A way with words

Contestants gear up for Toastmasters’ speech competition

A local property manager hopes a gripping story about his family’s harrowing encounter with the deadly Category 5 Hurricane Dorian and their determination to make it out alive will catapult him from a division level speech contestant and ultimately on to Toastmasters’ world stage.

“Presenting this speech has been therapeutic for me and I am grateful to have this platform to express myself. This is my way of sharing with the world what the people of Abaco experienced as a result of Dorian and how it has affected us. Our lives have been uprooted and we are all forever changed,” said Ray-Don Poitier, a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) who joined the public speaking organization, Club 1600 back in 2012.

“It is important that we take something from every experience and use it to improve ourselves and those around us in the face of adversity. Dorian was the most powerful storm ever to hit The Bahamas since records began in 1851. My family and I are among those who overcame its wrath by the grace of God.”

A major event on Toastmasters’ calendar, each year members compete in the humorous, evaluation, table topics and international speech contests.

Competition begins at the club level. Winners advance and continue competing through the area, division and district levels. Winners of the district level international speech contest proceed to the region quarterfinal level. Following region quarterfinals, winners advance to the semi-finals for a chance to take part in the World Championship of Public Speaking.

Eliminating rounds began nationally more than two months ago. The division competition is the last level which takes place within The Bahamas. Poitier will next compete on Saturday, May 1, during the District 47 virtual conference via Zoom. Other participants will come from Abaco, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and South Florida.

“Reaching the Division level is monumental because it allows me another opportunity to share this story which in turn allows the audience to draw correlations between Dorian and life’s storms,” said Poitier, who feels like a winner for making it this far.

“Lesson one: It is important to trust your instincts so you are cognizant of the signs right in front of you that could help you avoid chaos. Two, let go of people and circumstances holding you back. These obstacles are there to hinder your progress, by letting go of the things we cannot control, we may actually find ourselves in control. Three, we all need help at some point in our lives, allow the persons in your life to assist if they can or seek out support organizations to help lighten the load,” he said.

“We got to see the power and mercy of God first-hand during and after Dorian and I pray someone is inspired by hearing our story.”

Poitier’s five to seven minutes speech will be judged on content, organization, and delivery. Also moving up in the competition is his fellow club member, Donovan Rolle. A table topics contestant, he won the division level on March 26. Another Club 1600 member, Paul Taylor placed second in that match up.

Rolle now advances to the district level, where his next competition is also set for May 1. It is the final level for the table topics category. His competition will come from seven Divisions in The Bahamas and South Florida.

“The nature of the table topics contest makes preparation difficult because it forces contestants to organize their thoughts in seconds and respond in a clear and concise fashion to an impromptu question or topic. I sought out advice from those that participated before, in addition to soliciting on the spot questions from my inner circle and then answered … well attempted to answer them,” he said, when asked about his strategy.

“I am humbled and indeed grateful for the experience to represent Division I at the district level. I would not have imagined this when the journey began at the club level of the Ernest T. Strachan Advanced Toastmasters Club 7108. I could not have dreamt this when I became member of the Toastmasters program three years ago by becoming a member of the First Bahamas Branch of Toastmaster Club 1600 that I would have entered any contest that centered around speaking, let alone winning at any level.”

Rolle heads into the final leg of his competition feeling confident.

“I am a competitive individual, therefore anything that I participate in, I aim to be victorious. That being said, I would truly be satisfied regardless of my placement once I put my best foot forward.”

According to Shacoy Mullings, president of the first branch of Toastmasters in The Bahamas, Club 1600, their members have historically done well at the local and international level.

“We are pleased to have two members participating in the district competition this year and we fully support them on their quest for victory. Toastmasters International has done wonders with helping countless Bahamians refine their communication skills and find their voice. It is my expectation that as Bahamians, we will continue to raise the bar.”

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