5 Speaking Lessons From the World Champion of Public Speaking, 2016 Suman July 4, 2017

5 Speaking Lessons From the World Champion of Public Speaking, 2016

When I first came across the World Championship of Public Speaking in 2014, I was thrilled. I watched the winners’ videos on Youtube, each speech a masterpiece in the art of speaking. I also wrote a post on the World Champion of Public Speaking that year, Dananjaya Hettiarachchi who packs so much of punch in his 8 minute speech. And today, I’m going to talk about lessons we can learn from the winner of 2016, Darren Tay.


“Outsmart; Outlast”, the speech that won Darren Tay his world championship is another masterpiece. And it has to be! The path to being a finalist for the championship isn’t easy. The 27 year old lawyer from Singapore went through several rounds for 6 months defeating over 30 thousand competitors. Every one in the final round is a worthy opponent and only the best one wins. So here are a few things we can learn from Tay’s speech:

The pause: The noticeable pause at the beginning of his speech gets everyone’s attention. In fact, this seems to be a popular technique with most speakers in the competition. Aaron Beverly, the first runner up also sweeps the audience with his glance before he begins. We are afraid of silences while speaking in public. But a pause can perform many functions when used effectively. And these champions demonstrate that so well.

1. Use of props: There’s nothing that captures audience attention like a prop. And a unique metaphor like an underwear that Tay uses here definitely has our interest piqued!

2. The story: He immediately launches into the story of his prop and connects it to his childhood. This is another effective step in keeping us to the edge of our chairs.

3. The questions: He uses this technique few times during his speech. Asking the audience questions keeps their attention focussed and also gives them participation in the speech. The set of questions in the end ties up with his entire theme of bullying – how long have we let our inner bully hold us to ransom all our lives.

4. The body language: He doesn’t shy away from using aggressive body language when his story demands. He does it with ease and looks the part even with his hands on his waist.

5. The timing: He has mastered his speaking material so well that he knows where he is in it at any given point in time. He knows the exact time elapsed when he asks – “And at this point in time if you are wondering how long is Darren going to have his underwear outside his pants? Isn’t 5 minutes too long?” – the clock shows 05:04 minutes!!

6. The humour: Even though the theme is bullying, it’s not all tears and torture in the speech. He manages to elicit a few laughs too. This keeps the speech light hearted, while driving home the point at the same time.

7. The confident stage presence: Well! it goes without saying that someone in the final round of the world championship  has to have it! He confidently walks around the stage covering all the people in the audience.

The World Championship of Public Speaking is an international contest of speaking organised by Toastmasters International every year. The contestants compete in their clubs and districts at different levels to make it to the semi finals held at the convention annually. The championship in 2017 is being held in Vancouver, Canada this year between 22nd and 26th of August. I’ve applied for my visa and hope to be a part of the annual gala of public speaking this year. If I make it to the convention, watch out for live updates on this blog.

Meanwhile, watch this video and tell me what is the best thing you liked about the speech?