Mohammad Qahtani: 2015 World Champion of Public Speaking
By Bilquis Ahmed
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
The first Muslim. The first Arab. The first Saudi. Mohammad Qahtani accomplished all these firsts when he was crowned the Toastmasters 2015 World Champion of Public Speaking at its international annual convention. He was the first Muslim, the first Arab and the first Saudi to win this coveted prize. Ten finalists vied for the championship and had advanced from a world-wide field of over 30,000 participants. During the six-month long elimination process, they competed at the club, area, district and semifinal levels. In August 2015 at the Toastmasters International Convention held in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Mohammad Qahtani, representing District 79 of Saudi Arabia, won the prestigious award with his poignant speech entitled, “The Power of Words.”
His inspirational speech, a personal narrative about the way words can crush or heal, never hinted at the struggles he faced in childhood. He uttered his first words at the age of 6 and was often taunted for his stuttering. By showing that he can rise above his challenges, he inspires others to do the same.
Earlier this year, he proved his speaking prowess by emerging victorious in the Humorous Speech Contest for District 79. He was placed as second runner up for the International Contest at the district level. However, serendipitously the first place contestant could not compete and Qahtani qualified to advance to the semifinals.
I moved to Saudi Arabia last year and recently joined a Toastmasters Club, a club which is in the same district as Mohammad Qahtani’s. I missed the opportunity to witness Mr Qahtani's victory in person. I visited Los Angeles, California in July 2015 and returned to Saudi Arabia on September 1. My family had contemplated attending the conference; however personal commitments prevented us from going to Las Vegas, Nevada, to attend the International Toastmasters 2015 World Championship event.
Here in Saudi Arabia we are immensely proud of Mohammad Qatani’s success. Returning to Saudi Arabia in the first week of September gave me an opportunity to meet Mohammad Qahtani at a celebration held on September 12, 2015 at Ad-Diwan in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in his honor and to congratulate him on his achievement. After a broadcast of his winning speech, Qahtani addressed the audience. With humility and profound gratitude, he thanked all those who supported him and provided feedback to help him polish and refine his speech. He then proceeded to offer advice on becoming a champion.
1. Remove the word “impossible” from your dictionary. If a man who stuttered till he was 6 years old can become the world champion of public speaking, then you can do anything. Believe in yourself, he urged the audience.
2. Seek help from everyone and anyone. He never considered asking for help, but many people stepped up and offered their assistance. You don’t have to do it alone.
3. Surround yourself with positive people, those who will encourage your dreams, not the naysayers.
4. Get rid of negative thoughts.
These words of encouragement echoed another champion’s words of exhortation. Years earlier I had studied under a Toastmasters Champion. I took a public speaking course at South Bay Adult School in Redondo Beach, California offered by Don Johnson, a longtime Toastmaster. In fact, he had won the coveted title of Toastmasters World Champion in 1989. During the course of the class, Johnson generously shared his expertise with his students. He taught us that powerful speeches convey their message through well-told stories. The best way to craft a story was to “show not tell.” Don’t just tell the audience that someone feels anger. Paint a picture with your words so that the audience can visualize the emotion.
“Her face reddened, the veins on her forehead bulged; her eyes narrowed into tight slits; her lips quivered in snarls as she formed her words.”
Just like Qahtani, Johnson urged us to seek advice and feedback from other Toastmasters. Evaluations and suggestions from other Toastmasters improved and strengthened the speech that won him the World Championship.
Toastmasters International has over 332,000 members (in 135 countries) who seek to improve their communication and leadership skills. Through a positive and supportive environment, with mentors such as Don Johnson, members hone these skills and develop self-confidence. It is a confidence that instills the belief that you too can become a champion in whatever you pursue.
2015 World Champion of Public Speaking - Mohammed ... - YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DqasE4ecA57Y Aug 16, 2015 ... Highlights of Mohammed Qahtani's winning speech, titled "The Power of Words." To view the entire World Championship of Public Speaking ...