It is speech contest season in the Toastmasters world. Whether you are a Toastmaster or not, if you want to become a more confident and effective public speaker you can learn some powerful lessons from successful speech contestants. Drawing on my experiences as a speech contestant in about sixty speech contests many years ago as well as being a judge at every level of speech contests and being chief judge of the World Championship of Public Speaking in 2008, here are a few of the most important lessons I have learned. I pass them on to you in the hope that they will add value to you as a speaker and communicator.


Be a PAL in Selecting Your Topic

Before you invest your time and energy in preparing your presentation, make sure, as far as possible, that your topic intersects with these three elements:

Passion – Does the topic awaken a fire in your belly, a spark in your eye, and a song in your heart? Why is this important? It is because if you are not excited about your talk, no one in the audience is likely to get enthusiastic about it either!

Audience – Does your topic speak to the audience’s needs? The topic must be relevant to the wants and needs of the audience, otherwise, your listeners will tune out, regardless of how excited you are about the topic.

Life – Can you draw upon your own life experiences when addressing this topic? What makes your talk unique is parts of your own life that you add to the substance that you share with your audience. Anyone can research a topic and tell you what the experts say about it. Only you can give your unique insights based upon what you have observed and experienced.


Bless, Don’t Impress

Realize, “It’s not about me; it’s about the gift I give my audience.” The more you get absorbed in your message and the audience, the less you will think of yourself. Then, as I mentioned in the January edition of Dilip’s Diamonds, you will speak with authenticity and personal power. You will get so interested in communicating clearly, that you will choose simple words over more complex ones; you will use vivid words and not be verbose; you will be gripping, not garrulous; you will connect, not confuse.


Help the Audience Become Co-creators of Your Message

More important than the message you think you are sending to your listeners is the message your listeners think they are getting from you! In order to make the received message as similar as possible to the outgoing message, you have to understand your audience and customize it for them. Use language, word pictures, and metaphors that fit your listeners. Make your presentation relevant, significant and of value to them. One of the best ways to do that when you are preparing your speech is to put yourself in the shoes of individuals in the audience. In your imagination, exchange places with them. Think what they might think; feel what they might feel. This will shape your message. When you deliver the message, involve the audience’s feelings and imaginations. When you do that, something amazing happens: your listeners start to absorb your message, each in their own way, so that they become “co-creators” of it. They will, in effect, shape the message they receive from you so that it is a perfect “fit” for them!


Winners of the Evaluation of the “Top American Speech of the 20th Century”

In the January edition of Dilip’s Diamonds I invited my readers to send me their best estimate as to when Martin Luther King, Jr., in his I Have a Dream speech, ditched his notes and began to command his audience more powerfully. Two readers sent me times that are pretty much on target. Congratulations to Bruce Lohr and Keith Raymond!

Keith Raymond estimated that the point of direct engagement with the audience began at 10:44 into MLK’s speech. Bruce Lohr estimated it at 10:53 (the speech started at 1:07 in the You Tube video clip). My estimate is that it happened at 10:54 into the speech.

Bruce Lohr’s and Keith Raymond’s photos appear below.

Bruce Lohr Keith Raymond


If you want to check out the speech, here’s a link:



What’s New?

The Diamond Club portal has been streamlined and made easier to access and use. For more information about the Diamond Club and how it can benefit you, please read below!


The brand new “Communicate with Distinction” leadership retreat is about to begin (March 1-3, 2013)! Although registration is now closed, details are below so that you can plan to attend next year when it is offered again.


Why? Because “Every time you speak, you audition for leadership.” – James Humes.


See details at:


Covering sixteen hours of face time with three highly experienced and acclaimed trainers from Central Pennsylvania, this weekend program will be focused on giving leaders and aspiring leaders the knowledge and skills they need to excel in spoken as well as written communications.

The Leader as Speaker:

  • An easy, effective, time-saving speech preparation method
  • How to increase the clarity of any speech
  • Secrets for connecting with and captivating your audience
  • Proven speech techniques that inform, inspire, persuade and motivate
  • Principles for effective PowerPoint presentations
  • How to speak with confidence, with command, and without notes

Strategies to become a “standing Ovation Keynote” speaker!


The Leader as Writer:

  • How to engage your readers immediately
  • The language of leadership: write to influence
  • Easy grammar guidelines for good impressions
  • Clarity is king: making content memorable.
  • Writing for readability
  • How to write specialty letters (such as for celebrations, condolences, motivational, encouragement, etc.)



Dr. Dilip Abayasekara
Send Email

in Time



March 1 - 3:

Communicate with Distinction Leadership Retreat, Camp Hill, PA


March 4:

Speech Coaching,
Summerdale, PA


March 7:

Small Group Facilitation Training, Camp Hill United Methodist Church, Camp Hill, PA


March 9:

Speech Coaching, Summerdale, PA


March 15-17:

Men’s Retreat, Camp Hill United Methodist Church, Mount Asbury Retreat Center, Newville, PA


April 1:

Leadership Training, NICOD, Lancaster, PA


April 18, 27, 28:

Church Consultation, New Cumberland, PA



Are you living the life you have always wanted?

LIFE offers a holistic approach to personal development.
Find out at


Quote to
Think About


"There are two things that are more difficult than making an after-dinner speech: climbing a wall which is leaning toward you and kissing a girl who is leaning away from you."

Winston Churchill


If you found this newsletter helpful and would like more in-depth speech guidance, come join the Diamonds Club. Here is what you get from membership in the Diamonds Club:

  • A monthly video training session on how you can become a more competent and confident public speaker. This will run from 8-15 minutes and you can play it as many times as you want to extract the maximum learning from it.
  • Free quarterly webinars, which will go into depth on public speaking skills as well as special communication topics that will help you reach ever-higher levels of knowledge and competence.
  • Receive an evaluation of your upcoming speech. Submit a video clip or script of a speech you are preparing to give. Receive expert feedback that will inform you about what you are doing well and receive practical tips on how to improve your presentation.
  • A Q & A Forum where you can submit your questions about public speaking and communication. Learn from the answers, not just to your questions, but also answers to questions posed by others.

You can hurdle time and money obstacles because for a low monthly fee, you can access all of the above 24/7! For more details and to sign up, click here.