Speechless – Tell Stories that Change the World

Chapter 08: So you want to compete? World Championship of Public Speaking

July 26, 2023 Maryam Pasha & Simon Bucknall Season 1 Episode 15
Chapter 08: So you want to compete? World Championship of Public Speaking
Speechless – Tell Stories that Change the World
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Speechless – Tell Stories that Change the World
Chapter 08: So you want to compete? World Championship of Public Speaking
Jul 26, 2023 Season 1 Episode 15
Maryam Pasha & Simon Bucknall

If you had only 7 minutes to speak to the world, what would you say? That’s the brief for Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. 30,000 contestants. 1 overall winner.  Contest speaking is one of the fastest, most effective paths to improvement as a speaker. But what are the keys to success? What are the Do’s and Don’ts? Is it all about just trying to impress the judges? And how do you pack maximum impact when you only have 7 minutes? In this episode, Simon Bucknall shares with co-host Maryam Pasha some of the lessons he learnt en route to placing 2nd in the World Final of the 2017 Championship…

Show Notes Transcript

If you had only 7 minutes to speak to the world, what would you say? That’s the brief for Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. 30,000 contestants. 1 overall winner.  Contest speaking is one of the fastest, most effective paths to improvement as a speaker. But what are the keys to success? What are the Do’s and Don’ts? Is it all about just trying to impress the judges? And how do you pack maximum impact when you only have 7 minutes? In this episode, Simon Bucknall shares with co-host Maryam Pasha some of the lessons he learnt en route to placing 2nd in the World Final of the 2017 Championship…

Simon Bucknall  0:03  
You're listening to speechless the new podcast from storytelling experts, Maryam Pasha and Simon Bucknall, hit follow now to learn how to tell stories that change the world.

Maryam Pasha  0:18  
Now, if you have been listening to this podcast, or if you go back and skip around on the episodes, you will have heard Simon mentioned some once or twice about the World Championship of public speaking now, if like me, you'd have never heard of that until you met Simon.

You've been listening to speechless. The podcast from storytelling experts, Maryam Pasha and Simon Bucknall. Hit fallen out to keep learning how to tell stories that change the world. If you enjoyed it, please leave us a rating and review. Until next time, speak less say more.

We thought it'd be nice to explore some because not only is it extremely cool, and super interesting, trust me on this, we'll get into it. There's also some really great lessons around telling stories that can change the world from Simon's experience of going to and, you know, being extremely successful at the World Championship of public speaking. So, Simon, I am very excited in this episode, because I get to ask you now a bunch of questions. So let's get started. And let me start right at the beginning. What is this thing?

Simon Bucknall  1:11  
Well, it's a bit odd, is the short answer, right? It's not the most obvious thing in the world to do. Because for most people, the idea of standing up and speaking in public for no money in your spare time, competitively seven minutes, any topic is not their idea of having a laugh. So it's it's quite unusual and fabulous for those reasons. Oh, well, absolutely. It's a sign of torture. Yeah. So but But 30,000 People typically enter the competition each year. It's a knockout competition. And it's it's prepared. It's seven minutes, any topic as I said, and the speaker chooses the topic. So there are other competitions run by Toastmasters International, who host and Run the World Championship, around impromptu speaking and humorous speaking, and so on, where you don't always necessarily have a choice. But for the for the for the world championship, you do you choose the topic. And actually, topic selection is an important part of the preparation. Because you have a completely open field. And it's a knockout, there are, typically there's a sixth round. So it starts at club level, which, wherever you're based in the world, and it's it's, it's a competition in English, although it's absolutely global, and in recent years has been won by a number of speakers for whom English is not their first language. You know, it's been won by, by a speaker from Bulgaria, from Saudi Arabia, from Sri Lanka, and so on. So so it's not as if it's only and but it starts at club level, which might be in a community centre and a function room in a pub. And that's round one. And the winner from that contest goes to round two, and so on. And you end up in a World Final of 10 speakers in front of a crowd of two and a half. 1000 People live streamed around the world and it's so it's quite a still no pressure. No pressure. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It's just a relaxed walk in the park.

