World Champion of Public Speaking 2014
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What better to improve your public speaking than by observing those who already excel in it? Our ‘Get Inspired’ series will look at different people who have delivered incredible speeches and see what made them engage with the audience.

In the first of this series is Dananjaya Hettiarachchi from Sri Lanka who won the 2014 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. His speech, entitled ‘I see something’ encompasses all the elements of an excellent speech with elements of surprise, inspiration and humour.

These are the two things I found exquisitely done in Dananjaya’s speech.

Vocal Variety

Dananjaya used the fool-proof technique of repetition very well and not only weaved it cleverly in his speech but he used his title to turn it into a catchphrase. Combined with carefully timed pauses, the impact of each time he said the catchphrase, created a real connection with his audience – the evidence is in their rapturous laughter. This is what I found made his speech so powerful and egaging.

Body language

We know body language is important to delivering a good speech (no surprise that it’s part of Toastmaster’s Competent Communicator program) and Dananjaya’s gestures and movements are done with deliberation to add drama and visual emphasis to his words. Watch how his actions when he talks about his mother crying and how the emotions you felt when he described this.

Watch the video yourself and see how many best practices you can learn from his storytelling techniques. What did you found inspiring in Dananjaya’s speech? Let me know in the comments below.

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La Defense Toastmasters Club sent three participants to the Area Contest on October 18 and we are immensely proud that one of our participants came in the top three for the Humour Speech! Kayee will go on to represent the club at the District Conference on 15th November.

We caught up with our winner Kayee after the contest.

Many congratulations on winning 2nd place! How does it feel to come in 2nd place?
Thank you! I couldn’t believe it because the level of other contestants was really high. When I first prepared my speech, I thought it contained more body movement than really speaking so wasn’t sure it could really count as a “speech.” However I really loved the topic and so decided to have great fun preparing and delivering it without thinking about getting any award. I simply enjoyed every millisecond of the speech! I am really happy and grateful for what La Défense Toastmaster Club has given me!


What was your speech about and what was its key messages?
It was about learning a weird finger movement that I saw on TV when I was about 8 years old and now mastering it. There is really no big philosophy behind the whole thing but if I had to find one, it would be, “Don’t underestimate doing silly little things in our lives. They can be tremendous fun and bring joy to ourselves and others!”


What inspired you to do this speech?
I wanted to entertain people and make them laugh!


When did you become a member of Toastmasters and what made you decide to join? 
I joined early 2014. I was working in La Défense and as I am a really active person who loves meeting people and doing fun things whilst improving myself. I saw the La Defense Toastmasters group on and went there as a guest. I had such an awesome evening that I decided to become a member!


How has coming to Toastmasters helped you?
It has helped me by giving me back my self-confidence. I used to be very active in theatre acting during my teenage years and up to about 5 years ago. I was not sure whether I would be able to have the same level of confidence again, but Toastmasters has proven that it is possible thanks to the support and feedback from our club members.


Would you recommend Toastmasters to others and why?
Certainly! For me, participating in the Humour Contest was simply this: right before that precise moment I told myself, “I don’t care how I will be judged. It’s not about winning but having fun, being myself and talking about what I value.” I am proud to be recognised for my speech. Everyone should give themselves the chance to find out what public speaking means for them because you never know just how far you can go!

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Club Contest La Defense Toastmasters
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We’re excited to run our very first club contest on October 16th and we’re looking for candidates! Whether you have a competitive spirit or you want to challenge yourself, you can’t afford to miss this fun opportunity to take your public speaking skills to the next level.

Humourous Speech Contest

Muscle up your funny bone! Everyone has their ultimate funny story and here’s your chance to perfect it.

Need ideas? Just look around: your job, the metro, your cleaner or coiffeur, grocery shopping, addiction to your phone, etc. Pick one subject and make fun of it or yourself. Be part of the humour!

Table Topics Contest

What better way to practice thinking on your feet and let your creativity run wild? Whether you have already won a number of times or you want to win more, start your journey in becoming the ultimate table topics champion today!

How it works

The contests are open to all paid members of the club and will take place on 16th October at our club, Naked Restaurant, La Defense. Winners will then represent the club in the area contest. Non-paying members can still participate as judges, timekeeper or counter. For every role, you will be guided.

Deadline to sign up will be Sept 30th so grab your place now!


For more information on how contests are run you can refer to the Toastmasters International Speech Contest Learning Module in three sessions.

