Insights From 2012 Toastmasters World Champion Ryan Avery

Each year, 30,000 of Toastmasters’ more than 280,000 members compete to determine who will be crowned the greatest public speaker in the world.  On August 18, 25-year old Ryan Avery took home the prize with his speech entitled “Trust Is A Must.”

I interviewed Ryan on November 5th and asked him just one question: “What are your three best pieces of advice on how to win the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking?”  Here is Ryan’s deep wisdom:

Tip #1: Train Like A Champion

Ryan credits his mentor, 2004 World Champion Randy Harvey, with teaching him the first piece of advice.

“The first thing I tell everyone is to practice how you play. If you think like a champion and train like a champion, then you will be a champion.  I woke up every day at 5:00am and practiced for two uninterrupted hours.  Over the course of a year, the difference between my waking up at 5 am and you waking up at 7 am is 31 extra days – the equivalent of an extra month.”

“I practiced, I practiced, I practiced at every single opportunity that I could.  I spoke countless times in my (Toastmasters) District.  Every time I traveled for work, I set up speeches with local clubs.  I wouldn’t just practice with Toastmasters; I practiced anywhere that made me feel uncomfortable… in the middle of Downtown Pioneer Square Portland, in the gym sauna where people would look at me funny, at jails… even underwater so that I could learn when to pause and come up for a breath because I am a fast speaker.”

“I practiced my semi-final winning speech ‘Push Past It’ for five months up through the District contest. I then switched over to preparing ‘Trust Is A Must’ for the next three months.”

“I practiced everything including entering and leaving the stage with energy.  I even practiced wearing a suit from 5 am to 11 pm because I knew that is what I would be wearing (at the competition) in Florida and needed to know I would be comfortable.”

“You want to practice to the point where you send the same message no matter how you deliver your speech.  My message of “Trust Is A Must” needs to be just as powerful whether you read it, watch it, or listen to it.  Practicing by videotaping is essential.  Watch yourself.  But, more importantly, send it to your mentors for feedback.”

Tip #2 Think Like A Champion

“You have to tell yourself that you are stronger than your mind.  I would catch myself sometimes saying things like ‘Hey, if I get 2nd place this year, then that is fine.’  But I then thought ‘Why is that fine Ryan? You are putting yourself in a position to fail.’ A champion does not think she is going to get second place.  She thinks she is going to win.  When people don’t laugh at your speech or when people give you feedback that throws you off, you must go back to the message you want to deliver and how you can connect with your audience and inspire them.”

“Just before I walk up to deliver a speech, I think about the Lady Gaga’s song ‘Marry The Night’ to build my confidence. When I heard that for the first time, it really moved me.  She wrote that song in a coffee shop one night when she said ‘From this point forward, I am going to marry myself to my music.’  That is how I feel about speaking.  I am there for the audience and for the message.”

“You can use a song lyric or you can think about a time when you felt confident. Maybe you got a good grade on a test.  Maybe you asked someone out on a date and they said yes.  Put that in your mind right before you speak and you will exude confidence.”

Tip #3: Surround Yourself With Champions

“You have to surround yourself with people that are better than you.  Randy Harvey was the 2004 World Champion and I would not have been able to win without him.”

“I broke people up into certain categories (of expertise).  I like you for your humor… I like you for your body language… I like you for your vocal variety.  I recorded myself and sent videos out to my League of Extraordinary Mentors and asked for specific advice on areas that they were great at.  That helped me build the different chucks of the speech.”

“I would have people turn around and listen to me. I would have others watch my video without sound.  And, I would have some who would both watch and listen.  When all three groups got the same message, I knew I was on the right path.  Your mentors are the ones that will help you do that.”

“You should have one primary mentor; Randy is the Chairman of my speaking Board of Directors.  My League of Extraordinary Mentors rounds out my Board with expertise in specific areas.”

Try it out!

When you watch Ryan speak and when you talk to him one-on-one, you get the sense of someone who is deeply authentic and passionate about sharing messages of love and compassion with the world.  Here are the words he ended our interview with:

“When I went up there, I just kept thinking how lucky I am to give ‘Trust Is A Must.”  The best part was that my family was there to support me.  (The contest organizers) did not let you sit with your partner.  Your partner had to sit in the next row. I like to hold Chelsea’s hand (before I speak) so I was reaching back behind the chair. We were preparing for what we were about to accomplish together.”

You can read Ryan’s blog or book him as a speaker at   Also, be on the lookout for Ryan’s upcoming book on personal productivity entitled “P3X” which is shorthand for “P” – prioritize, publicize, and practice – three times a day.