Maryam Pasha  2:50  
Okay, well, we'll Okay, so thank you for that. Let me then dive into, like, let's start what's choiceless? So

Simon Bucknall  2:57  
Toastmasters is nothing to do with big men and red jackets at weddings. That's the guild of Toastmasters. I think many people especially in the UK think, Oh, isn't it people who are just doing toasts at weddings

Maryam Pasha  3:05  
are they're like perfect people who go around and read jackets giving tours to winning a guild guild, a

Simon Bucknall  3:09  
Toastmasters? They're absolutely Ah, yes. Which is completely that's a whole different and well beyond, out of scope in terms of my expertise. Toastmasters International is, is a voluntary organisation. It's a global network of public speaking clubs. And the purpose of the organisation is to support it originally started, I think, in California in the 1920s, and young, in YMCA and working men's clubs, to help provide people who might not otherwise have gained the skills of speaking in public greater confidence and impact and so on. And it's and it's cascaded all over the world, over the last century, 100 years, so yeah, it's so huge. There's 1000s and 1000s of clubs all over the world and the growth in the especially in recent years, I joined in January 2004. Okay, and at that time, in London, for example, which were homeless. There were I'm gonna guess maybe 20 clubs, 25 clubs, that does Now there must be now well over 100 and it's grown hugely across Europe. It's grown massively. And the growth in Asia has been enormous, particularly for people looking to develop their skills and Business English and so on. So it's really grown as a as an organisation. So I joined in January 2004 Is my gym membership. For for speaking really, because I had a nightmare experience. In my first job. I thought, I've got to improve there must be a way and I came across Toastmasters and I joined a club for my own personal development, and discovered early on that this competition existed. I just knew it as the International speech contest. All I knew was that there was this club contest coming up and I remember going and seeing I went to the club contest as an audience member, it would have been probably be held in March April 2004. Maybe when I watched the the first speaker came on and spoke without notes was inspiring if it Wow, that's amazing for the winds, but without notes. Wow, that's brilliant. And the next speaker came up and spoke without notes. And they were also very, very good. I thought, wow, that person is going to my astonishment, every speaker was not only inspiring But speaking without notes, really to an audience it was, it blew my mind. So I took an interest. And I thought, Well, I wasn't even eligible to compete. But But that first year, I thought, well, I'll go and have a look at round two. This is quite interesting. I've never, you know. Wow. So I went along to Limerick. First time I've been to Ireland, very exciting arrived, yellow b&b down the road from the hotel went into the contest saw the contest. And it really was astonishing. It was it was one of those moments which just, it was, it was actually a real, in a sense, life changing moment. So if we're speaking point of view, because I sat there in the audience and watched eight speakers, each speaking for seven minutes on a topic of their choice. No, there wasn't a celebrity insights, there wasn't some kind of extraordinary CV insight, it was just eight people sharing experiences, telling stories, making points, based on their experienced with the intention of inspiring in some way a general audience will be it, we all had an interest in public speaking. And I thought, wow, I had no idea that it was possible to speak with that level of skill and impact from stage I thought that it was the domain of people who had scaled Everest without breathing or had been the first you know, human to visit Saturn or something you want. I mean, there'll been a prime minister or run a business with a gazillion

Maryam Pasha  6:18  
people 1.001% of people who've done something

Simon Bucknall  6:21  
exactly. And yet, no, this is eight people who, by their own merit have come up through the rounds. And we're competing to get to America for the world's semis. And it was hugely inspiring for me, I came back at wow, wouldn't it be amazing to enter the competition one day, without any particular views about how far I might get. And so that's what inspired me to enter, which I did a couple of years later.

Maryam Pasha  6:42  
So I think there's a lesson here that is interesting around that isn't necessarily for this podcast, but just listening to you just really comes to for the mind, which is this idea of just throwing yourself into something without necessarily knowing where it's going to take you take us through that process. Right. So you're at club level, you're in London, what do you do you do know immediately, like when you sit in the audience and thinking I don't want to talk about or how did that happen?

