Speak With Confidence

Richmond Fosters Excellence

In Club Events, Contests on April 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm

by Robin Spano

Toastmasters gets a lot right. They know how to encourage, motivate, and teach members to find their best speaking voice. Contest season highlights these strengths with a bang.

On April 5, 2011, the 17 clubs in Division E, covering all of Richmond and Delta BC, met to battle it out in the International Speech and Evaluation contests.

Let me start by oh-so-impartially saying that Richmond Toastmasters took home the gold. Our one little club can sure foster excellence. Reg Boaler and Richard Belleza took top prize for International Speech and Evaluation respectively. Both will move on to represent Division E in the District level (that’s all of British Columbia) at the Osoyoos Spring Conference. (There are still 25 spots left – book now to cheer them on.)

But the success is not Richmond Toastmasters‘ alone. Members from the entire division pitched in to pack the WorkSafe BC Auditorium with an enthusiastic crowd. Competition was both fierce and friendly.

Opening the event was Jim Horne, VP Ed at the Comp-Talk club and the man who scored us this free auditorium. (Hey, when you’re a non-profit, free is what keeps you in business.) As Sergeant-At-Arms, Jim set the stage with a warm welcome. I dream of being that smooth and personable one day.

Next up came Cindy Chan, DTM and Division E’s governor – dressed to kill as the evening’s MC & one o

f thehard-working organizers.  Her enthusiasm coupled with her professionalism created a dynamic and organized evening.

Jared Nicola inspired us with a beautiful story about overcoming adversity. He’s new to Richmond Toastmasters, but you’d never know this from the way he tells a story – heartfelt, and with a killer choice of words that bring you right to the scene of wherever he’s taking you.

Freddy Irani chaired the International Speech contest – another relative newcomer to Richmond TM who already owns the room with his polish and charisma. I also love his quirky humour – his speech, Best of the Best, will forever make me remember the drunken monkey in my brain.

The three competing speakers came next:

  1. Patsy O’Connell, from MDA Toastmasters, made us laugh at her family quirks and drama with a comedic speech entitled “Dining Out.”
  2. Reg Boaler represented Richmond Toastmasters with his winning speech about bullying. He managed to pull our hearts in all kinds of directions, making us laugh, then gasp, then feel our hearts sink through the auditorium floor.
  3. Jeff Huang from Richdel gave a speech we could all relate to, talking about how Toastmasters’ many roles have helped him grow as a human.

While the ballots were being counted, Christophe Bignolas (yup, Richmond TM) interviewed the contestants with some off-the wall questions, like “How good a husband is your husband?” and “How would you convince me to drop my job to be a software engineer.” Another new member who is already shining with originality and polish.

We had a break with some mingling – has anyone else noticed their cocktail party confidence increasing since joining Toastmasters? I fully credit the mingling portion of the evening for this.

Sylvia Orellana was next to take the stage as Evaluation Contest chair. I found this fitting – Sylvia evaluated my Icebreaker speech, and I always marvel at her warm, insightful evaluations. Sylvia was also a co-chair of this contest night, and is our current club president at Richmond Toastmasters.

Our test speaker was Jack Ja (someone please correct my spelling – for secrecy reasons, he wasn’t listed on the program and I’m going by phonetics alone). His compelling topic was “Are You a Prisoner of Your Comfort Zone?” Of course we were all glued to his advice to “throw out the bow lines and sail away from the safe harbour.”

When the evaluation contestants were escorted out of the room, Doug Thiessen took the stage to give us an education session about how to deliver a winning evaluation, including the valuable advice about always going more specific. Too bad the evaluators were unable to listen in!

Evaluating Jack were 4 evaluators with extremely different styles:

  1. Linda Wu from MDA Toastmasters owned the stage from moment one. She opened with a quote,used no notes until the middle of her speech, and kept the audience riveted with her insightful evaluation and dynamic performance.
  2. Norman Kotze could have walked right out of a high-level think tank. His detailed analysis was thought-provoking, and his European accent made him sound even smarter. (Can someone let me know what club he was repping? I didn’t get a chance to interview him.)
  3. Richmond Toastmasters‘ Richard Belleza was full of specific observations and clear points of improvement. He made it personal and he sandwiched his meat with positive summation as opening and closing remarks. I learned from him – both as a speaker and an evaluator.
  4. William Mok from RichDel came front and center stage immediately and gave a detailed analysis with excellent points of improvement. You’d think he’d written a computer program about effective evaluation.

I’d be happy with any of these four evaluating my speech…hmmm….kind of makes you want to be a test speaker, doesn’t it?

Next Mike Rozen cracked us up with a stand-up routine where he reminded us of some of our childhood technology, like Pong and TV before those automated guides. This guy would put Seinfeld to shame. (Seriously, I think Mike is funnier.)

May South Potato came up to interview the evaluation contestants. Oh wait? May, that’s not your last name? That’s totally what Cindy said. May announced to the room “I am not a potato,” and let us know that actually her last name is Soo-Tveita. May was also the primary engine behind this contest night – organizing Richmond Toastmasters into supporting roles that both challenged participants and made for a great show (hard combo, but May is good).

Behind the scenes, Chief Judge Jack Chiang organized his team of judges: Norman Davie from Top Story Advanced Toastmasters, Gene Vickers (Lt. Governor of Marketing for the District), Veronica Armstrong of the Talking Watchdogs, Richard Nash of Richmond TM (and an active player during the contest organization), and Cori Ng of Richmond TM.

Thanks also to Lorna Boyle (assistant Sgt.-at-Arms, of Deltones), Rome Gallardo (music man), Patrick McRea (timer), Linda Li, Larry Law, and Andrew Scallion (Greeters), Anna Brooks and Sylvia Orellana (Reception), Rome Gallardo again and Jody Chan (ballot counters), Tony Cheung (photographer), Andrew Scallion again (videographer), Ben Tong & Eunice Cheng (foodmasters), Doris Wong, Vicki Wang, Richard Li (decorators/general helpers). Whew. If anyone’s been forgotten, please let me know and I’ll edit them in!

In closing, Cindy gave out goody bags to helpers and Gene Vickers made an interesting announcement: He’s interested in facilitating the birth of specialized clubs. (For details, check your email – if you’re a BC Toastmaster, you received it in your inbox yesterday.)

Naturally, the winners were announced – Richmond taking home the gold in both categories thanks to the talented Reg Boaler and Richard Belleza – and we went for drinks at a nearby pub.

Bring on the next level. Osoyoos, here we come.

***If anyone named here has a website, blog, or any other online profile they’d like their name to link to, please email me: robin@robinspano.com and I’ll set it up. The goal of this Richmond TM blog is to help members create their own web presence, so linking is what it’s all about.


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