Toastmasters Convention – The International Speech Contest


Today, Toastmasters International held its Annual Speech Contest here at the convention (We also had a business meeting this morning, but an evil virus ate that post…sorry).

Crowned the 2010 World Champion of Public Speaking was David Henderson, with his speech titled The Aviators. Why did David win? I think that beyond the obvious speaking ability and outstanding delivery, he had one of the most touching stories and a powerful message.

David told of how he met and made friends with a girl when he was 7 years old. As friends they used to play aviator together (hence the title). But his freind was soon diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness. Without taking too much from his story, he found himself questioning why he should love someone that was just going to die, and that’s when he learned that losing people is part of loving people and the pain of regret would hurt more and longer than the pain of loss. The story of the next 7 years was so moving that there were actual sobs coming from throughout the audience. He was that good. 

Second place Robert Mackenzie also had an outstanding speech titled My Alter Ego. He told of his alter-ego, Bobby Backwards (Bob for short). He told of how big that alter ego was, because it was fuelled by all of the “no’s” in his life. His message was strong, about the need to say yes to life, rather than retreat into the protection of Bob. My favorite line was, “By 30 I had said ‘no’ more times that Toyota said ‘recall’.” Other top line, told after telling us about having a heart attack and how they say the fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death: “Not. Even. Close.”

Third place went to Linus Chang and his speech, Being Jane. Rather humorously he told about his experience with the wonderful voice of his GPS, Jane. By pointing out haw Jane never gets angry or terse when you get lost, and is always flexible about your future plans, he drew a correlation to our lives and how we can have more freedom in our lives if we look at things like Jane does.

The remaining contestants were all wonderful too, so I’m glad I wasn’t judging this one. Here’s a bit on their speeches, given in their speaking order (only 1st – 3rd place are announced):

Lisa Panarello‘s speech Mission I’m Possible was the first in the contest. There are mixed reviews as to whether going first is good or bad, and after Lisa’s strong presentation I’d bet that debate will continue for at least one more year. My favorite line: “Break the rules – if the job posting says ‘Don’t Call’, then call. You’ll probably be the only one.” Her three points were:
Plan Ahead
Take Risks
Keep Moving

Kevin McCue – started his speech with remote control in hand. Whatcha Got? was a good reminder that we don’t all have to aspire to be Brad Pitt or whatever. Use the tallents you have and don’t worry about being like someone else. I loved the reference to Pepper Martin of the 1930’s St. Louis Cardinals. Anyone that genuinely loves the Cardinals should win. Just sayin’

Robin Grieve told us that Wings are for Flying. He compared his son’s departure from home at 18 to a baby eagle leaving the nest.  Very nice message that whenever we set something free, we set ourselves free.

Joseph Grondin told us that we should all be Merchants of Hope. Nice story about making the difference in a teen’s life.

Ian Humphrey – I saw Ian’s speech in Semi-Final contest #1 on Thursday, and I have to tell you that I was (a) pulling for him, and (b) a bit surprised he didn’t place. This is why I say the judging would be super difficult at that level. This speech, It’s Not About the Knockdown drew parellels to being knocked down in boxing and knocked down in life.
Note: Look here for a clip.

Jamie MacDonald – His speech Unchained Memory talked about his earliest memory and to be honest I’m not sure I understood his message, so I don’t want to post a poor guess here. He did tell a nice story.

Nothing beats watching the competition at this level. The preparation, the skill, and the execution give all of us something to aspire to. If you missed it, buy the video. If you saw it, buy the video.

TI’s announcement:

Next…on to the Region III reception and then the President’s Dinner Dance.


  1. Rob,

    Thank for your support! That was a great experience for me. I learned so much and was able to present my message in front of thousands. I only hope that after I left the stage, someone walked out believing that they can make it through their difficult times and succeed beyond the expectations of others. I was not able to see all of Davids speech, as I was preparing to present after him. I congratulate him as this years world champion!

    Thanks again,
    Be Ian-Spired

    1. Ian, thanks for the note. I really enjoyed both of your speeches. I saw you at the airport as we were leaving, but when my flight had some issues I missed my chance to talk to you. Sorry about that. I hope to see you again at next year’s convention.

  2. OMG, your review of the International Contest was spot on. I was there and can not remember half as much. I throughly enjoyed David’s, Ian’s and Robert’s speeches. All (9)speeches were truely excellent. After listening to (27) speeches at (3) of the semi final contests, it’s difficult to remember each one seperately. I hope to one day see you on that stage vying for World Champion of Public Speaking.

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