Earlier today, in Bonn, Germany, I gave a two-minute impromptu speech entitled: One of my most treasured memories. It was a competition speech. Thirteen other speakers from District 59 (Continental Europe) of Toastmasters International also spoke on the same subject. It’s the fall conference. I drew slot 5 so I got to hear 9 others deliver their take. The results will be announced later tonight at the gala dinner. I spoke well. I felt well. And I was surprised at how emotional I was.
Afterwards, random strangers (although all Toastmasters themselves) came up to me and gave me feedback. They told me that I’d touched something in them, that I’d hit a chord, that my speech had resonated at some level. Former District Champions and other professional speakers complimented me on my performance. One man told me that I’d brought tears to his eyes.
I’ll admit to being a little cynical at first – a little taken aback by the cultish nature of it all (I have no clue what’s going on in the outside world, of what I’ve missed, so tightly cocooned are we in this world of stage and speech.) But on closer examination, the sincerity, the genuine concern and drive to help others improve far outstrips that.
I realised that it’s not the winning that matters – although it would be nice to be on the podium this evening. It’s not the applause or the accolades or the judges’ decision. Speaking – motivational, inspirational or even humorous speaking – is about connecting with your audience, reaching a part of them that perhaps they didn’t know about or had forgotten.
It’s been a manic 48 hours. Being with 299 other people who are passionate about public speaking is new to me. To hear their feedback and to see how willing they are to share their thoughts and help others improve is moving. The sense of goodwill, of appreciation, of generous acknowledgment, is inspiring.
Budapest won its bid to host the 2013 District 59 conference next November. It will be a momentous occasion. An opportunity to see how shared goals, mutual objectives, and common passions can enrich the world – even if it is just a small part of the world at large.
At the end of what has been a mad, crazy week, and at the start of one that promises to be equally manic and crazy, I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to touch people, to connect with them, and to indulge a passion.
Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52