Alumna Clare Crowther may not have had the typical start you would expect from a natural speaker and performer, her BSc (Hons) in Mathematics suggesting an interest in logic and problem solving rather than rhetoric and persuasion. Her talent, dedication and passion for communication, however, have seen her become the first person in Europe to receive full accreditation from Toastmasters International.
Clare came to the University of Hull from Ewell in Surrey.
“I didn’t really know much about Hull prior to coming here as a student, but I’ve since come to regard it as home as it’s a beautiful city surrounded by stunning countryside with a good standard of living.”
Since graduating, Clare has pursued a varied career working for around 120 different companies across eight different countries. She has worked with big names including the NHS, Government departments, Siemens, British Aerospace, and PowerGen as a change programme management consultant, focussing on helping them to apply and adapt to change. She works with teams, helping them to fuse and work at their optimum capacity and with individuals who she mentors to overcome barriers to realising their full potential. In fact, her career has brought her full circle back to the University where she runs regular staff coaching workshops. She also volunteers as a mentor with the Business School and was a member of the steering group of the Empathy Network.
Clare’s work involves being able to get her point across through debating often difficult and resistant issues, persuading people to look at an issue from a different direction. She attributes her success to three things: experience, training and, above all, her ability to communicate information. The importance of these skills was not lost on Clare, even as an undergraduate, when she recalls how the contrasting styles of her lecturers in presenting complex mathematical information made a difference to her own and other students’ understanding of the subject matter.
Five years ago, Clare decided to look into public speaking as a way of enhancing her range of professional skills and joined Hull Speakers. This quickly developed into wanting to see how far she could progress. Knowing that the internationally respected speaker network, Toastmasters International, had yet to bestow full accreditation on any speaker in Europe, let alone the UK, Clare took that as her personal goal. Earlier this year she achieved ‘Accredited Speaker’ status with Toastmasters International and in doing so, becomes one of only 75 similarly accredited members worldwide since its inception in 1981, and the first person to achieve this accolade in Europe and the UK. Clare gave her winning presentation entitled ‘Listen…to Solve’ at the Toastmasters International Convention in Vancouver, Canada, in front of a large and enthusiastic audience.
Clare’s speech-craft has also been enriched by her experiences of performing as a film extra, including ‘A Royal Night Out’ which was filmed in Hull, and playing the role of Charlotte, mother of Hull hero and legend Jack Harrison VC MC.
“My film extra work has given me an insight into a very different industry where status generates huge inequalities such as at mealtimes where the stars are fed first; crew second; featured third and then the extras last! The highly acclaimed ‘Flood’ for Hull City of Culture was the exception; on a 10-hour rehearsal day the main cast served everyone else!”
“Since coming to Hull all those years ago, I’ve been on a fascinating journey, one that’s been made all the more rewarding for being very challenging at times. My career and in particular achieving Toastmasters International Accredited Speaker status hasn’t just been about effective communication and its role in business and life’s successes (and failures) it’s been about learning about myself, and what it’s possible to achieve through being supported and determined. My journey has many parallels with the journey Hull itself is on as City of Culture. Through performance of one kind or another, Hull has once again gathered the confidence to speak out and is taking pride and winning over doubters through celebrating its differences. Wherever I go, people are talking about Hull and locally there’s renewed optimism and enthusiasm to keep on improving and that’s definitely something we should all be shouting about”.