From Cleveland…to the World Stage
Ramona J. Smith’s Dream Comes True after Winning the World Championship of Public Speaking
Ramona J. Smith is not your typical, everyday Toastmaster. First off, she outcompeted 30,000 other Toastmasters from all over the globe this past August to win first place in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. But she’s also…not afraid to speak in front of people. Never has been.
“I’ve never had a fear of public speaking,” Ramona told me over the phone. “That’s how I knew it was my passion and my calling. Even in elementary or middle school, where you have to get up and present your topic or your project, I’ve never had a fear of public speaking. That’s how I knew it was my gift.”
Ramona, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, was 19 when she decided she wanted to be a motivational speaker for a living. But she didn’t know how to go about it. “I didn’t know anyone who was a public speaker; I had never heard of the National Speakers Association or of Toastmasters,” she recalled.” It wasn’t until a couple years later while living in Los Angeles that she found a path forward, thanks to her sister. “My sister said, ‘Well, if you’re going to do public speaking, you probably ought to join Toastmasters,’” Ramona recounted. “I actually went to a club in my area and I joined.”
That was in 2010. Five years later, she competed in her first speech competition—in District 10—after having moved back to Cleveland. Ramona talks about that competition in her award-winning speech, “Still Standing.” (watch here) After winning at the club, area, and division levels, Ramona lost at the district. While she described making it to the district level as “beginner’s luck” and “amazing,” she also said the loss was “devastating.”
“I was crushed.” Ramona related, “but that was because my ego was in it. That’s because Ramona wanted to win. She wanted a trophy. She wanted bragging rights. She wanted the ability to say ‘Oh I’m the world champion and I’m better than everybody else.’ That’s ego.”
“My ego had told me that I’m the best; I’m going win. And then when it was like, ‘okay, that’s what you think. Let the judges tell you you’re not the best.’ That’s why it hurt so bad.”
What Ramona Did Differently This Time Around
In this year’s championship speech, Ramona tells the audience to “stay in the ring; learn from those past fights.” Living that advice is, arguably and perhaps somewhat ironically, why Ramona has the trophy and the bragging rights and why she now actually is the world champion. One thing she took from her loss is that effective speaking is about the audience, not the speaker. She went into this competition with a completely different mindset.
“This time around my ego was not involved. This time around it was genuine. I was living in the moment at each level of competition. I respected the other competitors and I had the mindset of may the best man or woman win.”
Getting to that point took some work. Ramona went to the international competition the year she lost at district and studied the speakers and especially the eventual winner, Mohammed Qahtani. Watching him, she said, is when she realized “it’s a lot more that goes into it than me thinking I’m the best. I could tell he was prepared. I could tell he was coached. I could tell that he was himself. And I could tell that he had a message for the audience.”
A focus on the audience led Ramona to scrap the speech she had written for the finals before the competition and write a new one…the night before the contest! International speech competitors must use a completely different speech in the finals than the speech they used leading up to the finals. Ramona, like many other competitors, had prepared a second speech beforehand. But as she was competing in the semifinals, she said, she connected with the audience and knew that her prewritten speech would not resonate with them.
“When I wrote the first speech, I was in my house, I was behind my laptop, I didn’t have any audience in mind,” Ramona said. “But at semifinals, I was like, now I see my audience and …is this really what they’re going to want to hear about? No, I don’t think so. Let’s rework it. Let’s change the title. Let’s add some entertaining elements to it and switch it up so that it resonates more with my international audience and with what works for this speech.”
A Dream Come True
Since winning the competition, Ramona’s life has been a whirlwind. She’s been giving innumerable interviews, sometimes two a day, and accepting speaking engagements—all over the world, including Kuwait, Dubai, Bahrain, and India. But even though it’s been “chaotic” and “crazy,” Ramona is on Cloud 9. “This is my dream. I’ve always wanted to be an internationally known motivational speaker. Now that I have this title, I’m going everywhere. I’m going to speak all over the world. I’m going to speak in every single city. I’m going to speak in every Toastmasters district. I’m going to capitalize off of this title because this is my dream.”
She’ll finish off her contract at her teaching job in Houston this year, but next year she hopes to be living that dream—“speaking, training, coaching, meeting people, inspiring people, and inspiring people to find their purpose the same way I found mine.”
