23 August 2003: It was the World Series of public speaking, the Olympics of oratory, the final bout for the heavyweight title of “World Champion of Public Speaking.” Who would win? Recently, a crowd of 1,300 Toastmasters from around the world gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, to cheer for their favorite speaker at the Toastmasters International Speech Contest.
Jim Key, a 4-year veteran of Toastmasters from Rowlett, Texas, emerged victorious and claimed the title of 2003 World Champion of Public Speaking. His speech, “Never Too Late,” described how it’s never too late to follow our dreams, regardless of the difficulty, heartache and disappointment we face in life. He spoke from experience: this was Key’s third attempt at winning the World Championship. He’s been one of the nine finalists for the last three years, coming in second in 2001 and 2002.
During his emotional acceptance speech, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Key, the father of three, is a computer systems analyst with Lennox International, Inc. Winning the speech contest was the step he needed to reach his goal of becoming a full-time professional public speaker. The speech contest culminated Toastmasters International’s four-day annual convention, held August 20-23, 2003, at the Marriot Marquis in Atlanta, Georgia. A panel of 18 Toastmasters judges evaluated the nine contestants, who had advanced to the finals following a year-long process of elimination, using club, area and regional speech competitions. Criteria used in judging included speech content, organization, voice quality and gestures.All About Us, Guest Polly at The Lilypad