Simon Bucknall  7:08  
October, November time is the time of remembrance here in the UK and in some number of other countries around the world, with the anniversary commemoration of the end of the First World War. And in 2005. Around that time, the last few remaining veterans and civilians from the First World War were passing away. And so there was a lot happening amongst the journalists and so on to interview these last few remaining individuals to learn about to capture their experiences of the conflict and or life outside the conflict from 1914 1918. And I remember by chance on local news, catching an interview between two soldiers, a British and a German soldier who had fought opposite one another at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. And they'd never met before. Until this, this, this news interview at like age to pattern 104 I mean, you know, extraordinary these two characters. And I can remember I forget which one it was, whether it was the German soldier or the or the Tommy, who said, people say, there's there's glory and war, but trust me, there's no glory in war, all my friends are dead. And, and we've got to understand each other better as people, as countries as civilizations, or else, what happened to us is going to keep happening again. And again. I called it the war to end all wars. No, it wasn't, yeah. And I remember being deeply affected by it. But at the same time, afterwards, I reflected on it. I'm interested in history and so on. And I have grandparents who had been obviously who had experienced the grandpa's great grandparents who would expect experience that both World War One and World War Two, but I have not forcing a war and I found saying this has affected me deeply. Why is that I have not fought in a war. And yet there's something about what this veteran is saying that is effective. And there's something about this, this importance of, of needing to understand each other better, that point about empathy. And I dug into it my own mind is is so important. It's when you have something that catches your attention in everyday life, it can happen and I found myself digging into and digging, I think about what is it? What is it what is this but understanding each of that, that for some reason, that idea? A commitment to that resonates. And so then I started thinking, right? Well, that's what's underpinning what makes this thing meaningful to me. But how can I communicate that in a way that is therefore personal and true to my own experience? Now I've not fought in a war thankfully, what experience have I got that proves to me that that need to understand each other is important, and as I thought about it to do with all sorts of different things, and I came to a conclusion actually, that the experience that really best expressed that was that of a boy from school that I knew when I was eight, nine years old, who started off frankly, in my eyes as a bully, a boy that I hated and we really did not like each other But we became very good friends and the story of that understanding one another better in circumstances that for me were quite dramatic at the time. I thought maybe that's a story I could tell. And so that was the genesis of the speech that I gave in the club. And my mentor said, Simon, that's a powerful speech, you should put that into the context.

Maryam Pasha  10:20  
Right? Okay. Let me backtrack for a minute. No, because I think there's something you just said. And, you know, I wonder if people listening might have the same feeling as How did you? So you know, World War One, the song, there's a big things, right, like that moment of listening to those two soldiers have this conversation. I think it's easy to feel like, oh, I don't have anything in my life. That compares to the gravity of that. How did you? Did you have that voice in your head? How did you settle on something that was your world when you were a child, right? Like, when you're a kid, your world is like, you know, that's everything if you have to experience a bully, and your school, and then all the things you want to speak about, but I think we minimise those things as we get older. How did you have that voice in your head that said, this isn't? This isn't big enough, like I don't have,

Simon Bucknall  11:14  
I was certainly apprehensive about whether what I was going to bring to the table with my own life experience in the speech would be impactful. I was astonished by the impact that it had. And I made no mistake, I think that knowing that I was in a supportive club environment, with a mentor, whom I absolutely respected, and who was supportive of me was very, very important. Although the input that my mentor gave me was, was even more significant after I'd done the club speech then in preparing for the competition, but so I think the environments in which i i, it was the first time I think that I was truly vulnerable in front of an audience. And vulnerability, of course, is a topic that we've that elsewhere, features in the, in this, this podcast season. So So I felt, I certainly felt apprehensive. I thought, I don't quite know how this is going to play out. But what I found was that big, here's the thing, I hate what what what it's so easy to lose sight of is the conviction that you bring from personal experience, people consistently underestimate the true value of their own personal experience time. And again, we think our because our own personal experience is invisible to us. You know, we take it for granted that we've had it, but But it allows you to speak with a conviction and authority, a depth that quite unlike a third party experience, of course, it's not to say you can't tell stories and other people's experiences. Of course you can. But it's so easy to belittle someone's own life. And you're right. I mean, I thought Why do soldiers fighting at the song, me aged eight at a boarding school getting a letter telling me my parents are going to separate. And that being a trigger for me becoming good friends, I mean, this turned out this letter was made up as a horrendous made up letter. But but because the bully, his parents had separated and so he understood the pain I was going through, you know, but you got to try it. That's that's where there's a there's a leap of faith involved in trying it out and having faith that all you can do is bring it bring your own story and experience and have faith that will that will carry credibility. Yeah, in the minds of a listener.

