In August 2015, Mohammed Quatani was crowned the winner of the 2015 Toastmasters World Championship of Public 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 six, 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 seven 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 seven 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. Humour 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. Stories. 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. This speech was GOOD. Actually, it wasn't just good. It was outstanding. It was, at every level, a world champion speech. And an excellent example to follow for anyone looking to take their speeches to the next level of greatness.