A MAN who was so shy when he was younger he didn't like to talk, has won a national speech competition.

Chris Boden from Chairmakers Close, Princes Risborough was declared the overall winner in the Toastmasters International Speech Contest (Ireland and UK).

The 38-year-old will now go on to represent the UK and Ireland in Kuala Lumpur in August.

His speech was entitled The Throw, where he spoke about how his early experiences had taught him that it’s more rewarding to throw yourself into life than to watch from the sidelines.

Chris said: "I have always kind of struggled with public speaking over the years- I wouldn't say it came naturally.

"I had done a few things where I had been forced into it through work and best man speeches and things like that."

He joined Toastmasters in 2007 in Central London (Holborn Speakers), largely to help build his career by overcoming his fear of public speaking, and he was hooked right away.

He said: "I just really enjoyed it. I found having the freedom to be able to just talk to an audience without any pressure on you was very liberating. I found I quite enjoyed it."

Chris, who lives with his wife, Helena Brewer, said for him practise made him become a better public speaker.

He said: "You really need to get familiar and do a lot of impromptu speaking and get familiar with standing in front of a room full of people and getting better."

He grew up in Australia where he was very shy.

He said: "I didn't like being heard, I guess. I spoke very softly and I didn't say much.

"My family are astonished. It was three years ago I won a national contest. They were really surprised to see where I am now."

He moved to England in 2005. Chris, who is an electrical engineer in London, said he built up his confidence by doing things he wouldn't normally do.

He added: "I think when I was younger I held myself back from thing and regretted it. I made a conscious effort to really go for it.

"If you are going to start something then do it all the way."