In August 2015, I had the honor of participating in the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. This experience helped me become a better public speaker but more importantly, it allowed me to have two encounters with God that reaffirmed that He is interested in the things of our lives and will help us in doing that which brings Him greater glory.
This is my story.
Learning To Speak
I joined Toastmasters in 2010 to help me in giving presentations in support of the marketing of my book Daddy, Come & Get Me. The years of practicing speaking in front of groups, learning to eliminating filler words, and ensuring every speech has an opening, body, and closing paid off in greater confidence before audiences.
Toastmasters offers annual speech contests because humans excel when under the pressure of competition. As talk of the International Speaking Contest started in December 2014, I decided to give it a try as I had not yet competed in any contest. The speech I developed was entitled “Serendipity” where I told about an experience of self-discovery I had while writing my book.
Between January and April, I won the first four rounds and earned the right to represent my district (Indiana and Northern Kentucky) as one of the 96 competing in the semifinals at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 13.
What Does Serendipity Mean
The contest rules allowed me to use “Serendipity” for the semifinal round; however, in the final round, the speech must be one I had never competed with before. My challenge between April and August was to write a speech that was as good as “Serendipity” that — if I advanced — I could use for the finals.
As I was looking for a speech topic in May, I thought it would be fun to have a speech that included an adventure movie trailer voice that starts with “In a world…”. With that as my starting point, I developed “Love Overcomes Fear,” the story about my relationship with my son-in-law in the time leading up to his marriage to my oldest daughter.
In doing some research on what it would take to become a World Champion, I started having doubts that “Serendipity” had enough humor in it to win the semifinals. While the speech is not required to be funny, for the last 20 years only speeches with humor have won. I tried re-working sections of the speech but the humor seemed forced.
In late June, I presented both speeches to some of the better speakers in my district. There were over 50 people in the room, and to a person, they agreed that while “Serendipity” had served me well to get to this point, it would not win the semifinals. They all enjoyed “Love Overcomes Fear” and suggested I use it for the semifinals.