Maryam Pasha  13:16  
Yeah, I think that's such an important lesson at this point in your journey, which is this idea that we we undervalue our own human experience. And so I think the ability to hone in on those moments of change, like being self aware, and knowing something happened here, something changed. But also being able to reflect back on your own experiences and pull those out, and have the conviction to still try bring them in the world, I think is a real skill to hone.

Simon Bucknall  13:46  
And it's yeah, it's important also to realise that the story, the experience that you bring is, is not, it's not an end in itself. You know, the story, the experience that we bring is, it can engage people, of course, and for all sorts of reasons emotionally and visually, and so on, because we paint so many pictures when we relate to stories. But But, but the story is there to serve a purpose, which ultimately from a speechmaking point of view is to help to engage people and to embed a meaningful message and ultimately, positive change for the audience.

Maryam Pasha  14:18  
Okay, let's, let's continue down this path, right? So you've you've given this, this talk at club level will happen.

Simon Bucknall  14:26  
So it was the first time I've taken a speech, given it to a live audience and then reworked it and improved at house had to shorten it, and then delivered it again. And I thought I realised Wow, that was actually a lot better than the first version. That's interesting. And that proved to be one of the most significant lessons that I took from the journey then. So with the contest who I found I won the club contest and so then went to what was the area final so it was the top four speakers from four or five different clubs. And then I Oh, crap one again, all right into the into the London final, I think by this stage, it starts to get serious because it is then the top five or six speakers across the whole of London which in those days there was 25 ish clubs or so when I go in those in that year, the winner would then be off to Ireland again to Malinga and Ireland. And by round three, as you can imagine, you've now got speakers who have, you've got an audience of maybe 100 or so people, and you've got speakers who have already been through two rounds. And so yeah, yeah, you start to think Oh, wow, okay, this is this is actually this is becoming a bit more non trivial. Yeah. And then and it went again. And so I was in then in Milan, gar in Ireland, for the Britain and Ireland final in effect, I was a complete unknown, except for the few club members that came to support me in that which are forever remain thankful.

Maryam Pasha  15:42  
Did you enjoy it?

Simon Bucknall  15:44  
I really did. Actually, I really did. It was exciting. It was compelling. It was and remember it, I remember you going back to my inspiration for joining from the first place, I had seen just perfectly ordinary people do fantastic stuff on stage for the benefit of an audience, I thought. And there's something about that, which I thought was just really exciting that as a, as an idea and as an opportunity and as a skill set to develop. So you bet. I mean, I was in my day job at the time, I was working in a brands agency looking at consumer brand strategy and consumer innovation projects. But alongside that I was going on this journey through the contest. And yeah, it's very exciting. And I just thought, well, how far can how far can I go with this?

Maryam Pasha  16:26  
At any point? Did you feel that nervousness that people talk about when they talk about public speaking, you know, this just, I just I'm just curious, because I feel like you joined this club to get better at something, which means that you weren't just like, immediately fantastic at it. Did you find that by working out and doing it again? And again, you were working through the nerves as well.

