Category Archives: Speechwriting

Content is King!

I love watching speeches!

I watch comedians perform and I’m laughing but I am enjoying a speech.  I watch the news thinking about how they are delivering their message.  I listen at elementary school functions to the facilitator and think about how we they can make it better.  I think about the post game speech I make to my son’s football team and how I can communicate more effectively to them.

Delivery is important.

Phrasing is vital.

Content is king.

If you don’t have something to say, it doesn’t matter how well you say it.  As much as we pick apart the skill a speaker may have at the end of the day it is very subjective.  Many of the biggest name speakers in the world have a style that I don’t care for and I would like them to change but I still sit and listen to their messages because of what they have to say.  And that is why most of us listen to a speaker.

The parents of the kids on my team don’t really care about body language, vocal variety, and phrasing.  They want to know what time practice is and what equipment they need to purchase for their kids.  Even if we can’t agree on President Obama’s politics, he is universally considered a polished speaker and communicator.  But as a citizen, we are much more concerned with his content.  It is important to work on your delivery and help your audience by not distracting them with poor mechanics, but at the end of the day you must have good content.

So over the next few weeks I am going to focus on content.  How I generate it; how I interpret it, and what you can do to generate better content.  Hopefully this process will help me focus on finding better content for programs I am working on.  More importantly I hope that you will be able to have better content for your discussions with your children and the presentation you have to deliver to a big client.

So here is a quick preview of generating content…

The group you are speaking to is the end-user of your content, NOT YOU

Your target audience doesn’t really care about how your speech is going to effect your life. They are interested in how what you have to say will affect them.  So just because you like your speech doesn’t mean it will have any effect on your target audience.  Think about how THEY can use your information and how you can give something from you to them that will help improve your life.

Build your content to help your end-user!




Contest Season

Now that football is over with, I can move my sporting interests on to the other big thing in my life…

World Championship of Public Speaking


The 2010 Toastmaster’s International Speech Contest

The road has started to the international convention in August where one person will be crowned as the best for this year. Now this year I will not be competing, so I will be watching this years contest from the coaches seat.

I have the pleasure of working with a good friend that helped me a lot last year as he winds his way through the season. He delivered a very topical, humorous, and touching speech about our addiction to texting, tweeting, and smartphones in general. Now I know that non of you have ever texted in church, updated your Facebook status in the potty, or tweeted while waiting in line at the grocery but the fact is many Americans do and the art of communication is being lost.

Watching the contest from this seat is totally different. In some ways it is better and in some it is MUCH worse. One of the greatest things about being a toastmaster is learning to give effective evaluation of speeches. To my knowledge I feel as though it is the best way for someone to learn how to give feedback on someones presentation and it is a skill that an active attendee of meetings could get a chance to do on a monthly basis.

That evaluation practice is the foundation for coaching. Now, if you google “speech coach” you will find countless websites, blogs, products, videos, and face men for what basically stacks up to being people who are giving evaluations of speeches and oral presentations. I have several friends that are part of this google search and they are very skilled at what they do.

  • They can polish an accomplished speaker
  • They can help ceo’s craft stockholder presentations
  • They can help ministers improve and expand their ability to reach their congregation
  • They can help a virtual novice overcome jitters as they deliver their first proposal
  • They can help a sales manager perfect her ability to demo a product

It is a cool job!

So now I get to play “pretend speech coach” and try to help my friend get as far or farther than I did last year.  So how am I going to do it.

One of the biggest lessons I learned last year is to be myself.  I am not an expert in grammar, staging, speech writing, or visual aids.  What I am is that I am as good as anyone I have ever seen with vocal variety and pretty good with my use of body language.  Now, I have some skill in all the other areas but when it comes down to how I can help him the most is to help refine his already strong natural abilities in my two areas of expertise.

The other thing I learned last year was really how to listen to a speech.  Those that were around me will tell you that I listened to countless speeches.  In the beginning I just put them into the good or bad territory.  Which basically was, do I like it or don’t I.  As the year progressed I became a more critical listener.  Looking for both strength and weakness in every presentation I watched.  As I became more critical I also became more open to the grey area that existed between good and bad and eventually worked to a point where I filed everything I heard in the box of “good and how can I learn from it?”.

I hope the results tonight are in our favor and I can keep learning how to coach someone.  And even if it doesn’t I’ll still go to the contests and still watch as people get better and better.  And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll pull a Brett Farve and unretire and put my hat back into the contest circle.



