AAND THE WORLD CHAMPION OF PUBLIC SPEAKING 2018 IS….A WOMAN!!! Only the 2nd African American woman and 5th woman overall in the 80 year old history of the championship! Hmm…those stats kinda dampen my spirit! Only 5 women out of 80 winners are women! But let’s enjoy this proud moment of victory! Ramona Smith, 31, a high school teacher from Houston delivered the knock out punch before a huge international audience of 2000 people! She made her place among the top ten by defeating over 30,000 opponents in about 6 months!
And wait for the goose bumps to pop by the end of the speech!! Watching this will make your day, I assure you! And to become better public speakers ourselves, here are a few things we can learn from her award winning speech:
Public speaking lessons we can learn from the World Champion of Public Speaking , 2018:
Her entry: Her entrance on the stage – with that laugh definitely gave her a confident start. Her stance – legs slightly apart and both feet plated firmly on the ground – set the tone for the metaphor that was to come.
The boxing metaphor: She dives right into her speech with her boxing jargon and fighting stance. She suggests raining punches at the adversities life throws at you and how she herself did that in her own life – this creates a nice structure in her speech. She starts and ends with it.
The power of three: She efficiently uses the power of three in communication. Even after watching the speech just once, you are likely to remember the 3 areas she addresses – college, marriage and speaking – in her speech. This is a great technique to make your speech interesting and memorable for your audience
Pro tip: The next time you plan your speech or presentation, think of ways you can use the power of three to structure it
The sustained ebullience: It’s hard enough to face a strong crowd of 2000 people on a stage like that! But to actually jog around and display that kind of energy while delivering a speech is a feat of sheer strength and stamina! She is almost athletic on stage and yet never runs out of breath, never loses momentum even for a bit! I am guessing that she’s “in training” and not just for marriage!
The personal story: Story telling is one of the key aspects of a great speech.
And at an international level it’s a given. Ramona alternates between telling her own story and roping in the audience by asking them to think of a time when they were knocked out in life. She keeps the stories short and crisp.
Pro tip: The next time you are to get in front of people, how about a story to start with, It could be a quick one with a few lines. But it’ll get you the attention of the audience nevertheless.
Use of stage: The stage of this particular championship is quite huge. You will see contestants walk along the length of it during their speech. Her walk along the stage is purposeful every time. She uses it to add to the visual cues of the speech. She says, “I went back to college” and she actually goes back to the spot where she first narrated her drop out story. Such movement visually reinforces the message in the audience’s minds making it more memorable.
The gestures: Apart from the movement along the stage, there are a lot of gestures that reinforce her message. The kick boxing stance, the jog to different spots and her signature gesture every time she says “still standing”. All these augment the message visually too.
Audience engagement: The true touchstone of her rapport with the audience is the unprompted response she gets right at the end! She has the audience eating out of the palm of her hand right from the start. She uses questions to make them a part of her experience – “Can you think of a time when life knocked you down?” (Pay attention to the voice modulation in that sentence) She goes a step further and widens the circle of empathy by calling out to both kinds of people -people who’ve been knocked out themselves and coaches who have helped others get up.
And just as you think she’s heading to the end, she injects a new life into her speech with the humour – the joke about finding a life partner at the convention. And she does it with so much flair – “But this is an international convention” – that the audience immediately gets it!
Pauses: This is my favourite aspect of the speech! The mark of a great speaker is how comfortable he/she is with pauses. First of all, Ramona’s speech isn’t hurried. She takes the time to enunciate every sentence. She savours the pauses when they appear. She is in no hurry to start speaking again. And pauses, in her case, only enhance the intended effect beautifully. One great example is the long, acknowledging pause thats she takes after announcing that she finished college magna cum claude. She let’s that information sink into our minds as she welcomes the applause.
Some of the other shining examples are:
“We were married for 8 long, beautiful, amazing (pause) months!”
“But this (pause) is an international convention”
A visual speech: Another thing I loved about the speech. There’s so much of movement, hand gestures, sports metaphors – not a dull moment in the speech! It’s almost theatrical. It’s not just public speaking. Ramona raises it to a performance! I love her little jig when she races past her victories in Toastmasters contests at different levels! We are at the edge of our seats not just because of her words but also because of all the frenetic activity on stage. We are eager to see what she will do next. And that keeps us further invested in her speech.
Voice modulation: It goes without saying that someone who’s made it to the world championship would have a great voice modulation! “Round one!”, “electrifying knock out blow to our vows”, “devastating blow” (the last one is also a great example of gestures combined with voice modulation) are just a few examples. Even when she raises her voice, she’s never loud. She only does it to bring out the desired effect in her message.
Pro tip: To work on your own voice modulation, listen to more such awesome speeches online. And then record your own voice and listen to it. When you hear yourself, you will know where you can change your modulation to be more effective as a communicator.
Humour: Humour needs the most practice among the repertoire of speaking skills. It should be introduced at the right time and said in the right manner so that the audience gets it. And boy! Ramona does it so well! The laughter only gets louder as the speech progresses. And the funniest moment, without a doubt, is when she says, “This is an international convention” and the theatrics that follow only make us laugh harder!
Ramona’s victory, to me, is yet another small but significant step towards someday bringing in equality in the number of men and women who win this contest. Her win is inspiring for other women to stick till the end.
I’m now going to watch her speech for the…well… I have lost count! What did you think of the speech? What did you like the most? I’d love to hear your thoughts.