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Techniques on breathing, eye contact and filler words

Techniques on breathing, eye contact and filler words

Since joining toastmasters, I have learned a lot but here’s my first list of three basic areas on public speaking that I think will benefit every beginner:

1. Breathing

When you’re cast into the spotlight, especially for the first time, have you ever experience one of these?

  • Dry mouth
  • Sweaty palms
  • Shaky hands
  • Jittery knees

You may even find yourself also speaking too fast and before you know it, you’ve ran out of breath.

Don’t worry, these are simply signs of nervousness and they can get the better of us at times. The good news is that you can control these by doing just one thing: improve your breathing.

Pause and take a deep breath before you speak and you’ll find that you’ll command your voice better. This will give more power and presence to your opening sentence and you’ll have achieved your goal of having a captive audience.

2. Eye contact

Your body language is important to delivering a good presentation and eye contact is the first essential technique you need to master. It helps you to
  • Build a rapport with your audience
  • Keep their interest throughout your presentation 
  • Judge your audience’s feedback through their reactions
I was first taught in secondary school that as long as I lift my eyes up from my notes once in a while, that is good eye contact. Of course, we’re no longer students in English class so that just won’t cut it anymore.

So here’s two quick tips that I’ve learned to improve this technique:

  • Let your eyes wander around the room so that you are speaking to the whole room
  • Look at specific people so that you build a real connection

3. Fillers

As a native English speaker, I’m guilty of saying the following filler words a lot: um, ah, uh and like. Toastmasters is a great place for you to practice speaking with more purpose and here’s two ways you can limit this bad habit:
  • Get an Ah-Counter: Having someone who can note when you tend to fall foul. This will help you understand when and why you do it and come up with tactics to avoid it in the future. Our Grammarian at our Toastmasters often act as the Ah-counter at our meetings so you can always practice with us.
  • Pause for thought: One of the best practices I’ve seen from others is their use if pauses. Instead of being intimidated by breaks in their speeches, they used the silence to their advantage. So next time I feel the urge to use a filler word, I will instead embrace the pause.

To put these into practice, I recommend joining a public speaking club such as our Toastmasters group. You get the support in trying out these techniques and feedback to progress further.

What tricks do you use to master these three techniques? Are there other techniques people need to also learn? I’d love to hear from you.

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Everyone has their reasons for joining a Toastmasters Club, here’s my story.

I moved to France for the second, but indefinite, time for a new job. Before I realized it, I was with my line manager for my first annual review. I was pleased as peaches with the feedback but one thing took me aback. She suggested that I take some training to improve my presentation skills.

Me? But I’ve been doing presentations since high school and in my different jobs. I even delivered my first public speech in front of 100 members of the local Rotary Club when I was 17. It’s one of the basic job skills I thought I had mastered.

I took this feedback away and gave it more thought. I looked back at the first presentation I did in this new job. Sure enough, I remembered the heart palpitations and the nervous adrenalin while waiting for my turn to present. All previous speaking experience had dissipated.

It didn’t matter how many presentations I’ve done before, presenting for the first time in a new environment to people you know or strangers will always be daunting. She was right. I wasn’t the 100% confident public speaker that I could become.

I looked for some practical training in public speaking at a reasonable distance to my work or home. That’s when I discovered the Toastmasters Club at La Defense.

Since attending the sessions regularly, I found Toastmasters offers more than your average public speaking training for three reasons:

Firstly, they give you a wide-range of support in public speaking. As a Toastmasters member, you receive different handbooks that help you become a more confident speaker; from delivering business presentations to being the next all-time best comedian.

Secondly, you meet people from far and wide. It takes networking and socializing to a different level. Sharing a common goal makes us a tight-knit community. I find it incredible that through a speech from someone you’ve just met, you can still get to know them on an intimate level and be inspired by them. I’ve learned about others’ hopes and dreams, their fears and also what makes them tick. You’re not likely to find that in another club.

Finally, it lets you further develop your leadership skills. You could take up a Club Officer position or even help out at the club as a grammarian, table topics speaker or timer. These are little nuggets of opportunities that lets you practice your speaking skills outside of giving your speeches.

Toastmasters is not like any other public speaking club. Not only are they serious and professional in supporting you in improving your presentation skills, they also offer you personal development in other ways. I haven’t been a member for a year and I’m already learning lots. If you’re interested in joining our club or one closer to you, get in touch and we’ll point you in the right direction.

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