From the local junior chamber to the world congress for effective speaking

Natasha Fisher is the national winner in JCI's Effective Speaking Competition.
Natasha Fisher is the national winner in JCI’s Effective Speaking Competition.

On November 26, 141 days from the time of writing this article, I will be competing for the world title for effective speaking in Leipzig, Germany. This is a journey I started over a year ago right here in Winnipeg.
This incredible opportunity is due to my involvement with JCI (Junior Chamber International).
JCI is a membership-based, non-profit organization of young active citizens who are dedicated to making a positive impact in their communities. As part of the professional and personal development JCI provides, its members also receive training to develop different skills such as effective speaking.
While taking a course or training is valuable, when it comes to things like public speaking, you need to “just to do it” if you want to build skills and truly develop.
Sitting here today, I can tell you it was by participating that I have learned the most and really developed my effective speaking skills, especially as I progressed through the different levels of the JCI Effective Speaking Competition.
Second to one
Case in point, when JCI Winnipeg held the local competition in June 2013, I didn’t win the prepared speech, but the impromptu one, which meant I was the runner-up. In Canada, the Effective Speaking competition includes two parts: a prepared, five- to seven-minute speech, and an impromptu, two- to four-minute speech for which you have one minute to prepare.
Whoever wins the prepared speech is the one who moves on to the next level. However, that June, the winner of the prepared speech was moving to another country, so the opportunity to compete at the national level was passed on to me. Sometimes all is not lost when you don’t win “first place.”
Nationals
First place or not, my eye was now on the prize, and that prize was representing Canada at the Conference of Americas taking place in Medellin, Colombia.
I took the feedback I received and the experience I gained, and re-worked my speech before I competed at the National Convention in Quebec City. This time, I won both the prepared and impromptu speech. I was no longer the “runner-up.” I was the national winner and would represent Canada in South America.
Americas
The Area Conferences are probably the most challenging as you are competing against national winners from each of the countries in your area. For the Americas, this includes North, South and Central America, and the Caribbean.
Going into the competition, I knew I would need to convey my ideas, emotion and passion in a way that would transcend language as Spanish is the primary language spoken at the Conference of Americas.
To add to the challenge, the participants were required to prepare two speeches. The top three that moved to the final round would do the second speech.
JCI members from around the world vote on topics they would like to hear about at the Area Conferences. I received the topics for the speeches three weeks before the competition.
The two topics for this year were “Creating solutions to community challenges can only be achieved by first understanding the root cause of the challenge” and for the final round, “Active citizens lead their communities with their actions and not their words.”
It was at this challenging level that I learned and developed the most. Certainly part of it was the experience of the competition itself, but the most significant part came from the tips and mentorship that I received from the other Canadian delegates attending this Conference.
JCI help
My fellow Canadian JCI members not only watched competitions in previous years, but two of them competed on the world stage; one of which won the world title last year (Erin Guillemette, JCI Durham).
It was their knowledge, experience and mentorship that proved to be so valuable to me. Without it, I would not have succeeded as I did at the conference.
The JCI Effective Speaking Competition is less like effective speaking that you would do in a business meeting, and more like a motivational speech. You are calling on young active citizens to take action.
In order to do so, it takes more than just passion and confidence, but also your tone, your gestures, your use of the room and, of course, your words. The mentorship that I received enabled me to go into the competition as polished and prepared as possible.
Worlds
Winning at the Conference of Americas means I will now move on to the final level of the competition: World Congress. At Worlds, there will be a total of four competitors. One representative for each of the areas: Africa and Middle East, Asia Pacific, Europe, and finally the Americas.
To be one of the final four competitors in the world is an amazing accomplishment that still feels a little surreal for me. While I am excited to take on the world stage, I am equally excited to take what I learned and share it with my chapter.
Mentorship
I took the knowledge I gained from participating in the last year and applied it to our Effective Speaking training held a short week after my return from Colombia. JCI Winnipeg has since held its local competition and I accompanied our winner, Katrina Hueging, as she competed in Prairie Regionals which includes JCI chapters from Humboldt, Edmonton, Calgary and now Winnipeg.
My experience helped Katrina at both the local and regional level of the competition as she will now compete for the national title in September. The year-and-a-half journey of the JCI Effective Speaking Competition has begun again.
JCI is a learning and development organization which includes member mentorship. Part of JCI’s success with both professional and personal development is due to the “have a mentor, be a mentor” mentality. As I am finishing my journey as a competitor, I am also starting my journey as a mentor for our next winner.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s