Shout-out to District 10 and the Cleveland Club
Although she was a District 10 Toastmaster for only a few years, Ramona has fond memories her time in District 10 and especially her home club, the Cleveland Club. “That’s where I really became a professional, that’s where I was able to sharpen my skills, and they taught me about what it means to really support your club members. They were at every competition, at every level, they were cheering me on, they were giving me feedback, and I always felt connected to my Cleveland club, more than any other club that I’ve been a part of because of the massive support.”
To all of District 10 Ramona says: “Thank you for the support. Thank for challenging me. Thank you for the honest feedback during the evaluations. Thank you for the love. Thank you for the support. I appreciate it.”
—Monica Reusser, ACS, ALS
From the District Director
Yes, YOU Can Be a Leader
Nominations for 2019-2020 District Leaders Are Being Accepted
A fellow Toastmaster gave up on a speech—right in the middle of it. She abruptly stopped talking, threw her hands in the air, and sat down. Another fainted during a speech. Another’s first Table Topic answer—when he finally dared to answer—lasted 24 seconds. All of these people went on to become leaders professionally and within Toastmasters. Why? Because other members encouraged them to try again. To make small changes. To practice. Because others cheered for them.
How often can you botch a presentation at work before your boss pulls you aside and warns you to shape up—or be replaced? What happens if you say the wrong thing to your significant other too many times? Are you praised regularly for your contributions at work or in your community organizations, and given opportunities to try leadership roles with plenty of support?
Toastmasters is one of the few places (really the only one I know of) where you can keep trying. Where you’re regularly provided with resources and encouragement. Where, if you make a mistake, you’re still applauded—and given constructive, friendly feedback to help you do better next time.
Regardless of where you are in your Toastmasters journey, I encourage you to be open to the prospect of taking the next step in your leadership journey, even if you’ve made a mistake (or dozens). Even if you don’t think you’re ready. Even if you are busy with other things. (Who isn’t?)
Although we’re not even halfway through the current Toastmasters year, it’s time to start thinking of leadership succession. If you’re a club officer, keep your eyes open for someone who could fill your role when your term ends.
If you’re a district leader, take notice of club officers or other engaged members. One of them could be your successor.
Perhaps you’re one of those future leaders. Yes, YOU. Remember, Toastmasters is where leaders are made. We don’t come into leadership roles in Toastmasters as experts. We are works in progress. Sure, some professional background can be helpful, and, in certain district leadership roles, there may be a prerequisite (such as having served as a club president to be in the Trio). But generally, we trust that if you are interested and willing to volunteer, if you keep the Toastmasters Promise, and if you live the Toastmasters core values of integrity, respect, service and excellence, you are qualified to put your name in the hat.
“District leadership? That’s not for me.” That was my mantra for years. It took me nearly ten years to say “yes” to a district leadership opportunity. Several people had predicted my path, but for a long time, those people seemed to be speaking a foreign language. Their words made no sense.
There’s a saying that when the student is ready, the master will appear. In my case, it was a mentor—my first mentor ever. She spoke, and I finally understood. I was still terribly uncertain, but I decided it was worth a try.
Has a master—a Toastmaster mentor, perhaps?—appeared in your life? Has that person suggested you could be a district leader or a club leader? Do you reflexively say “no”? If you stop and reflect, do some of those words make sense?
District Leadership Committee Chair (and Immediate Past District Director) Tim Juda is asking you to submit nominations for candidates for the 2019-2020 elected roles in our district: the five division director positions, and the top three: club growth director, program quality director, and district director.
Read about district leader competencies.
You can nominate yourself or someone else.
All positions are volunteer roles. None of us gets paid. Why do we do it? I do it because I believe in the program and observe its positive impact every day. I love seeing our members grow as leaders and speakers. If I can help them along the way, that’s my reward. What a great feeling to see members gain confidence and important skills. And how thrilling when those skills transfer in meaningful ways to other parts of their lives. I am honored that you have invited me to join you on your Toastmasters journey.
