The Olympics of Public Speaking

Did I take a club speech to Division or a Division speech to the District?

Making it all the way to the World Championship of Public Speaking is the dream of many Toastmasters who enjoy competing.  For some, it is the Olympics of Public Speaking. Many enter the competition for the love of speaking competitively and to develop as a speaker. The lessons learned from their successes and failures serve as reminders of the “dos and don’t” when next they are on the platform. However, for many, it’s the 2nd place finishes that are the hardest. You were so close. What could you have done differently?

Did your journey end at the club level, even though some felt that your speech could have been a winner at the finals at the International contest?   Even more painful, did your end come at the Regionals? Where ever it ended for you, make it your new beginning. The 1990 World Champion David Brooks called 2nd place finishes “The Sting of Silver.” Even before the pain passes, take the lessons learned and start preparing for your next trip to the platforms. Look at what worked and start fixing what didn’t. Your journey to the big stage continues.

A good place to restart is with your topic selection. Was your topic appropriate for the contest level, that room, your audience, and judges? Did you take a club speech to division or a Division speech to the District? That’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. While you should choose a topic you are passionate about, connecting with your audience should be your primary focus. The topic you choose can decide your final place in your competition. Was your presentation all about you? Did the topic have some universal appeal? These are all questions you should address. 

Coaches always emphasize the importance of establishing a connection with your audience through personal stories and real-life events spun into a unique and powerful speech. Your speech should not be an act. Your results are by far better when you use persuasion and the power of the spoken word effectively to keep your audience engaged. While it’s a tall order for anyone, it is one of the main reasons why there is only one winner annually.

Every World Champion I can remember had a well develop (FS)-Foundational Statement. Your FS is the premise, theme, or message on which a speech is built. For some, it was a carefully worded sentence, a question, or a phrase with a unique connection to their message. That message should be powerful, catchy, memorable, and short enough to fit on the back of a business card. Be concise but also be clear. How you choose to deliver your message is also critical. Remember you are giving your speech to and for your audience.

To achieve your best results, don’t just tell your audience; show them, take them, be descriptive. Use word pictures to convey your message. If a picture paints a thousand words, then paint pictures with your words. Also, check for unanswered questions in your script. Questions can become a distraction to your audience. Answer every question, resolve every conflict, and be always clear to your audience.

Speakers should try to avoid recent events and stories overused by the Internet and social media. Events with varied audience interests, opinions, and topics too big to be delivered completely in five to seven minutes are risky to bring to the platform. If a topic can divide the views of an audience, it will most likely divide the opinions of the judges. Remember, all you have is five to seven minutes. And don’t use the platform for therapy. Let those who have moved on rest in peace. Establish your purpose in the first thirty seconds of your presentation and let that purpose resonate through your speech.

Be sure about what you want your audience to think – feel – or do after hearing your speech. The minute of silence after your address can be the most critical minute for you, your audience, and judges. If they feel compelled to take some action during that minute of silence, you most likely achieved your goal who knows, and you could be the next Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking. 

Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmaster in March of 1997. He is presently a member of five clubs in the Santa Cruz and San Jose area. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ who likes to approaches his speechwriting similar to his approach to songwriting.