At the Toastmasters International Convention 20 years ago, there were 2,500 people in the audience as well as huge television screens on stage that stood behind nine contestants, who drew straws for a speaking position.
“I was very lucky to pick No. 8,” Willie Jones, a Toastmaster from Hawaii, said recently. “That meant I was the eighth speaker out of nine. In my mind I had the advantage of listening to the first eight speakers and make any adjustments I needed in order to beat them.”
Beat them is what Jones did, with a speech titled “A Warm Boot.”
Jones recalls the atmosphere was electric at that 1997 event in New Orleans. He said the crowd was noisy as well as energetic.
Yet, out of 10,000 members from 8,200 clubs around the world, Jones became the first speaker from Hawaii to bring home the trophy.
After becoming the world champion of public speaking, Jones launched a professional speaking career that took him across the United States, as well as to Europe and Africa. He spoke to audiences of up to 3,000 and did seminars for many corporations. Other speaking engagements included appearing as a guest on numerous regional television programs, speaking on hundreds of radio interviews and being asked to be a keynote speaker at many Toastmasters district conferences around the world.
Sarah Hambek, a member of No Ka ‘Oi Toastmasters on Maui, will have the same opportunity Jones did to represent District 49 Toastmasters Hawaii at the 2017 Toastmasters International Convention, to be held Aug. 23-26 in Canada.
Hambek said she is honored to represent Hawaii District 49 in Canada and that “preparations are underway to up my game for the semifinals.”