An Interview With Sheila Watson, Toast of CIBC Member and VP Membership, Winner of Area 52 Table Topic Speech Contest

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TM: Hi Sheila, first of all congratulations on your fantastic results. How does it feel to have competed in three, ever more challenging, contests, climbing the Toastmasters contest ladder?

SW: I feel grateful and more confident. This was an honour I had not expected. I did not realize I could speak well enough to win contests.

TM: Do you have any words of wisdom for Toastmasters that are thinking of competing in a contest for the very first time?

SW: Believe in yourself. You can do much more than you ever dreamed possible. All you need to do is step forward in trust and concentrated effort.

TM: The table topics contest is one that is very difficult to prepare for. Did you do any sort of preparation, both long term and short term, before the contest?

SW: My long term preparation has been my years of Toastmasters experience, as well as extemporaneous speaking at my church. My short term preparation happens in the seconds before I receive the topic. I remind myself to be confident, clear, and centered within myself, and to speak loudly enough.

TM: How is the Area contest different from the Club contest? What about the Division contest?

SW: At the Club contest I knew everyone in the room and experienced very little nervousness. At the Area and Division level contests, I was grateful for the kindness of the contest officials. Their support helped me feel at ease. Also, the contest facilities were different in each case. The Division contest was held in a large room, which made it more challenging to feel in charge of the room.

TM: Can you describe what goes on in your mind in the 5-10 seconds you have to plan your 2 minute table topic speech?

SW: I focus on the topic, not on whether I will win. I am primarily a visual thinker, so if I can see a picture of the topic in my mind I can run with that picture very easily. It is like a movie playing in my head as I speak. If the topic does not lend itself to an image, I revert to my thought process and what I know about the subject at hand.

TM: Any concluding remarks?

SW: Toastmasters has given me so much over the years, in confidence and speaking skills. Being able to fully gather one’s thoughts and express them coherently to others is a source of true inner power and can bring wonderful success in life.

TM: Thank you Sheila, and congratulations again.

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