If you have questions about serving as a district leader, contact the person who currently holds the role, or a past leader in that position, and ask questions. If you don’t know who it is, or if you have questions, contact me, your area director, or another district leader. Review the materials that describe the role. Consider the opportunity to say “yes.” It can truly be life-changing. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: you’ll never know what you can achieve if you don’t try. And remember, others are here to support you along the way. It’s okay if you’re still learning the Toastmasters language. It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers. It’s okay to say “yes,” even though you’re not an expert.
Because after all, Toastmasters is where leaders are made.
Distinguished Toastmaster Corner
Would you like help on your road map to DTM?
The DTM mentoring program is available to match up Toastmasters seeking to achieve their DTM with a Toastmaster already at the DTM level. If you would like such a mentor, contact Charles Kramer by email or 330-552-1804 to discuss this opportunity.
December 8, 2018
Second-Round Club Officer Training
Register now for the second round of officer training. Our featured keynote speaker is Ramona J. Smith, Toastmasters 2018 World Champion of Public Speaking. General leadership training sessions and breakout sessions for each officer role will be offered. This is the second round of leadership training for club officers offered by the district, and 4 club officers must attend both training sessions to earn the officer training point in the Distinguished Club Program (DCP).
March 30, 2019
Marketing Institute II
District 10 will host a second Marketing Institute from 8 am – 12 noon at Kent State University. Stay tuned for more details about how you can grow your club with tips and tricks from experienced Toastmasters!
Club Speech Contests
- Find the forms you need on District 10.org, District Downloads, Contest Materials. Login required.
- And remember—if you do not hold a club contest, you can still send a club member to the area contest! Contact your area director for details.
- To post your contest on the District 10.org calendar, send the details to email@example.com
Speech Contest Timeline for 2018-2019
- Club: September 1 – December 15, 2018
- Area: January 1 – March 9, 2019
- Division: March 18 – April 30, 2019
- District: May 11, 2019
Speech Showcase Will Be Replaced
We have learned that districts are not allowed to host speech showcases or speech-a-thons (only clubs are allowed). A replacement event or training is being planned.
by Vicky Nann, DTM
Do you remember how you felt at your first few Toastmasters meetings? For me, those meetings were a blur of excitement and terror. I so wish I’d had someone to help me understand what was going on!
Many of our established clubs provide mentors to their new members, with excellent results. But what about our brand-new clubs, where most of the members are typically new Toastmasters? Who mentors them?
In District 10, we’re excited to announce the launch of the District Mentor Program. Through this program, Pathways-credentialed members in established clubs will pair up with new Toastmasters in new clubs. An experienced member will support a new member through their first three Pathways projects and will help answer any questions about our Toastmasters programs.
Would you like to help another member in a new club get comfortable with Toastmasters? If you have completed at least Level 1 in any Path, you are eligible to be a mentor.
Mentoring a new member can be a very rewarding experience—and can earn you credit toward education awards.
Mentoring can be done virtually or in person. The minimum commitment is 15 minutes for each of the next three projects. If the new member and mentor would like to meet more frequently or longer, that’s fine.
District Mentor Chair Dave Wiley, DTM, will be chairing the new program. Dave will soon start reaching out to our members who have completed at least Level 1 in Pathways. Please say “yes” when he asks if you would help a new member become more comfortable with our Toastmasters programs.
We want every new Toastmaster to have a solid foundation as he or she begins the Toastmasters journey and appreciate your commitment and support.
Could your club use some help making the most of Pathways?
Request a club visit from a Pathways expert. They will work with you to tailor a presentation or training session for your club. Contact Bill Simpson, Pathways Education Chair.
Pathways Basics – Speech Evaluation Forms
Quickly find and print the specific evaluation form for your Pathways speech.
Go to Base Camp, log in to your club and click on the big blue box that says “Speech Evaluations.” Find and click on the name of your speech or project, for example, “Ice Breaker” or Evaluation and Feedback.” Then click the “Launch” button. A window will pop up with the evaluation for you to print. (Make sure you allow pop-ups.)
Base Camp Managers – Automatic Alerts
Who receives Pathways email alerts from Toastmasters International?