Simon Bucknall  16:47  
Yeah, I think that the stage time is massive, massive, massive, massive so first of all, I'd been a member of the club for a couple of years. And so the original speech that was the became the contest speech was my speech project. 10. So I'd worked through 10 prepared speeches, and I've done other various roles in the club as well like timekeeper and evaluate from various things. So I'd had quite a bit of stage time by that point. I had overcome the barrier of speaking without notes for the first time with my second or third speech project in club a year or two before which is a really big moment I had boy I mean, I that felt like a high wire act Blimey, to speak without notes for seven minutes to an audience is unthinkable. I had my you know, the lectins are one side with my emergency notes in case they were needed. So I've overcome that hurdle. So as a few stages on but but what I hadn't had the experience of was taking a speech and reworking it and RE and RE delivering it to an audience. So just going over a number of drafts in rehearsal is not the same as actually with a live audience. Now, by the time I went to Malinga for the Britain and Ireland final, I went there thinking, wow, this is amazing. I didn't I didn't really think I would actually win and go to Washington for the world. Semi you did. That's what happened. Yes, but I really didn't go expecting that. But by that point, for the first time in my life, I had a speech which I had had. So this is in May. So by now I've been living with a speech for over six months. The story. So I had really internalised it, I worked through some of the emotional challenges my parents, because it was the first time they would hear it. And it involved the story and the speech involved them. So that was really important to ensure I could stay on the right line of the vulnerability in the motion. So So I went to Malinga, I think, yeah, excited because I knew my I felt like I really knew the speech. I felt good about the speech, I felt good about what it stood for. But in that final in front of however many hundreds of people are struggling this very clearly, I spoke about it many times since about a minute and I had a complete blank, total blank but a minute into the speech total blank hadn't hadn't before in that place. That scripted speeches typically so and it's one of the challenges of scripted speeches is if you lose your way, then you've got to get back on the rails again, that's more challenging than if you're speaking more freely. But I can remember I had this complete mind blank. I stood there for a moment. And of course, what I wanted to do was curse and go digging into my pocket for the notes. Thankfully, I had enough input and advice and good support for mentors to know that what I needed to do was take a moment pause, neutral stance, just neutralise the stance, you know, just and then it still wasn't coming back. So I just I just took a few steps. I just walked across the stage for a few seconds, you know, five or six steps across the stage. And it was about five, maybe six seconds of silence. That's a long time to be silent in front of people or whatever. Ah, shucks but then it did come back to me the movement helped to break it which is a great tip of the mind does go blank movement can help to break that. I thought what a shame that I sat down Ah, shucks, you know, I got through the speech, but maybe it didn't quite anyway won the contest and afterwards, number of people came up and said, loved the use of pauses.

Maryam Pasha  19:49  
Oh, fantastic. I love that. You know what I I'm going to tell you. I think this is so much about not telegraphing on your feet. I think the thing that people really struggle with is the panic look in the eyes. Yes, the short intake of breath, all of that other stuff that Telegraph's it, yes, if you can cut that, then it looks perfect.

Simon Bucknall  20:13  
Which is why I think movement is that's so so true. That is real insight. Absolutely right. And that's why I think that's why movement can help because it gives you something physically to do. And if you're sitting around a table, then movement counsellor just pushing a chair back a bit or reaching for a glass of water or, or just looking in a different direction. If you're if you're standing and speaking, of course, you can actually walk but it does actually physically does reduce the adrenaline.

Maryam Pasha  20:34  
Yeah. And helps with that. And you're breathing when you're walking, which also helps.

Simon Bucknall  20:37  
That's what Yes, absolutely. And and it was a helpful reminder for me that the experience your experience, as the speaker is not the same, of course, it's the experience of the audience or the speaker. Oh, I haven't said this every second. It's just a great chance to actually process. Thank you. Thank you.

Maryam Pasha  20:56  
You. The other thing, I think, is that no one else knows. That's the other thing I take away from that which I do tell TEDx speakers that we work with is only you and I know what it's supposed to be. Yeah, that's absolutely right. It's not like you're you're doing Shakespeare at the globe. And everyone's like, you know, you're like saying, Oh, no, you're Bon Jovi era was it for Jovi last night, you know, and everyone knows every lyric. And if you forget it, it's it's only you, you and I know.

Simon Bucknall  21:24  
I remember I remember at school doing it, we did the Merchant of Venice, as traditional, full blown traditional version. And I think it was the girl in my year playing Porsche. I still remember, it was this particular spot, which you keep having a blank and she would feel she had to improvise and she would throw in. Okay, and the director would cut it. No, you can't say okay, in Shakespeare, just pause, it's fine.

Maryam Pasha  21:49  
Love it. Okay. So. So I am going to say, okay, because we're not doing Shakespeare, you've won. You've gone to Washington. What happens?

Simon Bucknall  21:59  
So I went to Washington to the to the world semifinals. Yeah, to give a different speech, I gave up put a new speech together. This is in the August, again, very much personal speech, one where there's real vulnerability to big emotional risk with it, and did not get through then to the World Final. And I look back I think, wasn't ready. But But But actually, the the, obviously, it was on one level disappointing not to get into the final would have been great to have done that, especially since I had friends. And my parents were flown out to come and support me, I thought, Oh, shucks, nevermind. But, but actually, it was really bad as a learning experience, it was absolutely tremendous. Because I came back a different, I came back a different speaker, for sure. Because I had to now experience what it inspired me two years before, which was as a non celebrity to speak in a high profile environment, on person experience with the intention of a message that is relevant, and that one hopes meaningful, useful, empowering, in some way for a general audience. And that's a wonderful privilege. And I came back thinking, Gosh, it really is true, this this is this is doable. And and the experience of taking such person experiences through the contest that year, was, has been proven formative for me and what I've done ever since because I came back thinking, well, if I can do that, anything's possible. And so yeah, and there's a number of lessons also from the learnings from the contest both that year and then the following year, I entered again, and went all the way through to Phoenix and just Mr. Kane second in the semi final the following year. But there's so many lessons from those experiences which have stuck with with me, which continue to influence my work to this day.

