Once upon a time a.k.a last Saturday, Min’an and I went to the annual International Speech Contest held by the District 70 Toastmasters Club. Toastmasters, or let’s call it toasties, for everyone who has never heard of it, is a public speaking club which I’ve been going to for the past three years or so – no, it’s not a drinking party! District 70 represents half of Australia, so any winner from this level of competition will go to the States to compete in the world’s International Speech Contest.
The competition is held in Bankstown Sports Club every year, about 30 minutes drive from where we live. When we first entered the Grand Ballroom that Saturday, we weren’t so sure we’ve arrived at the right place, because it felt like stepping into a seniors club. I saw an old guy in a wheelchair, an old lady in crutches, white hairs everywhere, just no one like us. As we walked further towards our table, only then it started to resemble some toatsties gathering. Lots of people wearing the DTM medallion (the highest achievement you can get in toasties) around their neck, some girls wearing cocktail dresses and gentlemen in nice suits, including my hubsy too, such a rare delight to be enjoyed throughout the night heheh. Our table was near the front of the stage, unfortunately just a little off to the side, but still enough to enjoy the show without suffering a neck ache in the morning after.
Soon after, the show started. The first speech I thought, was a slab of overly theatrical show from Tony Frizzo. It was a speech on the unforgiving tragedies happening on his life – first his son had an accident, then his daughter had skin cancer, only to find out that he had also contracted it. The speeches afterwards covered different topics, from football fever to likening a love journey to a rollercoaster ride.
I had two favourite speeches from the night. I like one given by Matt Tonkiss on 95% confidence. He raised the question of having 100% confidence – why do we nod in favour of famous people trusting their 100% confidence motto, while we cringe in disbelief when a dud wannabe singer who shows up in Australia’s Got Talent mentions about being 100% confident, without any talent that is. Matt thinks it’s better to reduce the 100% level, to… maybe around 95%, and leave 5% for self doubt. I liked this speech a lot, I can take something home after listening to it. The 5% self doubt is useful to generate a list of action items to tick, and to ensure all that confidence does not go to waste.
Another one was by Bernie Albano, on the art of giving way. He told his story from his childhood in the Philippines, all those times when he was driving along a one way street, only to find a tuk tuk, a local public transportation, driving against his direction. The traffic then, as you would expect, would come to a standstill, with both sides arguing, and yelling, from inside each other’s vehicles. The story then shifted to his dealings with his daughter, who wanted to quit school to pursue her dancing passion. He forced her to continue school, to the point where he would banned her from going to any dance lesson. She cried and cried, and asked him why he wasn’t able to give way.
This awful situation continued for a prolonged period of time, until he relaxed his ban on the daughter, and she progressively offered to do home schooling. The speech then shifted back to the one way street in Philippines, maybe those yells from the tuk tuk is just a request to give way, that’s all they asked for. So he did, he moved to one side just a tiny bit more, to find that the small alleyway is big enough for both directions to continue. The deadlock ends, no more honking, people in both directions are able to pass, smoothly. What a powerful metaphor between the one way street and his personal experience, transcends into a simple but insightful advice.
Unfortunately none of my favourite speakers took the highest honour of the night. The guy who won was Colin Emerson, and his speech was about being a superman. I won’t talk about it in this post, so if you’re interested to see it, go check out d70 toasties website yourself. Not to say his speech wasn’t wonderful, but it was just the content is not as gripping as the two I’ve told you above.
In fact, the speech content from one to another followed a pattern, they were mostly about dreams, dreams and dreams. Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, it is not too late, and it will never be too late, motivational raising speeches that were sometimes too much for me. It was nice to hear one, but probably not seven consecutively, as with what happened. Apparently, however, this was the kind of topic that the US judges love, and that was probably why the pattern was so obvious. In the division level contest that I went to last year, the speeches had more variety in terms of topics.
In one of the breaks in between the main course and dessert, I went over to have a look at the Wollongong trophy (pictured above). It had the winner’s name every year from the 1960s, decorating the surroundings of the big medal centred. For year 2008, the plaque says “Mark D’Silva, Westpac City” – this is not news for me, I knew this, but standing there, seeing his familiar name awed me. Mark D’Silva is one of the veterans in my club. He’s been going to TM for more than 15 years, he even wrote a book about public speaking. More importantly, he is real, he knows me and he has even evaluated my speech, and he didn’t think they were that bad! Maybe next year I can be bothered to enter the club contest, all in the name of self improvement.