My Toastmasters Pathway Begins

It was around 2011 when I first delivered any type of public presentation in a business sense. I’d been providing SEO for small business for a couple of years and was offered the opportunity to speak to a small group of local business people so that I could start to develop a profile for being the “local expert” within the business community.

That first presentation felt seriously good and I was walking on air when I’d finished and got a load of great feedback from the six or seven business people in the room.

Something troubled me though, and after a few days, I started to realise that I could have delivered a talk or workshop with so much more confidence. I’ve always been very self-critical with the ability to review my own performance and note many of the failings that maybe others would have seen too. I knew that I needed to improve if I was to continue to deliver public talks and training session, which is something I also knew that I would love to do more often.

A few weeks after that initial presentation / workshop, I was chatting to another local business person at a networking group and she mentioned that if I wanted to improve on public presentations then I should go along to a Toastmasters Speaking Club. She was a member of the Brghton and Hove Speakers Club and would be very happy to introduce me to the club. I was curious about how this would work and agreed to go along to the next meeting.

Toastmasters is a great place to develop and hone the skills needed to deliver a great presentation to an audience and over the next 5 years to 2016 I learned the skills needed to progress to what is known in Toastmasters as a “Competent Communicator”.

After a five year break from Toastmasters due to a massive lifestyle change that had me travelling around the UK adn all over Europe in a motorhome, I have now decided to settle down a bit and reenter Toastmasters and join the Northampton Speakers Club, currently running meetings every 2 weeks on Zoom.

I’ll be a fully paid up member starting from April 1st 2021 and will begin my journey along the Pathways Education program in order to continue to develop and home the skill to deliver great speeches to a public audience.

My aim is to eventually be good enough to deliver an impactful speech to a TedX Audience and to start getting paid as a public speaker.

I’m documenting my journey on the Toastmasters Pathways program through this blog and through a Podcast that I have just started to publish on Anchor.

Most Important Things When Creating a Podcast

You’re thinking about creating a podcast or have made a few already. Your mind probably wonders how you can make your podcast as popular as some of those you listen to, that seem to have thousands of downloads or millions of listeners.

Maybe you’re thinking “if only I had a better microphone” or “I wish my voice sounded better”, those things really are not all that important when you start out producing your podcast.

Your listeners and potential listening audience need to feel engaged and involved in your conversation. Feeling like they’re involved keeps people listening, helps with interaction, and keeps people coming back for more episodes. But how do you create that feeling for your audience?

Put simply, you need to tell stories that your audience can relate to; stories that your listeners feel that they could be telling. Situations that they’ve maybe seen or experienced first hand.

Creating some excitement and energy in the podcast by the use of your voice tonality, volume, and variety of expression.

When my children were young and I read them stories during the day time, I’d try to make to book exciting and add character voices at appropriate times, this made them want more!

However, if I read a bedtime story, I’d really want them to fall asleep so I wold change the way I read those stories to a smooth, calming and quite monotone voice. Essentially, making the story as boring as possible.

Do you listen to podcasts and audiobooks? If you do you’ll know that some are really interesting and engaging while others can send you to sleep.

Things to avoid

It’s all too easy to slip into that monotone way of speaking especially when you’re not getting live feedback from your audience. This monotone voice is to be avoided at all costs as it will certainly have you audience switching off and never coming back, leaving your podcast among the crowded backwaters of audio presentations.

Another thing that’ll have your audience running for the hills is too much tech talk that is not converted into plain english for all to understand. Part of that is the use of TLAs or Three Letter Acronyms, of course not all acronyms are limited to three letters so avoid all acronyms unless you are following them up in that same sentence with the full description. If you’re using an acronym a lot throughout your podcast consider explaining what it means a few times so people can make sense of what you’re saying without having to look it up externally to your podcast.

Things to do

Making your podcast interesting and, importantly, sharable can be easy but it takes practice. Try thesse things in your next podcast audio presentation:

  • Vocal Variety (tone, speed, and volume)
  • Change in volume of your voice (both louder and softer)
  • Add interest by maybe whispering into the mic (get closer to the mic)
  • Add more energy into your voice
  • Get excited about the subject

try these things and compare your recording with a previous recording and I’m sure that you will notice the difference. You’ll also notice the difference in your listenership.

What about sharing

Most people will be happy to share your podcast with their contacts who they think would benefit. However, most will not think about sharing your podcast so you’ll need to ask them to do it. Provide easy ways to share and guide your audience to the click to share buttons.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed and gained something from this short article and overview. Please do share it with your contacts 🙂

Speaking to your audience

Speaking to your audience

Identifying your audience is probably the first step in making sure that your presentation is going to be a success.

Do you know who you’re talking to?

