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World Champion Speakers Summit—Part 2


By: Michael Aun


In this segment of this series on past World Champions of Public Speaking you will learn how Lance Miller, the 2005 winner came up with the idea of interviewing as many of the living champions as he could find.

Each of the interviews are about 90 minutes in length, done with Zoom, which is video technology that allows you to see both Lance and the interviewee on your screen.

Lance was attempting to find similarities between all these past champions, but what he learned was there were few, if any. Each of the participants walked the same path, but each had a different journey.

Some had made the finals on numerous occasions and many others faced early elimination. Still, they came back to eventually win.

In 1977, I competed in Toronto, Ontario, Canada against the late Fred Weineke, the best speaker I had ever faced. He had made it to the International Finals 21 times and ultimately never achieved his goal of winning the World Championship.

I was not nearly that obsessed.  In 1977, Fred and I both lost to Evelyn Jane Davis-Burgay, a blind Washington, DC attorney. I was disqualified for going eight seconds over in Toronto. I came back and won it all a year later in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

I am fond of telling my audiences that you have to go through Toronto to get to Vancouver. Translation: I learned a lot more from losing the title in 1977 than I learned from winning in 1978.

Lance Miller has done a tremendous service for Toastmasters worldwide by setting up the “World Champion Speakers Summit.” Anyone can go there and listen to a couple of dozen live interviews with past winners.

Where possible, he was able to include a video tape of the winner’s speech. They were not doing video back in the seventies when I competed. I wish I had that same opportunity to view other presentations… maybe I would not have lost by eight seconds. Duh!

Would-a, could-a, should-a… the fact is, each of us craft our own path to achieve the finals. I came away from my own competition with several pearls:

1.  The speech is supposed to go 5-7 minutes. They give you 30 seconds of grace period. Unfortunately 7:38 doesn’t cut it.  I received a standing ovation in the middle of the speech that lasted…. you guessed it…. 8 seconds. Not just the longest eight seconds of my life, but the “wrongest” 8 seconds of my life.

2.  Watch what other speakers do and try not to look the same. For me, I was the first speaker who ever moved on the stage, according to the late Terry McCann who was the Toastmasters Executive Director for many years. You must differentiate yourself.

3.  Listen intently to other participants. If they use a quote or a piece of humor that resembles anything you have in your speech, immediately go to a backup plan. Judges are not choosing a winner; they are eliminating the losers.

I was not about to try 21 times to win the championship but I could not get past the fact that “I beat me,” not the other contestants. So I went back through the arduous process a year later and was blessed to win.

In next week’s column, we will examine some of the quotes from these past world champion interviews. There is no clear roadmap to the championship. That is borne out in the interviews. Each of us arrived and won in a different way.

Nevertheless there are common characteristics and trends. In the seventies when I competed, the stage was dominated mostly by men, even though Evelyn Jane Davis-Burgay actually beat me in 1977. Last year’s finalists were all women.

Another significant trend over the past few years is that men and women of color seem to now be dominating the finals of the competition, especially now that Toastmasters has skyrocketed to membership in so many countries.

Take the time to visit LanceMillerSpeaks.com or World Champion Speakers Summit to study the best speaking minds.

Michael Aun, CSP®, CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame® received the Legends of the Speaking Profession® in 2010 along with Zig Ziglar, CPAE® and Jim Rohn, CPAE®.