7 Steps to a World Champion Speech

In August, Mohammed Quatani was crowned the winner of the 2015 Toastmasters World Championship of Publicmohammed2 Speaking with his speech, The Power of Words. Mohammed rose above 30,000 contestants to take this prestigious title in the finals of the world’s largest public speaking contest.

His winning of this award is made even more remarkable when you consider that Mohammed was unable to speak until the age of 6, and suffered through an extreme stuttering problem throughout much of his life. You would never guess any of this when watching his eloquence and poise while on the stage. Mohammed is a true example of how resilience, persistence and insistence at moving beyond your challenges can result in unprecedented success.

But let’s get back to the World Championship speech. If you watch the speech, you’ll notice that’s it’s smooth. It’s funny. It’s conversational. You’ll notice that he imparts a solid message that leaves a huge impact, but without making it overly serious or “heavy.” And it leaves you with a feeling that deep-down, something big just happened.

 

With a notepad in hand, I watched all 7 minutes and 20 seconds of his speech, and noticed the sometimes-subtle, sometimes-obvious things that really helped his speech stand out as a winner (and I admit, I also wanted to see if his speech structure fits in with the framework of my Signature Speech That Sells™ program, which focuses on creating structure, audience engagement and impact to a presentation).

Here are the 7 unique aspects of this speech that made Mohammed a World Champion:

  1. Strong open. The sense of surprise when he almost lit the cigarette, the way that he looked around, paused, and in the near-perfect ‘frustrated’ tone of voice said, “WHAT?” Talk about getting an audience’s attention.
  2. Newlsetter2Humour that takes you by surprise, in the right way. Yes, the cigarette was funny. The way he said “WHAT?” was funny. But after going through his diatribe on the smoking industry and Snickers bars, he took us all surprise when he revealed that he had just made it up. And that was the funniest laugh of all.
  3. Clear message, strong language and tight word choice, from beginning to end. “Words articulated in the right way can change someone’s life.” Boom! And right there, is the whole premise of the speech. One sentence – short, quick and to the point – delivered with full impact, and repeated in different ways throughout the speech.
  4. Movement that reflects the message. Immediately following the premise of the speech (“Words articulated in the right way…”), he goes a little deeper to say “You have the power to bring someone from the slums of life and make a successful person out of them, or destroy someone’s happiness using only your words.” Take a look at his body language as he states these two parts of the sentence. As he talks about bringing someone UP from the slums of life, he raises his right arm….starting low, signifying the slums of life, and then raising it up. And then he moves to his left arm, raises it up and then lowers it down, signifying destroying someone’s happiness. The up/down motion adds huge significance to the message, yet in such a subtle way.
  5. Pausing. He pauses to create transitions from one point to another, as well as to create an impact on certain strong points. They are well-placed, well-used, and well-received by the audience.
  6. NewlsetterStories. There are no good speeches without stories. Period. In this speech, the stories were relevant, moving and/or funny, and highlighted the main points. What more can you ask for?
  7. Strong close. His main message is repeated again at the close of the speech – “Your mouth can spit venom, or mend a broken soul” – ensuring that the audience always stays crystal clear on the main premise of this presentation. And you gotta love the return of the cigarette right at the end, to bring the speech full circle, right back to the beginning.

Super-solid structure, a clear message, premise and key points, relevant stories, humour, movement, pausing, smooth transitions, and a strong open and close. Man, this speech was GOOD. And an excellent example to follow for anyone looking to take their speeches to the next level of greatness.

 

Are you interested in becoming a world-class presenter? Bring structure, focus, audience engagement, increased confidence, and your own unique brilliance to your presentations with the phenomenally-effective Signature Speech That Sells program an unique and easy-to-follow 6-module program designed to help you build your presentation-building skills, your business, and your career through powerful presentations! (and you don’t even need to be preparing to get on stage in front of 2000 people to shine!)

Showing 6 comments
  • Cathy

    The bar has been raised. Very inspiring – watching this opened the possibilities beyond what I think of as a “speech”. My biggest takeaway is that a speech doesn’t need to be chock full of salient points – he had one and spent 7 minutes illustrating it with clarity, emotion and humour. A message that reinforces my own love of words and that I’ll remember for a long time.

    • Suzannah

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Cathy. It really was an outstanding speech.

  • Hazel Owens

    Mohammed Quatani sounds like a great public speaker; I mean, he must be if he won the World Championship of Public Speaking (which I didn’t even know existed)! I remember a certain TEDx talk that featured a man who parodied the general format of such talks, saying things like “Now… I’m pausing for dramatic effect.” That talk used many of the points you listed in this article, and so have most other good talks I’ve listened to. I especially like the stories that many public speakers tell; it gets you invested, often gives a bit of humor, and then teaches you something. I’ll try to use the other tips in my future public speaking opportunities as well.

    • Suzannah Baum

      Thank you for your comments, Hazel. I totally get how a speech ‘formula’ can be parodied, but the fact is that when a speech is structured properly, and when all the other speaking techniques — like pausing, movement, humour, etc. — is done right, then it genuinely elevates the speech.

      The winner, as well as all the contestants of this competition, all work with coaches and mentors to provide feedback, support and guidance, which helps them get their speech to such a superior stage. And the coaches and mentors who are consulted tend to be experts, past winners, and generally very powerful speakers. They know what they’re doing.

      So yes, ANYTHING can be parodied. But when you get to a speech competition of this nature, the speakers have to be exceptional — and pull out every tool and technique to engage the audience and deliver a powerful and memorable message.

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