Many people I talk to about public speaking would answer that question with something like “Well, it’s really aimed at everyone…”

Of course, we would all like to think that when we present our talk to an audience that it’ll be of use to everyone who is sitting there listening. However, that is very rarely the case. Aiming your presentation or talk at everyone will in effect connect with no one. There is a need to finely target your speech at a select audience who will be able to relate to your story and that your story will resonate with at a deep level.

There are over seven billion people on our planet living in all sorts of circumstances from very diverse cultures; you are not going to be able to present your story to all of them and have it resonate with their situation.

The answer is to aim at the one person who will relate to and understand your presentation on a personal level. Narrow down your target and speak to an emotion that drives your point home for your audience.

Travelling Entrepreneur

Travelling Entrepreneur

In 2016 we made a decision to travel more and to create more memories rather than to collect new things.

The journey has seen us touring the UK in a Caravan and now several European countries in an Auto-Trail Comanche Motorhome.

The decision to travel meant that Wendy had to leave her job as a pharmacy assistant in Brighton and Steve closed his business providing digital marketing to small businesses around Sussex.

Of course, living in today’s modern World without an income can be very challenging and so we have been working towards creating a way or earning an income and building that up to create a way for us to continue to create the memories we so enjoy.

The internet is an obvious avenue for us to explore and some of Steve’s skills in Digital Marketing and helping small businesses offers an ideal opportunity to utilise the “work from anywhere” lifestyle that the internet provides.

Creating an income on the road

When we started out on our adventures we thought the options for earning a living were pretty limited. The obvious one that we think people like us gravitate to is that of Caravan Site Wardens. It’s a very good fit for many people and suited us very well for a while.

In October 2016, some six months after we started travelling and living full time in our caravan, we started to get jittery about the finances due to the seemingly inexorable outflow of cash from the bank and the lack of the usual income that would replenish the account balance.

What are the options

When you’re not in one place for very long and unlike most businesses you don’t have the chance to build up relationships with the local community, to offer your services to them, or allow them to ‘get to know you”. Without a place to store any physical good or be in a place that potential customers could visit it’s a challenge to know who to build a customer base and a pipeline of potential customers. 

However, here are a few options that I’m considering:

  • Website Development
  • Social Media
  • Digital Marketing
  • Business Coaching
  • Database Development
  • Drop Shipping Store
  • Write a book
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Blogging and Vlogging

 So lets have a look at each of these in a little more detail as they relate to my skill set and the ability to generate a good income.


Website Development

I started developing websites way back in 1994 when Microsoft had just released their “Internet Information Server” or IIS technology. I was working at Nestlé UK, a Microsoft Partner, and we needed to deploy some data driven information screens around the business relating to food production and sales levels. 

I’ve maintained a keen interest in all things web technology and have been building websites using various technologies and skills that I’ve learned over the last 25 years or more. I’ve also created and delivers workshops and training sessions for small businesses on how they can create and manage their own websites easily and effectively. Of course this is a pretty good way of creating an income to support our lifestyle and one that would be easy to fulfil and to provide an excellent customer service through.
As ever it’s all about gaining the trust of people who are our potential customers for the website provision. In some part I suppose that this blog is the start f that process of building trust with potential customers and to start to advertise the fact that I could provide your small business with a great website from where ever I might be. The internet provides us with great opportunity and facilities to “meet face to face” virtually over things like Skype etc. 

Social Media

When I offered services commercially, from a static base in Brighton and Hove it was pretty easy to meet up with people and get a real sense of who they were and where they saw their business heading. Getting on board with Social Media is, in my experience, a very difficult thing for small business owners to get their head around and one that does not always show a good return on investment (ROI) in the initial stages. While things are getting set up it’s very difficult to understand that social media is about longer term strategy and being prolific and consistent with your social media posts. I have always been more comfortable with teaching the “when, why and how” of social media marketing rather than getting the work done for smaller clients. This is simply due to the perceived payback in the early stages is just not enough for most small businesses to cope with.
The ROI on a training session or social media marketing course is much more obvious though. When a client leaves a social media course it’s pretty easy for them to define what they got for the money they paid.
in terms of creating an income, my feeling is that offering some bite sized training session at a low cost might be the way to go rather than to offer a “full service” as this would enable me to help more people at a much more affordable cost to them. 

Coaching and Training

Getting into the Coaching and Training arena is something that I loved to do when in a set place in the UK. Based in Brighton and Hove I used to hold meet-up sessions on a weekly basis which quickly became very popular with between 10 and 15 local small businesses attending for a 3-hour session over coffee each Wednesday Morning from 9 am to 12 noon.