Off the cuff

Our terminology in Toastmasters is “Table Topics”.  You may call extemporaneous speaking, off the cuff responses, thinking on your feet, or just plan talking.  In my time with Toastmasters I have come to believe that it is the most critical skill that we can give our new members because we all use it and we use it every day.  It is also a skill that I would consider myself an expert at in the context of Toastmasters and would like to share some of my “how to do its”.

Now first, let me separate how I deliver a table topics into a couple of categories…





I love to laugh.  It is a lot of work to support a frown and a down attitude.  Many times when we are offered a question that is a little silly, is so far out of your realm of understanding, or is something that requires a comical answer.

“Tell me about a time you were embarrassed.”

“What is the best way to frost a cake?”

“What is the funniest movie you have seen and why?”

The key with a fun response is no different from any other response, you have to think.  The key to delivering an effective response in any situation is to think.  People are scared to death of “the quiet game”.  That is that mythical time between when the question is asked and when you craft your answer.  Awkward silence is very uncomfortable and five seconds feels like five hours to most of us.  It is though, the key to gathering your thoughts and preparing a response.  When you have a “fun” question or you want to craft a “fun” response, your time in the quiet game is not to be spent on structure, organization, transitions, or rousing summary statements.  In your moments of preparation you are simply searching for the ONE story that you can relay that is easy to tell, has characters, and has a definite and natural ending.  The hardest part of this process is taking enough time to find that story and not allowing the uncomfortable silence to cripple you.


These are fun moments and ones that are more like interview questions.  These are topics that you have an opportunity to share a belief, point of view, or message that means something to you and your being or soul.

“Who was the biggest influence on your life?”

“Define a role model.”

“How would you advise the President?”

In an interview the potential employer may ask you about how you handled certain situations or why you are right for this job.  In the same way that you play the quiet game for fun topics and questions, that is that same place you need to start for pointed topics and questions.  In that time you are sitting and thinking you are now searching for an emotion and not just a story.  These responses have to be delivered from the heart and are not simply a matter of retelling a situation.  Adding to the quiet game you must now add emotion.  Even in an interview situation, there is an emotion you need to convey in order to show an employer what is truly inside you.  So now we add find the emotion to think to give a pointed response to a question.


I’m a competitor.  I had a great run last year in the speaking contest but along the way I also finished second in the state in Table Topics.  I’ve actually won our club contest every time I have entered not to mention the several times I have won the best table topic of the day.  It is something I’m pretty good at.  Contest speaking is fun but it is different from a regular table topic.

“What is toastmasters?”

“What does the Superbowl have to say about our culture?”

“Which is more important listening or being heard?”

Theses are all questions that I have had in contests.  Now the process to answer these is still built off the same foundation.

  • Think
  • Emotion

Now we have to add in the last piece…

**********Find a ledge**********

This is my term for looking for the place to put your foot to build your speech.  In that 5-10 seconds where I am preparing for my response I am replaying the question in my head and looking for my ledge, that anchor I will tie my two minutes to.  From that ledge, I then try to find 2 stories that can be told and that I have some emotions for.  I know that seems like a lot to do, but that is where my mind is going.  I’m also trying to find an amazing opening sentence and I’m thinking about how I may be able to tie it all together.  You can do a lot in 7.7 seconds.

So the next time you are asked a question and you have to respond off the hip.  Are you just going to start spewing data and opinions?  Are you going to give a canned answer that is safe and uncreative?  Or are you going stop, think, find a story, deliver some emotion, and find a ledge?  If you do nothing more than stop and think, you are well on your way to not only winning the quiet game and table topics, but to improving your skills in speaking!



It’s the journey right?

I want

I need

I deserve

I earned

I won

All solutions and answers based on the efforts that you have put in.  These are the rewards for studying for a test, preparing for a race, or working on an assignment.  As Americans, though, we really want the prize.

When our neighbor gets a new TV, we are happy but secretly jealous.

When your rival wins the game, you respect it but secretly feel like you gave it away

We want the reward and sometimes we forget about the work that it took to even be considered for the reward.

In the last week I have given three speeches.  I have never given that many different speeches ever.  From everything I have read and everything I have heard, this is how it all starts.  But I want the reward; and I wouldn’t mind having it now.  I want someone to “hire” me rather than “invite” me to do a speech.  But then I stop and think about the speeches and see why I have to walk through the valley in order to reach the summit.

