It’s that time of year. 35,000 Toastmasters from around the world are creating and delivering 5-7 minute speeches in the spring International Speech Contest. Through a series of judged contests, the top ten will compete in August in Cincinnati for the title of World Champion of Public Speaking.

I have competed several times and have learned 7 keys which will help a person do well in this contest.

You are probably thinking, "Arlen, how well did you do?" In 2009 I was in the top 243 out of 35,000 competitors from around the world. The following 7 keys helped me reach that level.

Key #1: Don’t focus on winning the speech contest. Focus on influencing the audience.

Create a speech which will have a lasting impact on the audience. Walk in with this focus and you will have a winning speech no matter how many contests you win.

Key #2: Have one main point or phrase and build the speech around it.
Points from past speeches include:

  • Keep on Driving
  • Adapt & Advance
  • Obligation or Opportunity

Key #3: Use your story to communicate the point.

Share how this truth has impacted you with stories from your life.

Key #4: "Manipulate your voice to influence the audience" – Rory Vaden

Use vocal variety to influence the feelings of the audience. Speed up to create excitement. Slow down to drive a point home.

Key #5: Pause.

Pause before and after a key point. Pause for humor. Pause to let your truth sink in.

Key #6: Open Hot, Close Hotter

According to Patrica Fripp, the first and last 30 seconds of any speech are crucial. Grab attention and launch into your speech. If you say, "Fellow Toastmaster …" say it 20-30 seconds in and not as your opening line.

This is a motivational speech. The last 30 seconds should leave them on a high and leave a great impression on the judges.

Key #7: Speak from the Heart

Here is an excellent example of a speech by Rory Vaden from the 2007 World Championship.

Arlen Busenitz

Arlen Busenitz is an experienced speaker with over 650 presentations. He is Author of several books, CD's,and creator of Become a Better Speaker in One Evening™

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