The sessions were essentially a Q&A where business owners and managers would come along and ask about solutions to the everyday challenges they faced in their businesses. With subjects ranging from how to build a website, what social media platform they should use, to how to find a good and reliable accountant or bookkeeper.

Of course, the Q&A sessions blossomed into a casual business networking session when people would share ideas among themselves and build up relationships between their businesses. This process was an absolute joy to watch and a real pleasure to know that I’d started something that could create such long lasting business relationships. Several years later these business relationships still exist and I see them flourishing on Social Media.

How to recreate this while I’m on the move?

The challenge, as I see it, is to try to recreate this type of “help group” between businesses and entrepreneurs while I am on the move and filling my life with the memories of a World yet to be discovered.

Social media is a great place to start I think; not limiting myself or other to the like of Facebook, which is owned by a huge multinational conglomerate, a faceless and often soulless place, but to try to combine the richness of personal contact with the benefits of what social media can do in terms of connecting people and allowing them to communicate in some way.

I feel that Video conferencing and training sessions can bring a much needed “spark” to social interaction while in remote and disparate locations and so this is where my focus will be for the next few years.

Focusing on video communication, with regular video blogs, pre-recorded training session, video conferencing in groups (masterminding), and in one to one situations (coaching) where a person has a specific issue to review and resolve.

Database Development

Way back in the late 1980s I saw the benefit of having data in some sort of organised file. Back then I used Claris Works and sometimes HyperCard to hold information about various subject, and even use HyperCard to start to develop my programming skills. For many years I have enjoyed using FileMaker Pro to create business solutions that allow people to manage large lists of things and people, and to even run an invoicing system.

Throughout my career in the corporate IT world I have been exposed to all sorts of data management systems, including SQL-Server and MySQL, tyhe main database systems that most website content management systems rely on to serve the content that we see on web pages today.

In terms of business productivity though, I’d always choose FileMaker Pro for it’s ease of use and flexibility that allows most people to create the types of data management they can cope with on a daily basis.

Making money from this type of service would need some pretty careful thought before I offered my, by now rusty, FileMaker Pro services on a commercial basis. If someone wanted me to help out and point them in the right direction then I’d be very happy to offer a bit of consultancy in data base design and creation.  

Drop Shipping Store

Drop shipping is the process of becoming the “middle man” where I’d offer products through an online store that I will manage and the orders would be directed to my supplier and they would supply and ship the ordered product to my customer and charge me the cost price plus delivery charge for the item ordered. It’d be up to me what price I charged and what type of returns policy I set.

i would then make a profit from the difference between what I charge and what I pay for each order.

The trick with this is to get the marketing right to drive plenty of traffic to my website in order to attract more sales through the store.

Write a book

They say there is a book in each of us but I wonder whether I have the focus to produce a full book about my life.  In recent years we’ve sold up everything we own to go travelling around the UK and Europe living full-time in the Auto-Trail Comanche motorhome. 

In terms of writing a book I think that it will need about 60,000 to 100,000 words to make the book worthwhile and saleable. Writing a book about our lives and travel is our plan for the future. 

Affiliate Marketing

Systems that allow you to earn a commission from products you recommend and that people buy by clicking on a special link you provide are plentiful these days and we have the ideal opportunity to produce an income through the affiliate marketing route. We already have a YouTube channel known as the happy travellers and have a good following with multiple thousands of subscribers and plenty of regular comments for each of our daily video blogs. 

What about the money side of things?

Unless you have just won the jackpot on the lottery, there is probably a need to earn a regular income from the work that you do and that’s no different for me. We have not won the lottery (yet!) and so I’ll need to charge for some of the services I provide.

My first challenge in this new way of working and earning a living is to set prices for my services and products. The good thing is that much of what I provide will be “product” based and not what I call “time for money” based. Te benefits for me and for my customers is that where I create a product, it can be set at a price that is much more affordable than the price I’ll need to charge for personal access to my time. The reason for this is that access to products is unlimited, while access to my time is limited to a set number of hours each day.Let me explain, if I have a product that’s priced at, lets say £30 as a one off cost to my customers, and then I sell maybe 40 of those in the first week, I’ll have an income of £1,200, then I sell 80 in week 2 that £2,400 and so on. You see there is no limit to “electronic products” like video training and so on. However, if I sell access to me and my time on a one to one basis in one hour chunks at £30 an hour, I can sell maybe 40 hours in week one, a tough business for me to run and pretty exhausting, I’d not be able to sell 80 hours of time in week 2 or 120 hours in week 3. I’d be stuck with that £30 X 40 hour wage and tied to a very exhausting schedule while with the products the income is unlimited and leaves me free to provide better value services and time to create more benefit for those customers who do buy products or join a membership system that gives them access to all of the products I produce.