Speech 1

I was asked to speak in honor of my high school band director.  He was more than a teacher to me and was really a father figure and a huge influence on my life.  I was honored to be invited and even more honored to be asked to speak.  I had never been asked to do something like this and it was hard.  Talking about someone you really care about challenges your abilities as a speaker to maintain control but still show the emotions you feel.  The first few drafts of the speech were soaked in tears, I just couldn’t deliver it.  I asked some advice from another speaker and he helped me tremendously.  In the end, the speech went off well.  I was a little too loud on my top end volume but it was funny, people enjoyed it, and it honored my friend.

Speech 2

This was a toastmasters club speech.  This is also the first speech I have given in 2009 that wasn’t in preparation for a contest.  I had to dig deep to even find a manual I could work from.  Because I had spent time working on speech 1, I was late in preparing for speech 2.  I found myself stuck between speeches that were too difficult to prepare for and projects I really didn’t want to do (I thought about just delivering speech 1, but I wanted a challenge).  I eventually ended up working from the entertaining speaker manual and doing project 3 “Make them laugh”.  Most of my speeches have elements of humor in them, but when being forced to be funny it is quite a challenge.  I ended up crafting a speech about the church I grew up in and some of the silly things that I saw as a child.  It required me to be very vivid in my descriptions without running through all the details too fast.  It also required me to take some risks of being a little edgy without offending anyone.  The end result was funny.  It really felt good to achieve my task and at the end of the speech I made sure to leave them with something to chew on other than just jokes.

Speech 3

I have been asked to participate in a speakers group to promote the school district that my son is in and the district that I grew up in.  Yet again another great honor.  We will get to be out in the community and give highlights of our childhood and let people know about the good things that are going on in the community.  For this week, the districts PR director wanted to see what we were going to say.  I really didn’t prepare much for this at all.  I had made some notes and thought about some stories I wanted to share, but I had gone through it only a couple of times a few weeks prior.  My fellow speakers were very prepared and had typewritten and well organized presentations.  I had a story about my son saying the “F” word and playing off that one incident.  One thing I have found over the last three years is that all my speeches have a lot of emotion.  This was no different.  In an audience of three I could see the tears developing and the smiles immediately after.  I again walked the edge with some of my content, but I’m learning that is my style.  I have to challenge your thinking and maybe even make you worry about where I’m going before I give you the reward.  It was also good to be able to speak to people that had never heard me speak and still be able to connect with them.

So of course I hope that I have an email in my inbox right now asking me to come speak at someone’s conference and asking what my fee is.  But I didn’t join toastmasters and I don’t like speaking just because one day I may make a living at it.  I like that process of putting together a speech.  I like practicing it in my living room in front of my dogs.  I like the fact that my son comes around the corner to see what I’m talking about.  I like looking into people’s eyes and knowing that they understand.  It is all those things and more.  At some point I’ll get paid (or at least I hope so) but that won’t add or subtract from the joy that I feel in doing the one thing that I do best.





Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Only one team gets the glory involved with winning a championship.  Everyone else leaves with a little disappointment.  Saturday I got to taste defeat.  And I am OK with it.

The contest was fun.  I got to meet so many amazing people that love toastmasters as much as I do.  The conference portion of the weekend was great.  I heard great speakers and went to some great workshops.  But the reason I went was to compete.  I had made peace with myself on the ride up and decided that success would not be measured by a trophy but instead by “how it felt”.

1.  The speech was good.

One of the most useful skills I have acquired in this process is the ability to take input and feedback, sift through it all, and apply my own style and substance to it.  This last two weeks I have had evaluations from some very experienced toastmasters, speakers, and writers.  I obviously couldn’t do everything they suggested but I found things that I felt made the speech better and put them to work.  At the end of the day, I loved the finished product.  It was 100% me.

2.  The competition was great.

There were so many great speeches on Saturday.  I knew coming into the event that the talent level would be high.  My fellow speakers did not disappoint.  I was falling down laughing as well as feeling emotions in my heart as they crafted stories about job loss, achieving your dreams, and impacting peoples lives.  It was artistic and funny and dramatic.

3.  The audience liked it.

At the end of the day, the speech was not for the judges it was for the crowd.  I could see in the faces of the people as they laughed and nodded that they “got it”.  I know that I didn’t do some “winning” tactics and techniques but that was OK because I stopped trying to win a week earlier and focused on telling a great story and making it connect with an audience.

4.  It wasn’t my time.

I don’t know if I will ever do a contest again.  It was mentally exhausting working on this speech.  I learned so much during this time and my future has been changed because of it.  But it just wasn’t my time to take that next step.  This clears the next 7 weeks of my life to DO my life and to take what I have learned and apply it in other areas.