Maryam Pasha  23:35  
I want to ask you about those. But I want to just pause on this moment of how when it comes to speaking and storytelling. I want to question this idea of what it means to like, even win, because it feels like to me, you know, you didn't win. But it was so meaningful. Oh, I would like come to it. Is it what it reminds me of is how sometimes we feel so compelled to like compare ourselves to others. But actually what it needs to be as a self comparison to your own?

Simon Bucknall  24:06  
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And speaking as a non contact sport, you know, it's at least in my mind. So yeah, but it really is. And this whole thing about people get caught up with speech contest about whether one's won or not. And it's easy to say this, but it's true that it's not about the trophy. It's about the growth. It's about the learning. It's about the experience, you gain. You know, too many people in this country that know me through the contest, they perceive me as someone who has won contests. Well, yeah, although, arguably 30,000 people enter the world championship each year, there's only one winner. That's one way of looking at it. Whoever wins the world finally got 29,900 Losers. Nonsense. I mean, it's just just not true. You know, it's the benefit one gains from the journey the learning is extraordinary. And in the same way that career wise and as a mentor of mine, Peter Thompson describes income or the money one receives as well as consultants or speaker a coach describes money or the fee as Silent applause for a job well done. It's not the reason for doing it. And I think the same is true with contest speaking, the reason for doing it is to challenge yourself to put yourself out there to dig deep to, to put yourself in situations where you really push yourself and to and to grow as a speaker. It's not an end in itself. And that's what makes it I think, really compelling.

Maryam Pasha  25:21  
I think your motivation for doing something like this also influences so much what you take away from it, if you are motivated by the money or the status or those things which may or may not come. I think you're going to look at it differently. But if what you mentioned earlier, I think is really important about re centering on as to what inspired you the first time you sat in the audience and wanting to create that experience for someone else? Yes,

Simon Bucknall  25:47  
yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And it was what inspired me to re enter the contest in 2017, when I did make it to the World Final came second in the world final which was fantastic. And I was thrilled the first time, right? Yeah, that was back in 2006. In Washington was the first year then we entered again went through to the to the to Phoenix, and that was in 2007 the second time. And then I entered a few times over the next few years, but didn't make the semi so I got and in fact, if I think back in 22,008/3 year, I entered having twice got to the world semis. I then competed at club level the following year, and I came second at club level, second out of two. You know, and so a whole sorts of different kind of concrete results in the contest over different years. Since some years I've entered sometimes not. But I reentered after a few days out in 2017. Quite a long time later. Yeah, I mean, I had done a few I had been involved a number of times in the intervening years, but I've been away from it for certainly a good I should think, three or four years at least, I think before 2017, I decided to reenter. And it was not because I wanted it from a kind of, you know, professional speaker marketing point of view, I thought, right, it will challenge me to develop some new content, put some new stuff together, which I did for the speech, it took me right the way through when the semi got into the World Final. And that speech that got me through the rounds in 2017, contained a story which I use the following year, of course, as you will know, at TEDx London, about Steve o the boy who was inspiring in, in a school environment, public speaking. So actually, one of the stories in a TEDx talk, which was about the need for public speaking to be taught in schools, was originally conceived and put together as a contest speech the year before. Yeah, I think well, that's a great outcome for for a speech contest. It's been used as a not an end in itself, but a means to developing either experience or content that we'll use elsewhere.

Maryam Pasha  27:38  
Do you think you'll do it again?

Simon Bucknall  27:40  
I think there's a good chance actually, I don't know when but i Yes, I think it'd be fun to do. Yeah, it would be it's because it's just a it's a, it's, it's a very, very stimulating challenge. If, especially if you're developing new content at the beginning of the process. So if you said to me, you know, at some point in the next year or two, how about having putting something new together for a contest? Yeah, that'd be great fun.

