Popping in to Philz Coffee (hi Jessica Aliganga) & Insight Coffee Roasters (hi Avolyn Fisher) in Sacramento, CA. Packing a Muscle Milk ready-to-drink protein shake as part of the daily routine. Transferring CDs to the Mac. Interview with Websauce Studio owner Adam Weil. Getting stopped by Black Lives Matter protesters in front of the California State Capitol. Visiting the Toastmasters District 39 Area 52/53 International Speech contest in downtown Sacramento (congrats on the 1st-place win Tobias Stockler). And picking up multivitamins at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op.

Speaking to Win: A Panel of Champions

Had an AWESOME time answering audience member’s questions and hearing my fellow panelist’s insightful answers at the 2017 Toastmasters District 39 Fall Conference Speaking to Win: A Panel of Champions Educational Session.

Panel speakers: Keerthi Karnati, Donnie Crandell, Jeffrey Purtee, Reid Walley, John Davis
Moderator: David Goad
Conference: Toastmasters 2017 District 39 Fall Conference
Event: Educational Session
Location: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe, Stateline, CA
Date: November 11, 2017

Speaking to Win - A Panel of Champions - 2017 Toastmasters District 39 Fall Conference
Reid Walley - Toastmasters 2017 District 39 Fall Conf - Speaking to Win Panel - Pic 1
Reid Walley - Toastmasters 2017 District 39 Fall Conf - Speaking to Win Panel - Pic 2

Losing vs Loser

Has your favorite sports team ever lost? Losing is part of the game. All hail the game!

I lost this weekend’s District 39 Toastmasters International speech contest at the District level (round 4 of 6). Didn’t even place. And when the top-three winner’s were announced, and I wasn’t one of them, I was immediately handed two options:

1. Bewildered

2. Be grateful

Rich Hopkins: “It’s ok to be both.”
Me: “As long as I firmly land on Be Grateful as soon as possible, then I can move forward with extreme freedom.”

John McCain: “In your opinion, what made the winning speech better?”
Me: “Keerthi Karnati‘s District-winning speech (at District 39’s 2017 Spring Conference) was simply a deeper, heart-felt, funny, scary, well-presented speech. And only Be Grateful allows me to see that clearly.”

Michael Stephens: “I don’t think it’s that you’ve “lost”; I just think it’s that someone else “won”… great job:)”
Me: “I firmly believe in meritocracy. I also believe in losing as a normal part of living – everyone should not get a trophy. That’s one thing I like about Toastmasters, there are clear distinctions between trophy and no trophy. Like winning, losing is equally a natural possible outcome of participating.”

Robin Robinson: “Next topic, sportsmanship and being a good player. Competing with dignity, and dealing with the outcome graciously, is a worthwhile skill. And you did that. Bravo.”
Me: “Sportsmanship is a big deal to me. I’m all for analysing my own loss, but pointing fingers is definitely not cool. So, yeah, sportsmanship has huge value.”

Losing vs Loser

Losing is part of honing one’s craft. The loser stops honing.

(To move forward) I must be willing to admit that I lost

I have to admit that I lost the speech contest in order to re-calculate my destination. Losing a speech contest and turning down the wrong street are the same. They both require self-realization and re-calculation. I feel a certain freedom when I look in the mirror and accept my loss. Owning it is liberating!

How I Prepared for the 2013 Toastmasters International Semifinal Speech Contest

Step 1: Getting feedback from local Advanced Toastmasters clubs

Reality check!

A couple of brutely-honest – and painful to hear – District 39 Advanced Club evaluators were concerned that my District-winning speech wouldn’t hold up to the competition I was going to face 3 months later at Semifinals on Aug 22, 2013 in Cincinnati, OH. Turns out they were right! The 3 months between District and Semifinals, my speech changed by 50%. It was much more work, time and stress than I anticipated. Plus, I had to create a completely new speech to present during the World Champion of Public Speak competition!

Getting educated.

I watched – and re-watched – previous World Champion of Public Speaking winners on YouTube: Jim Key (2003), Randy Harvey (2004), Lance Miller (2005), Jock Elliot (2011) and Ryan Avery (2012). To my surprise, the previous-year’s winning speakers had overly-large gestures, were quite animated and covered the whole stage. Not something you’d ever see in a board meeting or from a politician running for office. But for an inspirational speech delivered in front of 2,000+ attendees you need to act over-the-top because most of the audience can barely see you.

Acting silly!

After reviewing World Champion’s winning speeches, it reminded me of silly, over-the-top, Vaudeville performances. But that’s simply because I had been used to presenting Toastmasters speeches in actual board rooms and small venues (15-150 people). The World Champion of Public Speaking contest is in a convention hall that is literally the size a football field, and filled with almost 2,000 people. You have to look alive and be entertaining!

I also watched everything I could get my hands on from Hall of Fame Speaker, Patricia Fripp, and 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, Craig Valentine! Ryan Avery (2012 WCPS) has also kicked off a teaching Website called How To Be A Speaker.