5.  I did pretty good.

Even in loosing this contest, I’m in the top 1% of 1% of 1% in a club for people who speak.  I know that if I could have gone 8th instead of 1st or if Seaver’s voice recording would have played it could have changed the outcome, but the right person won and I would still be walking away with my head held high.

So contest season is over, now what?   I have my coaching hat on again for football.  I have some opportunities that are starting to present themselves to me.  I have a level of confidence that I did not have last January.  I have my faith, family, health, and friends.

End chapter one

Chapter two:  The best is yet to come!


Moving on

I am now in all out speech preparation.  I have a speech, I have places to give the speech, and I have my eyes and ears 0pen for ways to make the speech better.  This is the fun part of the process.

After I won the last contest, I decompressed for a week and then I laid out a schedule to get ready for the next speech.

First two weeks:  Brainstorm speech ideas

Second two weeks: Settle on an idea and start putting it together

Third two weeks:  Give it, give it, give and learn

Final week: Tweak but don’t over analyze

Day before contest:  View the room/audience and make mental notes

Contest day:  Enjoy it, because it may be the only time I get to do it

That’s the road map I cooked up in my head after my last victory.  What I really didn’t calculate into the process was how difficult it would be to write another really good speech.   I knew I would have to create another speech if I won, but I figured I would just be able to tighten up an old one and make it work.  I was totally wrong.

There is no how-to book or manual on competing in a toastmasters contest.  There are a lot of opinions on blogs and websites from past participants but really no blow by blow account of how someone did it.  So I had to take bits and pieces from many different sources.  One of the most amazing things I have learned in the process is how gracious TM members are.  I have reached out to former world champions, busy professional speakers, and high ranking club officers and almost always gotten some sort of response.  These are super busy people that don’t know me from a hole in the wall, but take time out of their day to give me advice, criticism, and hope.

I have said several times that “I don’t know enough to know what I don’t know” in this process.  I have seen so many contest speeches and early on in the process I caught myself trying to copy ones that I thought were great.   And I could probably have put together a pretty good speech that was “somebody elses”, but its just not me.  At the end of the day I want to go into the contest with a speech that I am in love with.  That was the key to the first one, I loved it; it took on a life of itself; and rather than giving a speech the speech was a part of me.

The new speech is titled “Move On”.  It grew out of another speech which was me trying to make a winner rather than me trying to tell a story.  That’s what I am good at.  I tell stories with sweeping changes in emotion, volume, and position.  I move people, I don’t motivate.  My appeal is more to the heart than it is to the brain.  And that’s what I am going with.  In my mind its a winner and that’s really all that I care about.  If the judges like it, great but I am not going to put this together with the only way to measure success is with a victory.  I won the first time I delivered it at my club and new that I had found something that reflected me.  I won when I see how it lands on peoples hearts and makes them think.  The trophy would be great but the story is my reward in this process.


P.S.  I really do want to win though 😉

Coming of age

In preparation for the upcoming Region 8 Toastmasters speech contest I went back through my basic manual and reviewed all the speeches I did on the way through.  I originally looked there for speech ideas but found myself getting so much more insight into my maturation as a speaker.  From the earliest speeches in my manual I could see the beginnings of a future competitor.  

I had comments like:

Smooth delivery-Good pacing-Natural humor-Nice body language

I had no idea what I was doing, but apparently some critical pieces to my speaking puzzle came naturally to me.

There are a lot of people in this world that have natural skills and abilities in one area or another.  The playgrounds are littered with people that had college or professional basketball talent come natural but something never quite worked out.  

As a toastmaster most of us strive to improve our skills as a communicator.  The words of evaluation are meant to help expedite that improvement.  I see many toastmasters that don’t do anything with the evaluation information.  They hear it, read it, and then repeat the same mistakes in their next speech.  From my earliest days in the club, I made a point of addressing the areas for improvement on the very next speech.  My speech preparation may not have been top level, but I made a point of working on what I was instructed to work on.  

That was the beginning of the process.  Now as I work through crafting contest speeches, I am delivering them to different clubs and different groups and getting evaluations and feedback from so many sources.  Now obviously I cannot take every comment and make a change to my speech but I am mindful of the things that I hear repeatedly.  These are things I need to adjust.  My district speech was good but I heard from several sources that my ending needed work.  I eventually got an ending I liked at 2:15 am the day of the contest.  

