August 25, 2018 was a historic day for Toastmasters International! For the past 80 years, Toastmasters has held the annual International Speech Contest which culminates in the World Championship of Public of Speaking. For the first time in the organization’s 94-year history, three women emerged as the cream of the crop, finishing in the top three positions in the World Championship of Public Speaking. Each year, in excess of 35,000 Toastmasters enter the International Speech Contest, each with a dream of becoming the World Champion of Public Speaking. Preliminary rounds last at least six months, covering four elimination levels of competition. Then, at the Annual International Convention, 105 semi-finalists compete for one of 10 places in the World Championship of Public Speaking. This year, when the dust settled, a final field of six men and four women was selected. In the end, Anita Fain Taylor of Florida, USA (on the right in the photo above) claimed Third Place, while Zifang (Sherrie) Su of China (left) finished in Second Place. The 2018 World Champion is Ramona J. Smith of Houston, TX, USA (center). She is the first woman to win since LaShunda Rundles (dec.) claimed the title 10 years earlier, and all three women are sources of inspiration to the thousands of women who have dreamed of success in the contest.
Each winning speech was different, but they all had one common quality; each was deeply PERSONAL. Each of the ladies chose to TELL THEIR STORY. Anita Fain Taylor spoke of the pain of being dismissed from a high profile job as a public servant. Sherrie spoke about the pain of witnessing her parents’ rocky marriage while she was a small child, and the negative impact it had on her own relationships. Ramona shared about dropping out of university, and her failed marriage which didn’t even last for a year. All different; all powerful. All PERSONAL. I have no way of knowing what impact any or all of these stories had on the 2,000 people in attendance at the Chicago convention, on the thousands who watched online from the corners of the world, or on the thousands more who will watch the videos (official and otherwise) that are available on YouTube and shared via social media. Here’s one important thing to note. These women had ONE OPPORTUNITY and a mere SEVEN MINUTES to reach an audience of thousands. Given that one opportunity, they each chose to TELL THEIR STORY. You may or may not find yourself on the world stage, but the ‘WHERE’ is not that important. Each time you get the privilege of the platform, you have an opportunity to TELL YOUR STORY. Audience size doesn’t matter. It need not be 2,000 or more; it could be 11 people at a small Toastmasters meeting, teenagers on a sports team, members of a service organization, or a group of people at a place of worship. What matters is the ‘WHAT’…your story. With YOUR STORY you can touch lives, bring joy and laughter, cause serious reflection and initiate change in the minds, hearts, and lives of your audience.
You may not win a trophy, but you can win hearts when you TELL YOUR STORY.
Use the SEASONS OF YOUR LIFE to find stories from your past. These could be your years in school, ages 5 to 18. You could also use your time in University or College if you had that experience. Do you remember your favorite teachers? Your best friends? Your worst enemies? The activities you enjoyed? Other seasons could be the time on your first full-time job, or the period of time when you first became a parent. Every ‘season’ of your life holds truths that can transform. Recall your experiences and the lessons learned. They are integral parts of your story that you can use to share valuable life lessons.
STORY Q & A:
WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF INCORPORATING DIALOG IN MY STORY?
Dialog helps the audience to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ characters more clearly. When you use a character’s words, and their voice, when you BECOME the character, your audience is taken into the scene and is able to EXPERIENCE the story in a new way. Effective dialog help you to TELL YOUR STORY.