The International Speech Contest journey by Fei Sun

Have you thought of entering the First Oakville Toastmasters Club Level International Speech Contest? 

There are so many benefits to joining Toastmasters and the most successful Toastmasters will tell you that their growth catapulted when they started entering contests.  You get to step outside of your comfort zone even more and as you progress in the contests you get to speak and share your story with different audiences that you normally would not have been exposed to. 

Last year our club had the privilege of witnessing Fei Sun really step out of her comfort zone by delivering a very touching speech, “Mental Hug” and she made it all the way to compete at the Division level and won second place.  Fei inspired us with her passion and dedication, her words and  also her grit.   This year Fei is serving as our Club VP Education and we interviewed her on her personal experience from participating in this contest.

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TOASTMASTER FEI SUN, 2018 INTERNATIONAL SPEECH CONTEST CLUB LEVEL WINNER WITH CONTEST CHAIR ADRIAN SCOTT

1.  Why did you decide to enter the International Speech Contest?

It was one of my 2018 New Year resolutions.   I was looking for some challenges that I could take on and the contest seemed like a scary enough idea to challenge myself with.

I have to mention that Adrian Scott said to me after my 3rd speech in the club: “This would be a good speech for the International Contest. Just think about it.” That was the first encouragement that I received to enter the contest and it was when I started thinking about entering. 

If you are a newer member like me and someone mentioned that to you – make a note of it.  

2.  From the first contest in January to your last competition in March, how many times did you re-work your speech, Mental Hug?

With the help from my mentor, fellow members and our open house guests, I made significant changes to my script almost every time I spoke. I did the same speech 6 times in total (club, Charter Party, test speaker, area, open house, division). And in between those major revisions, I made minor changes as soon as any idea came to mind.

3.  Did you use your mentor for help?  How was that experience?

YES! My mentor, Sharon Jenkins, was there with me for every step I took. Sharon (and her family) spent a lot of time giving me feedback and encouragement. She helped me take both my content and delivery to the next level. I even brought my dress and shoes to show Sharon before I felt confident that they were good for our Charter Party. The experience of working with Sharon was priceless.

I call on all newer members to reach out to your mentor if you are not meeting/talking regularly. You will see how much more there is to your Toastmasters experience.

4.  What did you learn throughout this process of competing?

I would have never imagined how much I could learn from this process.

What I learned about myself.  I remember attending the 2017 Charter Party and being blown away by the contestants (Adrian Scott, John Boteng, Peter West and Allan Osborn). That was 7 months after I became a Toastmaster.   And there I was, 12 months later, competing as one of the 4 contestants at the Charter Party.

What I learned about myself is that I can achieve something that was seemingly impossible much faster. And it is simple: learn from my mentor/other members and give it all the effort I could afford. I believe this is true for every newer member and really, that stage is a lot closer than we think!

What I learned about Toastmasters. As I progressed to the area and division contest, I started to understand the tremendous effort putting together an event requires, including our club meeting. I started to understand the governance of the organization. Think about it, there are over 352,000 toastmasters globally and it is run by volunteers. As a newer member, have you wondered how that works?  Do you know what area and division mean? I had no idea.

What I learned about Toastmasters is, there’s a whole Toastmasters world out there and the possibilities are unlimited. Knowing what’s happening beyond the club level is like understanding the mechanics of a car and that makes us better and more confident drivers.

What I learned about the speech contest. What techniques did I learn and practice? What are the specific tips I learned that helped me? Read these two blog posts and you will have it all. How to Win The International Speech Contest by Marion West and How to Beat Roger Caesar by Peter West. I followed EVERY single piece of advice that the West family have given us in these two posts. Did I mention you need a mentor? That is where we get personalized advice after practicing everything above.

5.  Would you do it again?

Yes, absolutely! My 4-year-old son is my biggest fan. He would wake up the morning after a contest night, and asks, ‘Mom, did you win?’. And that is the perfect time for me to teach him about ‘personal best’. So my answer is always ‘yes’. I want to keep doing it, so that one day he is old enough to join us and we may even compete together!

6.  Which contest was your favourite?  Best crowd, best feeling?

I loved every contest and the Division Contest has to be my favourite.  The Club President and VP Public Relations rallied and brought so many members to cheer.   Everyone’s energy fueled me. I felt that I was on a mission to deliver something that is important for all of us. It was quite an emotional experience. I would not have experienced it if I didn’t sign up to compete.

7.  How did you manage nerves?

I practiced techniques recommended by  Amy Cuddy (TED Talk and my mentor Sharon always tells me, nerves is good and use that energy when you are on the stage. It really works.

Right before my division speech, Peter West took me for a ‘silly run’ in the hallway. As we ran up and down, we threw our arms in the air, shook them around like no one was watching. Peter was also repeating loudly, “Shake it up. Shake it up. Don’t sit and stew in the nerves.” That was a big mental hug – thanks Peter.

8.  What are your goals with first Oakville toastmasters for next year?

3 things that I would like to achieve…in priority order:

  1. 1.To contribute to the development of our club by serving as the current VP Education.  My goal is to provide each member with the best opportunity to develop themselves
  2. 2.To encourage other newer members to participate in contests. And help to create the same experience and support that I’ve had for them
  3. 3.Complete my CC manual (3 speeches away) and compete again in the International Speech Contest 2019

Our Club International Speech Contest will take place on January 10th, 2019.  The top 4 speakers will then proceed to compete at our 62nd Charter Party that will take place on February 2nd, 2019 at the Burlington Golf and Country Club.  If you are ready to step outside of your comfort zone, talk to our VP Education Fei Sun to find out how you can sign up.

 

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