In the face of impossible odds Trinidadians & Tobagonians always rise to the occasion. The small twin-island nation has amassed several accolades which reveal its tenacious human capital. Consider Brian Lara’s record as the only holder of a quintuple hundred in first-class cricket history. Contemplate that the 2006 T&T Football Team made it the smallest country to ever qualify for the World Cup. Reflect on July 16, 1977 when Janelle “Penny” Commissiong won the Miss Universe pageant becoming the first woman of color to do so, thereby influencing standards of beauty forever. And to date T&T has earned 18 Olympic medals, starting with Rodney Wilkes in 1948, and including two gold medals by Hasely Crawford and Keshorn Walcott.
Last Saturday, a group of Trinbagonians embarked on another seemingly impossible path when they competed in the Toastmasters International Speech & Table Topics contest. Held at Guardian Life Regional Centre, Chaguanas, the contest presented the top two speakers from the two Areas of clubs around the country to decide who will represent T&T at the Caribbean Toastmasters competitions.
The International Speech contest leads to the 2013 World Championship of Public Speaking on August 24 in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Since February, over 30,000 speakers in 116 countries began rounds of contests. Here in Trinidad, Jamillah David of Winners Club, beat out the other three finalists to earn the title T&T’s 2013 Champion Prepared Speaker. Jamillah’s speech titled “Reflections of an almost 30-year old” kept the audience at the edge of their seats. In a bold move, early on, Jamillah made something of a wardrobe change during her speech, taking listeners back to the simpler time of childhood innocence and wonder. Anthony Jones of Dynamic Speakers placed second with his speech “Learn!” displaying savvy use of props which included a golden drum and a skipping rope.
The Table Topics contest culminates at the Regional level during the May District Conference in Guyana. Table Topics is a display of extemporaneous speaking skills. Speakers deliver a 1 – 2 minute improv answer to a question. The four finalists in that segment were asked “Looks, Brains, Wealth – rank those in order of importance to you when it comes to your ideal partner. And tell us why you chose the order you did.” As hard as Table Topics may seem to most, Michael Stewart, a communications consultant, of Tobago Professional Speakers Club illustrated it is not that hard when he delivered the response which earned him first place beginning with “Brains, Looks, Wealth…” Odiah Gift of Winners Club placed second. She said “Brains, Wealth, Looks…” to the agreement of most of the women in the audience.
Only four Trinidadians have attained the highest designation In the Toastmasters Educational Program – Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM ): Nadia Chuckaree, Sonia Alexis, Darwin Manzano and Camille Carasquero. Carlyle Fletcher of Winners Club, is the only Trini to have won the finals of a Toastmasters Speech contest. In 2008 Fletcher won the Regional Humourous Speech contest.
So the question remains: Can a Trini make it all the way to the zenith of International public speaking competition? The answer is yes. All the tools in the arsenal necessary to produce a World Champion Public Speaker exist here in T&T. As regards aesthetics, the Trinidadian accent has been ranked one of the sexiest in the world. Trinis are also established via pageantry worldwide as people with poise who are easy on the eyes. But to win the Championship it takes more than a pleasing voice, pretty face and grace. The orator’s armory must also include a powerful message and the audacious belief that people need to hear what you have to say. In the words of the 2012 World Champion Ryan Avery you have to “commit to something big”. Ryan wrote his winning speech “Trust is a Must” when after visiting the Grand Canyon with his wife Chelsea, she asked him “What would you cross the Grand Canyon to tell me?” Inspiration – the foundation of good speeches abounds here. Tobago it is said inspired literary classics by Robert Louis Stevenson and Daniel Defoe. More recently, many observed the “return to their roots” of international artistes Nicki Minaj and Trinidad James to shoot music videos for their chart-topping recordings.
When one takes all into consideration this year’s Trini contestants, yet again, stand a good chance of “making it all the way” – just like Lara, Yorke and the National Football Team, Penny, Hasely and Keshorn went before them. To locate a club, attend a meeting, or learn more about Toastmasters membership, email firstname.lastname@example.org