Learning from the Champions

Be a sponge, compete to become a better speaker !!!

20160514_162508The following is a summary of some of the excellent advice I received over the years from past World Champions of Public Speaking (WCPS). Their wisdom has helped me tremendously with competing and coaching. To quote David Brooks the 1990 WCPS, “I have a speech that can win the World Championship of Public Speaking, (WCPS) but I am not sure it is good enough to win at the club level.”

While that statement may provoke a chuckle, truer words have never been spoken. We all know what can happen if you bring a knife to a gunfight or vice versa. Speakers should be aware of the level at which they are competing and the expectations of their audience and the expected panel of judges. I suggest taking the time to modify your presentation for each level of competition. Observe what works by attending competitions at different levels.  Develop and practice your delivery formula for a WCPS speech. Mine is five laughs, a least ten chuckles, and one belly-full. 

Topic selection is critical.  Speeches I like to call “high bread icebreakers” historically have been excellent choices. Personal stories with a twist can also produce excellent results when the speaker can show, they are passionate about the subject and can make and make a connection with their audience. Jim Key the 2003 WCPS, recommends that speakers must be clear about what they want their audience to think, feel, or do after they have heard your presentation. Lance Miller the 2005 WCPS, advises that you should try to be yourself. Your credibility is vital. The speaker should avoid sounding boastful or self-centered. A successful WCPS speech usually has universal appeal, a powerful message, and a call to action at the end. Don’t try to make yourself the hero or heroine. Leave that decision to the audience or judges.

Dr. Randy Harvey the 2004 WCPS knows what excites listeners brains. His “scarlet ribbon” method establishes and maintains a connection with audiences by weaving a single message through the entire speech like a scarlet ribbon. He shows plants subtle messages in the minds of the audience and judges to persuade them to favor him while delivering his message or lesson.   Randy demonstrated that method in his winning speech “Fat Dad” by also using colorful language, and the power of the spoken word as he made his case for – “the lesson is love”. Be reminded, that as a speaker,  when you are on the platform, you too are making your case or teaching a lesson.

Craig Valentine, the 1999 WCPS teaches, preparing and delivering a world champion quality speech is a process; a process has the power to make someone a better speaker. Craig emphasizes using the stage to make your point. Speakers should be aware that as they move forward from the club level platform to District level and on to the WCSP, everything suddenly becomes bigger. Whatever you can do as a speaker to help your audience follow the plot of your story should be incorporated into the presentation.

Then there is the “Magic Moment,” which David Brooks emphasizes all champion speeches must include. It is the moment which leaves an indelible imprint on the minds of audiences and judges. The message can be subtle. Your magic moment should have the effect of making your audience spontaneously recall your speech or message whenever they think of you, the moment or the title of your presentation. All of the editing and coaching the champions provided me over the years have been very helpful, however, perhaps the best advice and wisdom I have ever received from a World Champion, many moons ago was from Darren LaCroix my first coach, the 2001 WCPS – Be a sponge, compete to become a better speaker and not to win trophies – Stage time! – Stage time! Stage time.

Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmasters in 1997. He is presently a member of 4 Toastmasters clubs; two in Santa Cruz and two in San Jose. He is a DTM-4. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ whose speechwriting approach is similar to his approach to songwriting.

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