Toastmasters International District 76

Toastmasters International District 76 Japan Communication and Leadership Program since 1924

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Tips from District 76 Speech Contest Champions

International Speech Contest Champion 2010

Report at the Semi Final Contest of the 2010 International Convention
Ruskyle L. Howser
Tokyo Toastmasters Club
I’m back from the 2010 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking in Palm Desert, California, and it turns out that I didn’t need that extra bag I took to carry home my trophy. I gave the best speech I have ever given, the culmination of months of thought, preparation, practice and sweat, and I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t even finish in the top three of my semi-final contest.

While I was disappointed in the outcome, it was a remarkably positive experience. I know I’m a far better speaker and writer than I was six months ago, when I began this process.

The hours and hours of practice at home and the many practice speechesI did have made me a calmer, more confident speaker. The feedback from more than one hundred Toastmasters helped me to see myself, my strengths and my weaknesses, more clearly. The continuous process of tearing apart and rebuilding the same speech has also taught me a lot about structure, rhythm and pacing.

I also learned an incredibly valuable lesson from my competitors. In my semi-final contest, all of the speakers were good and when the final speaker, Ian Humphries, walked onto the stage, it wasn't clear who was winning.

But thirty seconds into his speech, I knew, and I think the other competitors did too, that we were all fighting for second place. There was a quiet honesty to his voice and message, about putting his life together after three years in prison as a young man, and it made the rest of us look like tap dancing monkeys.

In fact, the speeches I heard last week that had the strongest impact were not the one that were technically the best. They were the ones that told simple, deep, honest truths.

That was something I had forgotten in my preparations. My speech was about a very bad day I had on the river when I was a whitewater rafting guide. It was an experience that taught me a lot about fear; how to overcome it and how to use it to focus under pressure and perform better. I used every technique I know to tell a dynamic and powerful story. I wrote and rewrote the speech to make it intriguing, exciting and dramatic. And I think I was successful.

But somewhere in that process, I forgot to tell the simple truth of how that day had really affected me and my life. I tried to make it more than it was and lost the thread of authenticity that I began with. That’s what separated me from the top speakers. There was something deeply personal and honest in their words.

Of course, finding and sharing your deepest feelings is not an easy thing to do. So often we give speeches that are just clever wordplay, or repeat the usual clichés; "You can do it", "Follow your passion" or "All you need is love".

It's much harder to sit down and really think about your own life, about the events that have marked your soul and shaped your character and the painful and surprising truths that life has taught you.

It has been an honor and a pleasure representing District 76 on the international stage. I didn't bring home the championship trophy, but I did bring home something much more important; a deeper understanding of how to build a powerful a speech that touches and moves an audience.

When you find your own simple truths, and use all of the techniques that Toastmasters has taught you to present them in a powerful, dramatic and entertaining way, you too have the power to move an audience to tears, as the 2010 World Champion of Public Speaking, David Henderson, did in his final speech. And you too will be speaking like a champion.

Rus Howser and D76 Dignitaries

Rus Howser and D76 Dignitaries

(c) 2010-2016 Toastmasters District76

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