2007 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking Vikas Ghingran Shares His Insights

I interviewed Vikas Jhingran on January 25, 2013 and asked him just one question: “What are your best pieces of advice on how to win the Toastmasters’ World Championship of Public Speaking?”

Check out Vikas’s insights on leadership at http://www.vikasjhingran.com/blogs/.  In addition, stay tuned for the 2013 release of his first book: “Emote: Using Emotions to Make Your Message Memorable.”


Tip #1:  Planning trumps execution

“Anytime I give out advice on how to win the world championship, one of the first things I say is that in most cases the championship is won long before the actual event. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand that.”

“My background is in engineering and project management and we do these huge projects in the oil and gas sector. If you ever go to a project management training course, the first thing you will learn is that the best place to influence the outcome of a project is right at the beginning. When you carefully plan your path upfront, the value that you get out at the end is far better than if you rely on brute-force execution.”

“How that translates to speaking is that you have to spend a lot of time figuring out what you’re going to talk about.  Once you’re in the execution phase, you can only influence the end result so much.  In other words, you have to start with something that can win. If you start with something that doesn’t have that kind of potential, you might do a fantastic job in delivering that speech, but it’s not going to win the competition.”

“Topic selection is deeply introspective. You really have to sit down and figure out something that moves you… that matters to you. It’s not, ‘Hey, this topic will win, so let me speak on it.’ It’s more about where you really come from. What is something that stirs your strongest emotions?  Until you are in that place, you cannot connect with your audience.  With that level of depth, you can make a lot of mistakes in delivery and still win.  If a judge is crying at the end of your speech, then do you really think he’s going to mark you down for mispronouncing a word?”

“Speeches are about the transfer of emotions. If you’re not able to manage that, then the audience is not going to have a very good experience. The only time I think you’ve gone too far is when you are not in control of the emotions that you are feeling.


Tip #2: Deliver a moving message to the best of your ability

“I think it is a dangerous to go into the contest with the objective of winning because that is not in your hands. That just creates unnecessary pressure.  You don’t control that. What you do control is having a message that will move people in a very dramatic way and delivering it to the best of your ability.”

“I come from a very analytical background. I spent many years trying to figure out how do well on exams.  Though it took a long time, I ultimately figured out that the best approach is to not worry about the grade.  You are not there to get the ‘A.’ You are there to solve every problem that you can solve. If you prepared to the best of your ability and there are 15 problems out 50 that you have no clue how to answer, then you should be absolutely fine with that.  If you get nervous along the way, then you will do even worse.  It is the same with speaking… how you manage your mindset is critically important to the overall outcome.”


Tip #3: Practice idea delivery not word delivery

“Though I do write my speeches out, I can never recite a speech word for word.  I just don’t have that kind of memory.  I’ve delivered my world championship speech probably a hundred times now and I still cannot give it word for word. I just have to be there in the moment and let the emotions roll. The words are close, but they’re never exactly the same.”

“The words really are not that important. The words are a tool to convey emotion.  When you start thinking about words, you are hampering the flow of emotions; you are thinking about what comes next.  That prevents you from being present in the moment which is the point of speaking.”


Tip 4: The rule is that there are no rules

“People give all kinds of advice like the ‘10 things you have to do if you want to win the world championship.’ I really stay away from that. I think there is nothing that you have to do to win a speech contest. Just be original. Figure out what works for you and then run with that.”

“If you are uncomfortable doing something onstage, the audience will know it instantly and that takes away from the connection you are building.”


Try it out!

Like his fellow world champions, Vikas encourages competition as means of improving your speaking skill in a way that regular Toastmasters speeches do not.  Again, in his words:

“I found that competing is a very good way of improving your speaking skills because it’s one of the few times in Toastmasters that you get a chance to work on one speech for a long period of time. If you do that, it shows you how good you really can be.  Even if you don’t win, just experiencing that preparation process makes a huge difference in your development as a speaker.”