 345,000 members, 15,900 clubs in 142 countries. The aim of Toastmasters is to help people improve their public speaking skills to help them succeed in the business world. There is an emphasis on leadership skills and presentation techniques which mean that Toastmasters is a great choice for anyone who wants to improve their communication, presentation and leadership skills so that they can give great speeches in the workplace, but may not be the best option for people who want to debate news and current affairs.
One of the best things about Toastmasters is their table topics. This is a list of debate topics that are given to the chosen speakers very soon before they have to give a short (2 minute) speech on the topic that has been given to them. This encourages the members to think on their feet, practice speaking under pressure and improve their thinking abilities. Toastmasters also holds a variety of speaking competitions which progress from the club level to the area, division and district.
Where? There are quite a few Toastmasters clubs which meet throughout London in Berkely Square, Lewisham, Kings Cross and many other locations. To find a club near you please use the Toastmaster’s website to search for clubs in your local area.
When? Times will vary from club to club, but most meetings are either held after work or in the morning.
#3 | Sylvans
Sylvans is a more traditional debating club which was first established in 1868. The club follows a classical debate structure which is used by Oxford and Cambridge Unions as well as many other debating societies. Each debate focusses on a specific motion which will be argued for by a proposor and argued against by an opposer. The debate is then opened to the floor where visitors and members are allowed to argue for or against the motion and/or ask a question or make a general statement. The proposer and opposer will then have one last chance to convince the audience with a closing speech and then there will be a vote for or against the motion.
Topics normally focus on an important issue (e.g. Brexit or the NHS) and the meetings are a great opportunity to challenge your own viewpoints and consider other angles. Visitors are allowed to speak but are under no obligation to do so. Visitors are also allowed to attend their first meetings for free to get a feel of the proceedings.
Where? Sylvan’s meetings are held at The Old Bank of England pub in Fleet Street which is located next to the Royal Courts of Justice.
When? Meetings are held every month at 19:00, but visitors are asked to arrive at 18:45 so the debate can begin on time. For more information on the next meeting please go to the Sylvans website.
#4 | 104 London Debaters
104 London Debaters is technically part of the Toastmasters network, but the set up is different because this group focuses more on debating skills rather than presentation skills. The first half of a 104 London Debaters meetings will focus on table topics where members and guests can sign up to be allocated a topic which they are asked to argue for or against. They have not seen the topic before it is announced to this part of the meeting requires the speakers to think on their feet and argue about something they may not know very much about.
The second half of the meeting will be a standard debate. There will be three pre-arranged debaters on each side of the motion and both teams will be given 15 minutes to present their arguments. The motion will then be opened to the floor and visitors will be able to offer their own contributions. Both sides will then conclude their arguments and the audience will vote for which side they found more persuasive.
Where? The Grange Rochester Hotel at 69 Vincent Square SW1P 2PA. The hotel is located near Victoria and Pimlico tube stations.
When? 104 London Debaters meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month at 18:45.
#5 | Association Of Speakers Clubs
The ASC aims to help people become better speakers to improve their leadership and presentation skills. The ASC was originally created back in 1972 after a split from Toastmasters. The club gives each member an assignment which they must complete before progressing to the next level. There are ten levels which aim to help you write better speeches and deliver them with confidence. You will be evaluated by other members in a supportive, relaxed environment with particular emphasis on developing confidence and learning how to deliver a presentation with ease.
Where? There are three main clubs based in London. They are located in the City of London (The counting House at 50 Cornhill), Camden (the St Pancras Community Centre at 67 Plender Street) and Wimbledon (William Morris Meeting Rooms, 267 The Broadway). Click here for information and contact details.
When? Meeting dates and times will vary, but most meetings will be held in the evening so you can attend after work. For a list of times please see the individual clubs.
#6 | Great Debaters Club
The Great Debaters club was set up in 2009 and it aims to help people deal with disagreements so that they become better at debating in their day to day lives as well as in former situations and debating events. The club holds debates in Vauxhall twice a month and the motions are normally topical issues which are important at the time (e.g. Donald Trump, zoos, Brexit).
Members of the club can debate in teams for and against the motion and the audience is able to ask questions and/or make a statement. It is free to attend these events (although you should sign up online in case the venue gets full) and then if you decide to join the club the monthly payments are pretty much the same as a Netflix memberships. The club also holds classes to help members improve their debating skills.
Where? Events are normally held at the Tea House Theatre in Vauxhall SE11 5HL.
When? Debates are normally held bi-monthly on Wednesday evenings. For more information on upcoming debates please see here.