Sunday, January 29, 2012

Far Reach: A must read for Toastmasters

On April 16 2011, 8 North Florida speech contest octo-finalists vied for the right to move on to the quarterfinals round of Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking.  The top three speeches that night were as follow:

·         Winning Speech:  “America”

A patriotic and motivating speech about taking advantage of our opportunities, by Walter Marriah Jr.

·         Runner-up: “The Month of August”

 A sentimental speech about the impact of a loving father, by Louis Sloan

·         2nd runner-up: “Fight or Flight”

An illuminating speech on the courageous nature of a rescue dog and how we could emulate it, by Pat Simmons

All three speeches were impactful and memorable speeches delivered by dynamic and seasoned speakers.  However, you’d really be surprised by the result of the speech that most likely placed last that night.

This speech was delivered by Leah Gilbert Henderson.  You must know that Leah placed last at the 1st round (club level).  She only advanced because all the others who placed higher had scheduling conflicts and couldn’t compete at the next round.  Leah then competed at the 2nd round (Area level) and once again placed last.  Luck would have it, that once again, scheduling conflicts for others opened the door for Leah to compete at the octo-finals (Division Level).

On the night of the Division contest, April 16, 2011, Leah gave a speech to encourage us to better our health by eating vibrant colored fruits and vegetables, yet she struggled to keep her delivery from being as bland as white flour.  Needless to say Leah did not leave with a trophy that night, nor was she going to strike luck a third time to somehow move to the quarterfinals.  However, her speech did not die in that meeting room.  

Three days later, after arriving home from work, I opened the fridge to see all kinds of greens and fruits.  My wife, Teressa, said that Leah’s speech motivated and challenged her to make better diet decisions.

10 months later our fridge is still regularly supplied with colored veggies and fruits.  Leah’s speech did not make it to the top round but her message made it to another home.

That is what the contest, and speaking in general is about: Not how far you can make it, but rather how far your message can reach.

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