Base Camp Managers beware! When a member requests approval for completing a level in Base Camp, an email notification is automatically sent. But it does not necessarily go to any Base Camp manager! It goes to the club contact, as set in Club Central. Base Camp managers may need to coordinate with the person designated as the club contact to make sure they are are aware of members’ requests for approval.
Of the Year Awards, 2017-2018
Congratulations to the District 10 Toastmasters who were recognized at the Recognition Ceremony on October 27 for exceptional service to the district in 2017-2018.
- Toastmaster of the Year: David Caban
- Division Director of the Year: Manu Adhen
- Area Directors of the Year: Craig Gerlock and Sharon Stadul
- 12 Toastmasters received District Director Awards.
- A full list of those recognized can be seen here.
Educational Awards | July – August 2018
Adhen, Manmohan—ACS, ALS
Allan, Laura Elizabeth—CC
Babuder, David M.—CL
Banerjie, Priyanka Shruti—CC
Bassett, Alysia Marie—IP2, IP3
Beach, Nancy A—PM4
Boykin, John Jay—LD1
Brown, Adam Marcus—PI2
Brown-Redic, Jolyn T.—ACG, CL
Burger, Jill A.—EC1
Butler, Joanna G.—CC
Carris, Jacqueline Marie—LD1
Cassidy, Carrie L.—CL
Christian, Happy Love—CC
Churilla, Robert J.—ALB, LDREXC
Curry, Michael G.—VC2, VC3, VC4
Danko, Gregory K.—PM1
Davis, Jan L—SR1
Dorsey, David S.—CL
Dukles, Marc Alan—CL, ALB,
Edwards, Judith A.—CC
Eikelberry, Ann M—CC
Fleming, Stephanie Ann—LD1
Flickinger, Eric M.—CC
Gallagher, Megan E.—CC
Gholson, Arthur Cliff—PM3
Gibson, Pat D—PM2
Goldsmith, Larry L.—DTM, IP1
Gunzburg, Ari Israel—ACB
Hagan, Joseph Walter—CC, CL
Hall, Dena Michele—DL1
Hammond, Kathy L.—PM2, PM3
Heckler, Scott Douglas—CL, CC
Jones, Brian M.—DL1
Knight, Melissa Ann—CC
Kramer, Charles—PI2, PM2
LaBasi, Michele M.—LD5
Lansky, Christian—TC1, TC2, TC3
Liles, Joel O—CC
Logan, Tarra L.—CL
Lowery, Vincent P—PM1
McGee, William R.—PM2
Meisner, Mark H.—ALB
Mohner, Joseph W.—CL
Novak, Paula Louise—CC
Pansino, Salvatore R.—CL
Paul, Gage Cobey—PI1
Pavlinsky, James W.—IP1
Peterson, Catherine L.—ALB
Polman, Wendi A—DL2
Punwani, Pete—DL1, PM5
Raber, Mark Otis—PM2
Raber, Mark Otis—PM3
Riddle, Gregg Alan—ACB
Ritzert, Tammy Lyn—ALB
Schmidt, Matthew—EC1, EC2
Simpson, William C.—LD5, MS2
Smith, Iris Nira—IP1, IP2
Smith-Kirk, Alicia—DL3, PI2
Spayer, Patricia O.—DL1
Stadul, Sharon—CL, EC1, PM2, PM3, VC2
Taylor, Deonna Moore—IP5, SR2, SR3
Taylor, Jenilee Grabenhorst—MS3
Taylor, Todd R.—DL1
Timm, Mark A.—ALS, DTM
Tonniges, Jeffrey R.—CC
Treiber, Erin M.—LD1
Turcovsky, Greg D.—CC
Turner, Rosita—ACG, ALS, DL2, LDREXC
Walsh, Kathy K—ALB
Watts, Sherry A.—PM1
Weaver, Gary T—LD2
Winokur, Allison L—CL
Zappala, Maureen E.—PI1
- Photographer for District 10 events. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Videographer for the district speech contest in the spring. This is straightforward recording; no editing, music, or subtitles. Requirements can be found on page 15 of the 2018 Rulebook. Email email@example.com
- See what’s happening all over the district on the District10 Facebook group.
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- Subscribe to District10 so you know when new things are posted.
Special thanks to Molly Ketcham for assistance preparing the newsletter!