I actually studied the tapes of and tried to contact most of the winners from 1990-2000. I was surprised at how accessible they were, and how open they were with their insights. (I did not contact them until I had won my Regional and was going to the World Championship.)
Mark Brown, 1995 WCPS, said something that really hit home. He said, “Darren, I can only answer the questions you ask me.” Wow, this was invaluable! Because I valued the Champions’ time, it forced me to think through the questions I had so I would ask the best ones.
Otis Williams Jr.,1993 WCPS, said, “Be so good the only question is who comes in second.” What I believe he meant by this was that judging is subjective, so you need to be clearly the best in every judged category.
David Brooks, 1990 WCPS, said, “Let no one out-prepare you.” Wow, he didn’t say I had to be the most talented, he said I had to work harder than everyone else. I believe I did work harder. Now the challenge I face is to bring this concept over to other areas of my life.
Much of my learning came from studying the previous champions on video. The more I watch their speeches the more I learned. Each time I watched, I asked myself questions: How did they do that? Why did they do that? How did that affect the audience?
Want to be a better speaker? You need to be a better student first.