There is no substitution for stage time.  That is where you truly improve your craft as a speaker.  A close second to stage time is evaluation.  The only way we can truly get better is if we listen to the people that are trying to help us get better. 



The second speech

In my almost three years as a toastmaster I have given 20 or more prepared speeches as well as countless table topics responses and evaluations.  I have had a lot of club “stage time”.  I have never really had a problem coming up with material.  When the project was focusing on gestures, I talked about my experiences conducting a marching band.  When the project was visual aids, I was able to pull items from my day to day life that meant a lot to me.  There has always been something floating around me that was a starting point for each project.  When I began my journey in this years international speech contest the speech that would eventually become “Family Picture”, started as a speech about what it felt like to be black man watching another black man be elected president.  It then morphed into a eulogy to my mother, which then turned into reflecting on my anger at my parents for my dysfunctional childhood.  The final version was a walk from my childhood through today and the realization that dreams do come true.  It was a quite a roller coaster ride.  

Now as I prepare for the next competition on June 27, I have to prepare a completely original and new piece.  Seeing that I have several speeches under my belt, that shouldn’t be too difficult should it?  Nothing could be further from the truth.  After two weeks of work I have little to show for it accept lists of ideas and a few bad outlines.  One of my problems is that I am trying to write a “finished” speech on the first draft, which I know is not possible but knowing what it takes to win a contest makes it hard to avoid this problem.  My second problem is that my first speech did not fit the contest “formula”.  Most championship speeches present a personal problem, relate it to the audience, solve the problem, and then move the crowd to action.  My fist speech was not built that way at all.  I created tension with a personal story but then I proceeded to travel all the emotions of that personal story and then tie it together with my life today.  There was no action step and I didn’t try to equate my story to that of the audience.  

My strength on stage is my delivery.  I can evoke emotion and humor by using my natural abilities, gestures, and voice to make my points.  My strength in my content is in the story.  I have great stories about great people that were in my life and that is where my emotion and passion comes from.  My speech won because it was not only polished but because it connected with the audience in a way that was sincere and heartfelt.  

So I continue to work.  I have a few ideas that I like but none that are pulling me into the bunker with them.  I also anticipate the speeches evolving several times over the next seven weeks.  I really love this creative process and see how it helps me to stretch and grow.  I just wish it would actually start with a “big idea” so I can really get this speech going.  

To be continued…



Everyone should join toastmasters

It is a well publicized fact that public speaking is one of the greatest fears Americans carry.  It is also well publicized the amount of horrible moments that come from people that are not comfortable speaking in front of people.

Miss Teen South Carolina  

So why don’t more people do something about it?

Regardless of occupation, most of us have to get up in front of a group at some point and give a talk.  Even if the audience is the children in the neighborhood and they are simply trying to get a game together, the same skills (and lack of skills in the above reference) are what translate into effectively communicating.  Business meetings, parent/teacher conferences, addressing parents of your little league team-there are so many times where we are called on to speak and those fears of getting up in front of a big crowd are also not helping you perform in these tasks.  

But there is hope for all those of you who are challenged in speaking arena.  

Everyone say it all together…


There is a good chance that somewhere in your town there is a toastmasters meeting in the next 7 days.  At that meeting there is an opportunity for you to not only get over the fear of speaking but more importantly to actually refine your skills.  Waiting for you at that meeting will be a group of 10-30 adults from varied backgrounds and most of them at some point have had the same paralyzing fear inside about getting up and giving a speech.

But what is toastmasters?

For me, toastmasters has been a life changer.  Starting with the obvious fact that I have improved my public speaking tremendously from day one.  I never had the paralyzing fear of being in front of people but I suffered from a lack of confidence in some situations.  In the three years of membership I have also built leadership and mentor-ship skills.   

One of the biggest skills we get to work on weekly is our extemporaneous speaking skills.  In toastmasters we call it table topics.  Every week the “table topics master” will ask a question that you have not prepared for.  They can ask anything

What’s your favorite color?

Tell us about your favorite vacation?

Identify your biggest flaw.  

You then have up to two minutes and thirty seconds to respond.  This is such an amazing skill to get to hone.  We use this every day and don’t even realize it.  Imagine if you were able to answer an interview question with a well crafted “mini speech” rather than a rambling series of ums and ahs.  Or imagine being able to eloquently communicate expectations to a team you are leading at your job.  

As with most things that we join there is also unexpected benefits that come with membership.  The people at my club are AMAZING.  I have made amazing friends as well as professional contacts that cannot be duplicated.  But the reason I keep coming back is the people.  