Step 2: Re-crafting my District-winning speech for the International competition

Right off the bat, I was in trouble! My evaluators presented a long list of good reasons that my District-winning speech was going to get clobbered at the next round of competitions. I made 4 big changes:

  1. Edited my speech to be more International in its appeal. Since I live in California, I needed to delete/replace any local, cultural and colloquial references that an International audience – and International judges – may not easily relate to.
  2. Altered my speech from mostly-narration to a good mix of narration and dialog.
  3. Since my evaluators said I came across as very preachy, I had to figure out a way around this.
  4. Integrated some of Randy Harvey’s S.C.R.E.A.M. speech-writing formula:
    • Simile*
    • Contrast
    • Rhyme
    • Echo
    • Alliteration
    • Metaphor*

*Now I had to figure out the difference between a Simile and a Metaphor. (A simile is a metaphor, but not all metaphors are similes.)

One of my evaluators, Tobias Stockler, helped me clarify the analogy for my speech title A Good Harvest. After grilling me for a few minutes I frustratingly replied, “A Good Harvest is like a farmer trying to raise good crops.” “Perfect.” he said, “Now the audience will know how to relate to the idea of A Good Harvest.”

I also added Patricia Fripp’s and Ryan Avery’s “circular technique” (a matching opening & closing). I cut out less-obvious references to my core message, reduced 4 story lines to just 2, reduced closing calls-to-action from five to one, created a more central tagline message (“reach out and mend a broken fence”), and added a “WHY” to the story (“happiness”).

  • Added more dialogue.
  • Added reference to book title in dialogue.
  • Added Patricia Fripp’s “Circular technique” (opening/closing speech with the same sentence, story, stage location).
  • Reduced my calls-to-action at the end from 5 to 1.
  • Reduced the amount of stories.
  • Spread storylines across different parts of the stage.
  • Added simile/metaphor: “Divorce is like a broken fence”
  • Added a call-to-action at end: “Reach out and mend a broken fence”
  • Added definition/analogy of A Good Harvest: “Like a farmer trying to raise good crops, parents trying to raise good kids.”
  • Deleted references to getting arrested and Dad calling every Sunday.
  • Added alliteration: “shorts and a short-sleeve shirt”
  • Added “why” I apologized to my ex-wife: to be happy.
  • Added “why” a good harvest is important: raises value of society.
  • Added alliteration/description of Dad: shorts and short-sleeve shirt.

Be prepared to make last-minute changes to your speech. At International, 2 hours before the contest, our Contest Chair informed us to address her as “Madam Contest Chair.” This “address” was completely different from the standard “Mister/Madam Toastmaster” that I was used to at my club and local speech contests.

A big thanks to the following District 39 members for their evaluations and support: Danny Pastores, Ceci Dunn, Zack Souza, George Jarosik, David Zic, Rick Pierce, Tobias Stockler, Rick & Marcia Sydor, Herb Long, Susan Hawbaker, Cliff Brackett, Tracy Harrison, Brian Hatano, Ruth Maloney.

What really helped me parse all of the feedback I was receiving, and to put it into context, were District 39’s previous winners: Russell Marsan (2012 District 39 Winner), Jeffrey Purtee (2011 District 39 Winner) and Jim Brennan (World Champion runner-up, District 39).

Step 3: Practicing for a much larger stage

Toastmasters outdoor practice space, Midtown Sacramento, CA
Toastmasters outdoor practice space, Midtown Sacramento, CA

Five weeks before the International Semifinals, I found an outdoor practice space in Midtown Sacramento, CA: 50 feet wide and 15 feet deep. And although it was outside in the glaring sun (or pouring rain), it was perfect. And the occasional foot-traffic helped me get used to distractions, as well as a few people that stopped and watched for a moment and asked what in the world I was doing – LOL.

Practicing staging and full-out body language took much more energy than I thought it would. The first time I practiced for an hour-and-a-half, and I was exhausted from the sun, jumping up and down, going through larger-than-life animations and just plain covering a lot of ground. A nice workout for sure:)

Editing my speech after an Advanced club evaluation had to include editing my staging as well. Does a new line of text put me on a different part of the stage? Am I going to end up spending too much time on one side of the stage?

I had to get use to the stage as one of the characters in my speech. I also had to allow for the extra time that walking across the stage takes up. In my 5-7 minute speech, I discovered that moving around on the stage adds approximately 60 seconds to my speech. So I had to cut out 60-seconds-worth of content to accommodate setting scenes/stories at stage-left, center-stage and stage-right.

1st-place Reid Walley – 2013 District 39 Toastmasters International Speech Winner

1st-place Reid Walley – 2013 District 39 Toastmasters International Speech Winner! Saturday, May 17-18, 2013, at the Hilton Stockton, 2323 Grand Canal Blvd, Stockton, CA. Billed as the “Triple Crown Toastmaster Elegance” 2013 Spring Conference. Eight contestants and a room of almost 200 in the audience. It was a whole bunch of fun!

1st-place Reid Walley - 2013 District 39 Toastmasters International Speech Winner
1st-place Reid Walley – 2013 District 39 Toastmasters International Speech Winner

On behalf of Capital City Toastmasters, we wish to congratulate you for winning the speech competition at the District 39 Conference last night. You delivered a heartfelt and dynamic speech which engaged the audience right from the beginning to the very end! It proved to be a challenging competition with 8 participants, but you did it!!

Reid, we are so proud of you and wish you success at the International Conference in Cincinnati in August. You have our support and we will be cheering you on!

Ceci Perez Dunn
President, Capital City Toastmasters #142