by Fursey Gotuaco, DL2
It began with the club level contest and ended with the Semi-Finals of the World Championship of Public Speaking…. In between, I zoomed in and out of Toastmaster clubs around the world. What an amazing experience!!!
COVID 19 changed the landscape of the international speech contest. It took away the warm laughter of live audiences and replaced them with cold, muted microphones. It stole the twinkling eyes of friends and in return gave us a tiny dark lens. It muted the thrill of awaiting the judges’ decision and instead tortured us with weeks of miasmic morass …
But what the Corona Pandemic did not take away was the incredible opportunity to sharpen my skills to a very fine edge. It did not take away my desire to find truth embedded between the art and the science of delivering a speech. And it did not take away the overwhelming support of my Toastmaster friends who advised me … befriended me … loved me …
My journey to the World Championship took me by zoom to living rooms in Russia, Kenya, Shanghai, California, and of course, Fort Worth. I was welcomed by hundreds of members into their clubs to practice my 2 speeches… the first speech, ‘THE DARK’ took me past district through Regionals and into the Semi-Finals and the second, ‘WHERE IS YOUR NAME?’, needed to be built from scratch with dozens of test flights; then revved up like a plane on an aircraft carrier waiting to be launched as soon as the results from the Semi-Finals were announced.
It was four months of ‘hurry-up-and-wait’ filled with adrenaline and passion. The singular focus of this path led me to analyze every sentence, every word, every pause, and every syllable. With friends and coaches, I would review the tapes over and over to try and find ways to improve… So many data points of feedback fed into the onboard computer of this plane ready for a flight that was denied ….
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have been my copilots on this journey. I want to thank all the clubs in D25 who gave the opportunities for test flights .… There were countless clubs but some of you hosted me multiple times …. Highway to Excellence, Keller Communicators, Las Colinas Professionals, Tip Top, Longhorn, Lonestar Motormouths, Out on the Town, and of course, my home club of Afterburners. There were some very instrumental people who guided me with hours of listening …. listening to the same speech …. over and over …. To the Godfreds, the Bonnes, the Lolas, the Lauras and the Setmas of D25, BOY!, DO I OWE YOU ALL A DEBT OF GRATITUDE!!!! I thank all of you for helping me find my name ….
Though I never did get to give that speech at the finals, I still have it ready to go… The plane is in the hangar ready and waiting for its next opportunity for flight …. All I have to do is roll it down the runway, get it up to speed, and hit the Afterburners!