Professional speakers

Technical editors


College students


So many walks of life represented in a common location with a common goal.  And through the speeches that everyone gives you learn so much about their backgrounds, struggles, triumphs, families, and careers.  You can literrally become part of their extended families through the stories they share.  

I firmly believe that everyone will get something out of attending a meeting and more than you could expect from joining a group.   I will always be a member and you are always welcome!



Sometimes dreams do come true

“It’s a picture perfect evening for our first place winner, Stevie King”

That is how I heard the announcement Saturday night as I became the 2009 District 14 International Speech Champion.  When I started this contest I had what I thought was a stretch goal to simply reach the district finals.  Prior to this contest I had never advanced past the area contest.  I always thought I could do well in one of these contests but really never had the opportunity to really go for it.  

The weekend began on Friday night with the table topics (off the cuff) speaking contest.  I drew number five in our speaking order out of ten.  I really like table topics and it was going to be fun to simply compete with these talented people.  I was also the only person that was speaking in both contests so I thought it would be a slight advantage to have a test run prior to my big speech on Saturday. 

The question Saturday was “You have two ears and one mouth, which do you use more?”.  

As I heard the question my mind started racing. ..

  • Should I try to be funny?
  • Should I pull out my cellphone?
  • Should I work both sides of the question?
  • Should I go over the top?

It really seemed like I was standing there thinking for an hour before I started, even though it was probably 10 seconds.  I decided to go with the fact that I talk more than I listen because I have a six year old.  In my two minutes of speaking I talked about how I have to repeat myself and how hard it must be for a child to have to constantly be given instructions and directions.  I finished the speech by bringing it around to the times when he does listen and the times that we do communicate well.  I was able to craft compelling content, work the audience, use a lot of gestures (including sticking my fingers in my ears), and pull the audience into our story.  It wasn’t perfect and when I sat down I felt like I could have structured it better, but I was proud.  

As I listened to the five that came after me, I really felt that I did a better job than they did but obviously I didn’t have a vote.  The other contestants were super smooth and had great humour (it resembled a humorous contest because everyone was rolling in the floor).  In the end I got second place behind a toastmaster with 30 years of toastmasters time and several years of preaching and professional speaking, not bad I thought.  I felt even better when I had several people mention to me afterwards that they thought that I should have won.  The biggest thing that I got from Friday was being able to see the room set up and really feeling like I belonged there.  I got home Friday night and made a couple of changes to my speech based on my observations.  

Saturday was a blast!  First of all it was my son Seaver’s sixth birthday.  I had asked him earlier in the week what he wanted to do special and he said that he wanted to go golfing.  We had a great time on the course and I shot an all time low score of 83!  We then met my wife for lunch and then headed home.  I knew I was prepared and had a good speech and didn’t practice it once that entire Saturday.  

Upon arriving for number selection on Saturday night people were very congratulatory and complimentary.  One of our club officers even mentioned that she had heard that I was the one to watch.  Although flattering, it didn’t really change my nerves or demeanor, I just had to focus on the job at hand and execute. 

One of the things that I learned in preparing for the contest was to really enjoy it.  I am so glad that I made a point to do so.  My fellow competitors were amazing.  We laughed and joked and really enjoyed our time in sound check and the time leading up to the contest.  They were such great people.  

I drew the third position for this night.  In hindsight I am glad I got to get it done in the first half of the competition so I could sit and really enjoy the other speeches.  You can read the text of my speech here.  I couldn’t have performed it any better.  My timing was good, there were a lot more laughs than I anticipated, and I could even see some tears from people in the audience.  At the end of my speech I asked the crowd to rise and allow me to take a photo of them.  The applause was great and I knew I had done the best I could. 

My competition did not lie down.  They were excellent.  There were two professional speakers in the contest, several members with years of toastmasters contest experience, and several naturally gifted presenters.   They wove stories of  heroism, life lessons, personal achievement, and self reflection.  It was truly an honor just to be included in this bunch.  It is even a bigger honor to have won this contest and to represent all those great people at the next level.  

Now the work really starts.  Between now and June 27 I have to create, write, and perfect a new speech.  One of the things I really learned from this process is the pieces that are required to win in a toastmasters contest.  The speech must be funny, moving, four dimensional, heart felt, creative, memorable, and truly original.  This speech started as a eulogy for my mother and it has ended up being a commencement address for me to the world.  I can’t wait to see what happens with the next one!