By: Michael Aun
In 1905, Ralph C. Smedley was working with the YMCA. He saw a need for individuals in the community to learn how to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs and work on committees.
He formed a club to help them learn these skills in a social environment. As word spread groups in other areas requested clubs of their own. By 1930, the initiative had grown to 30 clubs in the United States and Canada. Toastmasters was officially born.
Membership today exceeds 375,000 members in over 16,600 clubs in 143 countries, making it easily the largest non-profit educational organization of its kind that empowers more effective communicators and leaders.
History tells us that Toastmasters began having their World Championship competition in 1938. There were no conventions in 1944 and 1945 because of World War II.
When I competed in the World Championship of Public Speaking for Toastmasters in 1977 and 1978, they were not video recording the speeches.
Toastmasters offered audio recordings and I actually had one until my office burned down in the late seventies, leaving me only with a charred statue of a man delivering a speech with a melted droopy arm, thanks to the heat from the fire.
In those days, they did publish the speech in Toastmasters magazine but that too was destroyed. I had enough on my plate digging out from the fire so replacing the tape was not on the priority list.
Over the years, Toastmasters changed its approach and began to video the speeches. Many of these videos appear on a brand new web site “World Champion Speakers Summit –www.wcspeakerssummit.com,” hosted by Lance Miller, the 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking.
Lance has made an enormous effort to find as many of the past winners as possible. To date, he published the speeches and has conducted in-depth interviews with 28 of the 32 living World Champions.
The World Champion Speakers Summit is completely free for anyone to sign up and watch the speeches and interviews. There is also an attractive VIP Upgrade Pass that allows for 24/7 access, 30 years of Speech Competitions Finals and 12 hours of public speaking audio lessons.
Brian Wolfe, a friend from my old digs in South Carolina, alerted Lance to the fact that I was not yet enjoying a long deserved dirt nap and suggested that he reach out to me for an interview. Turns out I am the earliest winner he is been able to find and interview.
We opened a dialog of conversation in hopes of doing an interview. I am not proud to admit it, but I frankly could not even remember what I spoke on when I won the World Championship in 1978. As I told Lance in my interview, I am sure it was not the best speech I ever delivered.
When you compete two years in a row as I did, you have to send copies of all the speeches you ever delivered in the competition into Toastmasters. You are not allowed to replicate any previous speech material. By the end of the second year, my material was pretty watered down.
I have often shared in this column how I was disqualified in the first year of my competition in 1977 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada because I went eight seconds over my allotted time.
You can only be disqualified for a couple of reasons. One would be using previous speech material by you or another person. Another would be if you were too short or too long in your 5-7 minute speech presentation.
When Lance Miller came up with the idea of a World Champion Speakers Summit his desire was to find the similarities between all the previous champions. In fact, what he came away with were many dissimilarities. Very few had a common path to winning the championship.
In this series of articles, you will gain insight into how the winners won… and in my case, how at least one of the losers lost. Next week – Part 2.
Michael Aun, CSP®, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® is a co-author of “The Toastmasters International Guide to Successful Speaking”