Personal Notes from the World Championship of Public Speaking

Dumari and me in the Seminar Bookstore, buying speaking manuals

Dumari and me in the Seminar Bookstore, buying speaking manuals

I may be the only person that goes to Foxwoods, stays at the magnificent MGM Grand hotel, and doesn’t gamble.  My friend Dumari and I were there this past week for the International Toastmasters Convention.  If you haven’t heard of Toastmasters, it is a very impressive international organization designated to help people become better speakers.  I joined Milford Toastmasters just under a year ago.  Having been a speaker for about fourteen years, my concern wasn’t overcoming a fear of public speaking.  I just wanted to improve my skills.  I must say, I was very delighted with the high caliber of professionals in this club.  And oh!  They are so fun!  I learn a lot listening to others’ speeches and we laugh.  A LOT.  It’s fitting that the founder of Toastmasters, Ralph Smedley, said in the 1920s, “We learn best in moments of enjoyment.”

So they just voted me in as President of the Club.  I like the challenge, in fact I’m really enjoying the role.  I have amazing officers who, like me, really want to help make our club special.  And special, it is!  For example, we have writers, painters, Realtors, massage therapists, financial consultants, stay at home moms, and company executives who all want to just be better.

It was a no-brainer to attend the Toasters International Convention in Mashantucket, Connecticut.  This was, by far, the closest to New Hampshire the convention’s ever come.  In 1966 it was in New York (the only other time in New England.)  As you can imagine, people came from all over the world.  And in true Toastmasters style, they like to talk!

I heard some of the best speeches I’ve ever attended live.  One of my favorite was Gary Mull, a distinguished Toastmaster and  professional speaker.  His inspirational and practical speech was about attaining Toastmasters club success.  I found it interesting how his subject matter applied to many areas of my life.  Below are some my favorite speech moments.

Mr. Mull discussed how we are born with sets of synaptic connections.  By using a clever exercise he showed how what we do well, love and nurture gets stronger.  What we don’t focus on falls away.  He concluded that leadership is a skill, to be nurtured.  He quoted David Starr Jordan, “The world will step aside and let pass any man who knows where he is going.”

Lady_Liberty's_hairWhen talking about having integrity, Mr. Mull referenced the statue of liberty.  Did you know that when Bartholdi sculpted the statue, he created the hair on top of her head with the same detail and care as the rest?  This was done before flight existed.  No one would see the top of her head!  Mr. Mull’s point was  to have integrity to do things right, to make a commitment to do what you are supposed to do, no matter what.

Next I got the pleasure of hearing Mary Ellen Psaltis, the author of Spiritual Vitamins.  Completing the process of becoming an accredited speaker, she spoke about the five free things to do that feed your body and soul.  I was quickly taking five minutes to be “open and receptive to ideas and inspiration”. Then I was saying five words that make me feel good (fill in the blanks… I am ______ and ______ .  I am happy and rested.  I am blessed and loved.  I am smart and grounded.)  Soon after I was giving five smiles, then taking five deep breaths, then saying five things for which I am grateful.

Did I mention?  In between the seminars, my friend Erin joined us and we hiked a mountain, ate sushi, went to the beach, shopped, and ate the best breakfast on the eastern seaboard.  Not a bad weekend!

Then came Saturday morning. The World Championship of Public Speaking!  Ten contestants from around the world competed in this prestigious event.  You could feel the excitement as hundreds of people filed into the big auditorium. Inspirational speaking was the format.  We were prepared to laugh and cry, and we were not disappointed!

The second place winner, Mary Cheyne, from Massachusetts, gave a moving speech about fighting with your inner voice of negativity.

The 2009 World Champion of Public Speaking, Mark Hunter of Australia, spoke of his journey in overcoming adversity.  Since an accident as a boy, he has been confined to a wheelchair.  Initially, he struggled with the choice of being a crusader of rights for people with disabilities or, the easier option, sinking into his chair and hiding.   He used the analogy that a loved one gave him as she was chopping green tomatoes and putting them into water in the kitchen sink.  A bright shiny red apple had fallen into the water and she said, “Mark, you need to make a choice.  Will you be a green tomato or this one red apple?”  After a time he answered, “I will be the water.”  We learned, in those magical seven minutes of his speech, that the water represented unconditional love.  This amazing man exemplified love.  The crowd erupted in applause as he was chosen the winner.

Lastly, we got to hear Fran Capo, comedienne and motivational speaker.  She’s also the Guinness Book’s record holder for the fastest talking female.  Her philosophy is “just say yes and figure it out later.”  I loved how she explained that “fear is not a wall; fear is an emotion.”  Her focus and determination in life was a draw for me.  Oh, and we laughed A LOT.

I look for ways to be inspired.  I seek out opportunities to feel moved, motivated and pushed to grow.  This past weekend filled me up!  I encourage you to seek ways to feel moved.  Whether it’s a phone call to a positive friend, a favorite inspirational movie, a gorgeous view at the top of a mountain, a retreat or seminar, or even a visit to your chiropractor, submerse yourself with what feeds your body and soul.

Toastmasters_LogoTo find out more about Milford Toastmasters visit Toastmasters International can be found at

forHealth_jpg_LowRes-01Also, check out my new podcast at

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