Maryam Pasha  28:04  
So reflects that own journey that you're taking as a person, and the things that you've learned, and it gives you a chance to kind of pause and think about

Simon Bucknall  28:12  
Yeah, and some people say, Oh, but yeah, wouldn't it be a bit odd, you know, career to be judged in a contest? Having had all that success in previous years? Would you want to kind of isn't a bit, would you want that Jeopardy? Or put yourself? I think, seriously, I'm not going to define myself identity by not I mean, this goes back to the motivation is about what the motivation is, if it's about only want to enter, if I think I can win. It sounds a bit odd to me. I don't get that. So yeah, I think it's a no, and I think, for me, that's been my laboratory over the years. And it's so valuable if you can identify an environment which is challenging, which, which has an element of safety to it, where you can actually try stuff out rework stuff, and that might involve going and speaking at schools, it might involve putting a hand up to actually present when you don't have to or offering to go on a panel or whatever it is, finding opportunities in which you can get stage time. For me the context was part of a part of my journey and a very important catalyst for me doing what I now do professionally. But if you find those kinds of environments, then it just reaps the most wonderful dividends in all sorts of ways.

Maryam Pasha  29:18  
You must get asked a lot by people who want to be professional public speakers for advice. Do you have like a piece of advice for anyone listening who thinks I want to I want to speak professionally, I want that to be the thing that I do, because that has always seemed really hard to me as a goal. And so I'm curious to know, having done something like this that is competitive and global. You know, what you've maybe seen with fellow contestants what your experience has been? what advice you give to people?

Simon Bucknall  29:51  
Yeah, well, there's there's lots of elements to that. But I think a couple of things I'd say the first is that you Just because once developed a really impactful and successful speech, whether it's in a contest or elsewhere does not automatically convert into professional success, right? It's true that success in the contest can be a nice thing from from a marketing point of view. It's nice drawing to the credibility and so on. But you certainly don't get rebooked as a result of contest success. You know, it comes down to the value provide professionally when you're in when you're in that environment, whether it's giving a talk or a workshop or masterclass or whatever. So just having good content. And I think as any professional speaker, I think we'd be the first to admit, success professionally is absolutely about the marketing, the sales, the business skills that you need around that.

Maryam Pasha  30:39  
And I guess also, like, if you're entering these competitions just to win, you're maybe not focusing on all the skills you develop along the way. But it feels like a professional. Yeah, you have to apply those skills over and over and over again. Yes.

Simon Bucknall  30:51  
And very often the the actual content and the speeches, the substance in creating the speeches in a contest environment, are not necessarily transferable outside.

Maryam Pasha  31:00  
Last question, for people listening to this podcast, who wants to tell stories that can change the world? What advice lessons can you draw from this experience that can help people who want to, you know, have that impact?

Simon Bucknall  31:18  
I'd say, clarity of message is absolutely fundamental. One of the key lessons I learned from contest speaking, has been that the artificial format of the contest seven minutes only topic seven minutes enough time to really properly land one point, try and land multiple points, don't get missed one message, make one thing stick. And actually, when I look at and even now, as I think about the speeches that have really stood out, for me, whether in the context or elsewhere, is because there's been one standout moment or a message that absolutely couldn't. So the singularity of that absolutely key and most workplace presentations contain gazillions of points and deciding Oh, my goodness me where I was. And I think the second thing I'd say that's profoundly relevant for me, at least from the for the world championship experience is to revisit personal experience, there is gold there, but like gold in the real world isn't just lying around, you have to be dug, for access, refined, and so on. It's not to say that it's that effective Speeches, speeches have to be exclusively illustrated through personal experience, but at least laced with personal experience because of the credibility that that brings, because it's distinctive, it differentiates because no one has lived your own exact life experience. And so the the championship prompted me in a way it forced me to really revisit and reevaluate audit if you like, my personal experience in a way that I have never done never done prior to that stage. And and I was stunned to discover how many hidden gems there are. Not just for speeches, but in all sorts of other environments in in my working life. And that will be true for anyone listening to this podcast. There are hidden gems there, but they will need to be dug for, but they're there.

Maryam Pasha  33:03  
Thank you so much, Simon for sharing this journey with us. I feel like there's so much wisdom from it. And I actually can't wait to you during the competition again.