I’m a Toastmasters contest virgin. Yes, I’ve entered club contests and I’ve even been to a division contest, but I’ve never made it to the big one, the district conference never-mind the International Convention. So, the Road to Vancouver (twitter hashtag #road2vancouver) was my first opportunity to see a district champion present their winning International Speech. But amazingly, not only did I get to see one district champion, but four. And I was spoilt even further, as each speaker was evaluated by five previous district champions.

We got to hear two, yes two, prepared speeches each from Simon Bucknall (D91), Vinette Hoffman-Jackson (D71), Denise Banks-Grasedyck (D95) and Ricardo Cabete (D59). Not only did they present their semi-finals (district winning) speech but also their finals speech (which oddly, to me, has to be different to the semi-finals one). The quality of speeches wasn’t just high it was stratospheric, with good lessons in how to structure and present a winning contest speech. I also enjoyed the session were the speakers came back and tried out new elements of their speech, and asked us mere mortals for feedback.

Whilst the speeches were amazing, it was the evaluations that blew me away. I studied the speeches and couldn’t fault them. But the evaluators offered precision forensic feedback backed up with clear and comprehensive recommendations. It was the evaluations which gave me a better understanding of how to write a winning speech by using foundational (and sticky) phrases, metaphors, personal anecdotes and developing characters, all delivered with honesty and passion.  

Well done to Alex de Jong, all the speakers, “workshoppers” (Taz Miah, Antonio Meza), evaluators (Chris Bowden, Olivia Schofield, Ga Lok Chung, Taz, Antonio) and moderators (Helena Brewer, Iain Hawkins). I appreciate your time, effort and skills, and look forward to next year’s event.

Nigel Oseland
D91 PR Manager

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