After three rounds of competition at club, area, and division contests on top of hours of rehearsal, nine contestants across District 83 gathered at the APA Hotel in Woodbridge, New Jersey on May 4, 2019 for the District 83 International Speech Contest. This contest served as a crucial stepping stone for these speakers in that the winner would proceed to the next round of competition before going on to compete at the international contest held in Denver, CO in August.
Taking home the win for the day was Oscar Ocasio with his speech entitled “Letters.” District 83 Public Relations Manager, Margarita Estrada, DTM, recently interviewed Oscar about his Toastmasters experience, and, more importantly, the inspiration behind his speech.
Why did you join Toastmasters?
Besides the required basic speech course, I took an advanced speech class in college. My professor told me that I should join a Toastmasters club because he thought I would enjoy it as much as I enjoyed his class. I kept it in the back of my mind until 2011, when I joined Toastmasters of Westfield. I joined because I wanted to learn the techniques to become an outstanding speaker.
What have you gained?
Great, supportive friends; improved leadership skills; improved writing skills; the desire to help others; and the ability to apply, with confidence, all of the speaking skills I have learned so far.
You have won several Humorous Speech titles, what made you decide to compete for the International Speech title?
I enjoy the entertaining aspect of public speaking. It helps me connect with the audience and it helps the audience retain my message. I didn’t want to compete this year, but Amrita Gosh, who was Club Contest Chair, punched, kicked and bit me into competing. She’s a tough lady! I wasn’t prepared to compete, and I wanted to compete next year. But, you have to take it when it comes. So, I did. My favorite quote is: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get.”
How long did it take you to craft your speech?
I couldn’t come up with a speech. The morning of the Club contest I didn’t have a speech. Amrita asked me for the title of my speech, and I told her I didn’t even know what to speak about, much less have a title. Then, I thought about what challenges I have had, and how I could piece them together. All of the challenges had a letter related to them. Within 5 minutes of Amrita’s text, I texted her again with the title, Letters. The letters serve to shed light on the challenge, and as the transitions for the speech. With the input of many of my Toastmaster friends I was able to improve the speech after each level of competition. It was a process to get it the content and delivery at the necessary level to compete at the District and beyond.
Now that you have won the District Title for international speech, how do you feel?
It feels good to have met that goal. However, like I say in my speech, “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
This year there was added pressure at the District level because the Region contest was added, which is being held using the video recordings of the 6 District winners within each Region. Therefore, the delivery at the District had to be good enough to win both contests. I was told by friends and family who saw the Division and District contests that my delivery at the District level showed great improvement. The fact that it improved makes me feel even better about winning District, because it means I have a good chance of winning the Regional, and earn the opportunity to compete at the semi-finals and finals in Colorado.
How has this experience changed you?
It has made me reach out to others for help. It allowed me to recognize that no one does it alone, and that if you allow others to help you, you will be that more richer for using their experience and know-how. I also learned how fortunate I am to have friends that sincerely want to help me achieve my goals. No matter what happens next on this journey, I’m already richer because of those friends and what they gave me.
Any advice for future contestants?
When you sit down to write, write for your audience. What will you say that will motivate, inspire or move them? Think outside the box. Take risks. Look to others for help and guidance. And, like I shared in my speech, have balance to enjoy the journey as much as the rewards.