Art of Speaking Toastmasters Club added another feather in its already crowded cap, when its long time member Colin Curran, CC, ALB brought home the best speaker award at the recently held District level contest at the Hyatt Regency, New Brunswick. His hilarious tale about his own birth, not just tickled the audience’s funny bones, it virtually made them dance! Congratulations Colin!

Club’s Vice President Ramzan Lakhani CC interviewed Colin following his win. Excerpts are below.

First off, Congratulations on winning the TM’s District contest! How do you feel?

Naturally, it feels good. It’s always nice to win, and now, whatever happens in the future, I can at least always say I won a district contest. I don’t feel like it means I am a great speaker, though, or even that I am necessarily a better speaker now than I was all the times I didn’t make it to the district contest.

How has TM helped you in becoming a better Public Speaker?

I think the primary way that Toastmasters helps people like me — anxious people — is that it allows us to confront our anxieties and then to watch them slowly dissipate as one gets more and more experience. The only way nervousness about speaking in front of people decreases is by speaking in front of people, and the more you do it, the more the nervousness will decrease.

Additionally, I have learned a lot of tips from observing good speakers, and I have learned some things through trial and error. Specifically, I have learned a little about what will and will not make an audience laugh (though the things I have learned are hard to formulate in words — and I am still learning in this regard); and I have learned that more abstract/cerebral subject matter is not that well-suited for tackling in Toastmasters-style speeches.

How do you go about selecting a topic for a contest speech?

Ideas come to me sometimes and I will usually make a note of them somewhere. If one still seems like a good idea when a contest rolls around, I will go with it. I don’t really have a method. Sometimes I will rack my brain for a long time and come up with nothing, and then suddenly something will occur to me.

Do you feel any anxiety when delivering contest speeches as opposed to your non-contest speeches?

I suppose that my average level of anxiety is slightly higher during contests, but honestly I get anxious for delivering any speech.

Sometimes my relative level of nervousness might be unexpected. For example, I was far more nervous for my last division contest, which took place in a small room in front of about 25 people, than I was for the subsequent district contest, which had an audience of 100–150. It was because of the relative amounts of pressure I was putting on myself to win each of those contests. Sometimes it depends on factors that are not apparent even to me, and I can’t predict how nervous I’ll be.

Is there a Speaker role model you emulate when delivering a speech? Do you have any favorite speech that you often read or listen to for inspiration?

I really don’t have a single role model or any speech I listen to for inspiration. There are many strong speakers and speeches available to watch on youtube. But one that comes to mind is a Toastmaster whom I am acquainted with, Mario Lewis, whose speech “Size Matters” catapulted him to the World Finals in 2012. It’s an outstanding speech and worth watching on youtube. Mario is a member of the club that meets near where I live in Rahway and is as nice a guy as he is a great speaker.

The full interview is available here: