Reflections on Cincinnati


It has been a little more than two months since my last post. During that period my free time was focused almost exclusively on preparing for the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking that was held in Cincinnati, Ohio from 21-24 August 2013. I wrote about qualifying for the World Championship in this post.

The experience was fantastic. The conference, the attendance for which I would put at around 2,000, was well organized. The Duke Energy Convention Center was a good choice for a location.

Preparing for the competition was one of the most intense experiences of my life. I had to go to Cincinnati with two speeches: one for the Semi-Finals; and one for the Finals (in the event that I won my Semi-Final). I spent many hours every week drafting, editing and rehearsing the speeches. I tested the speeches before audiences in Switzerland, Germany and, the week before the convention, Ontario and New York State.

So many people provided help and encouragement along the way. I acknowledged many of them here. And I also wish to acknowledge the feedback that I received on my texts from past World Champions Vikas Jhingran, Mark Hunter and, especially, Jock Elliot. I would also like to that past World Champion, Mark Brown, for taking the time in Cincinnati to give me feedback on the delivery of my Semi-Final speech.

Unfortunately, I did not make it past the Semi-Final and so did not get to compete in the Final. Disappointed? Of course, especially after all the work I put in. But — and it is a big “but” — the disappointment I felt was much less than the feeling of satisfaction at having given the speech I wanted to give. I have only gratitude for all the words of appreciation from the people in my audience, and delight at having met so many terrific people from around the world.

As I have written previously, judging a speech contest is a highly subjective matter. A small group of people in a room of hundreds decides the outcome. Choose different people to judge and you will likely get a different result. That’s why you have to focus on your message and the audience, and let the rest take care of itself.

In addition to the contest, there were some excellent workshops on offer and wonderful social events, concluding with the Gala Dinner and Dance on the final night. My wife, Julie and I even managed to take in a Cincinnati Reds baseball game at the Great American Ballpark.

The experience was incredibly rewarding and I will definitely throw my hat in the ring again (though I might take a break next year, given my schedule). I encourage those of you who are members of Toastmasters but who have not entered a contest to do so. There are four different ones from which to choose and each offers its own challenges and learning opportunities.

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    1. Thanks very much, Dave. I appreciate it. Yes, it was a lot of work, but that is what made the experience so rewarding. In fact, I would have been really disappointed in myself had I not put in the effort. Now, I can look myself in the bathroom mirror and know that I could not have done more to prepare.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International