SOUTHFIELD, United States - Imagine your colleague just qualified for the Olympics! That is quite the feeling the members of the four Ford Toastmasters clubs are having upon finding out that Stephanie Coleman (iTalk Toastmasters) won the District 28 Toastmasters International Speech contest on May 7, 2011 at the Westin Hotel in Southfield, Mich. Only in this case, it is the Olympics of public speaking which will be held by Toastmasters International in August at Bally's in Las Vegas.
The victory was that much sweeter for the Ford clubs since a second member, Larry Castleberry placed third in the same contest. Considering that the District covers parts of S.E Michigan, N.W Ohio and S.W. Ontario with over 4,500 paid members and 125 clubs, the results shatter the myth that when it comes to communicating with an audience engineers don't exactly stack up to the competition.
In order to qualify for the nine spots at the District contest (in itself a significant achievement) both Coleman and Castleberry had to win the club, area and division contests where the pool of speakers became increasingly refined. Under normal circumstances only one member from the Ford clubs would have advanced to the finals, but due to a scheduling conflict Coleman participated through a club in a different division. Coleman's achievement is significant because she also won the District Speech Evaluation contest held a day earlier.
Coleman's speech titled "After the Splat" resonated with the audience as well as the judges as she shared her own personal stories about recovering from the curve balls that life throws at you. In one telling moment, she took a soft clay sculpture that represented her well laid plans and flung it on the floor to drive home the "Splat" moment and then went on to talk about her road to recovery and ended with an inspirational message to the audience that there is always a way if we only look hard enough. Castleberry's speech titled "Focus" provided a three step formula to achieve one's goals without losing focus.
Coleman now advances to the regional semi-finals at the International Convention in Las Vegas where participants from 113 countries will vie for a shot at becoming the World Champion of Public Speaking.
When asked about her accomplishment Coleman said "It is still sinking in that I am 1 of 81 people left in this competition. I am very thankful to all my Toastmaster friends for all of their feedback and input not only on this speech but through the past 6 years I have been a Toastmaster. I am very excited to meet people from around the world, learn as much as I can and put in all my effort to represent Ford well in Vegas." As for her experience at the ITalk Toastmaster club she stated "Toastmasters taught me the most effective way to organize my thoughts, and the best manner to communicate them. I enjoy participating and the benefits I receive are immeasurable"
"The Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking is an event like no other. It’s the Olympics of oratory – a competition that produces the top speakers from all over the world. Contestants advance to the finals after a year-long process of elimination through club, area and district speech competitions. The contest culminates at the four-day International Convention, held in August. Nine semifinals will be held on Thursday, Aug. 18 and Convention. Winners of the nine semifinals will compete in the World Championship of Public Speaking on Saturday afternoon. The five- to seven-minute speeches are judged on content, organization, body language and style," according to the Toastmaster International website.
About Toastmasters and the Ford Clubs
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. The organization currently has more than 260,000 members in over 12,500 clubs in 113 countries. Since its founding in October 1924, the organization has helped more than 4 million men and women give presentations with poise and confidence. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit www.toastmasters.org.
"What Ford Motor Company needs are very good engineers, who can communicate," noted former Ford president and chief operating officer Nick Scheele.
Ford has five Toastmaster clubs where Ford employees can practice not only communication skills in front of an audience, but also leadership skills in an inclusive environment.
Contact information for Ford clubs:
Credible Communicators – Contact Sue Telford (stelford) or John Chausse (jchausse)
Ford Toastmasters - https://www.tc2.ford.com/ts/FERA/Toastmasters/default.aspx
ITalk Toastmasters – Contact Venkata Maramraju (vmaramr1) or Stephanie Coleman (scolem13)
RCB Toastmasters – Contact Karen Stornant (kstornan)
Ford Chennai Toastmasters – Contact N. Sivasankaran (nsivasa1)