Mike Carr, who bested 30,000 participants to win the world’s largest speech contest, has advice on how anyone can improve as a public speaker.

With an inspiring speech titled, “The Librarian & Mrs. Montgomery,” Carr, a 53-year-old financial analyst from Austin, Texas, won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking in August of 2020.

“Great communicators make each individual in their presence feel as if the speaker is talking only to them,” says Carr.

Here are five ways Carr says communicators accomplish that:

Embrace silence. “Don’t be afraid of silence. Pauses strategically placed in a speech can build humor, underscore an important point, and invite the audience into the conversation. Pauses should be longer that you think.”

Practice is your friend. “Comfort in front of people is the new great oratory skill. Practice builds comfort.”

Stories, stories, stories. “Your audience will not remember your amazing point unless you put it in a story. Don’t tell us; give us an example.”

Human brains love surprises. “Surprise your audience with something happy and they laugh. Surprise them with something emotional, and they will cry. Surprise them with your authentic transparency, and they will love you.”

Video your speech. “Then watch it with the sound turned off. If the visual bores you, how do you think your audience will feel about it?” Carr notes that 65% of the population are visual learners. “If the people you are speaking to are entertained while receiving great information using the tips above, you can change a life.”

Carr, along with seven other final contestants, reached the championship level after several eliminating rounds that began more than six months ago with 30,000 participants from 145 countries. Watch Carr’s winning speech here.

His speech entertained the more than 23,000 people from around the world who attended the contest virtually due to COVID-19. This marked the first time Toastmasters has held a virtual convention in the 95-year history of the organization.

“There are so many people letting their fear of the results keep them from releasing their magic into the world, and I wanted to tell that population that you can decide that the victory has nothing to do with the results,” he said. “You can decide that the victory can be just letting your magic out. My hope is that as more people do that the world becomes a better place.”

Carr joined Toastmasters 25 years ago to reduce his use of filler words and to help him to better organize his thoughts before speaking. Toastmasters International is a worldwide nonprofit educational. The organization’s membership exceeds 364,000 in more than 16,200 clubs in 145 countries.



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