The theme of the 2022 Toastmasters International Convention, held online and in Nashville, Tennessee, in August, was “storytelling.” And the finalists at the World Championship of Public Speaking® were indeed superb storytellers. Keep reading to learn more about the top three winners and their speeches.
Cyril Junior Dim
By Laura Mishkind
When Cyril Junior Dim spoke with the Toastmaster a mere five days after becoming the 2022 World Champion of Public Speaking, it hadn’t quite set in. “It’s slowly getting there,” he says, with a laugh. “The moment they announced it, I was out of myself really.” It wasn’t until he unwrapped the trophy at home and started to have former World Champions reach out that it began to feel like less of a dream.
The 24-year-old Zimbabwean software engineer wanted to create a speech that would give the audience a sense of who he is. “I knew my age could potentially be a handicap,” Dim says. “There’s no way the audience is going to look at me and accept anything that I lecture on. I’m still figuring it out.” Instead, he opted to take a mistake in his life, confront it onstage, and come to the realization, alongside the audience, that he—and everyone else in the room and online—could do better.
And so, “Ndini” was born.
In this Toastmasters Podcast episode, learn more about 2022 World Champion Cyril Junior Dim.
Dim explains that ndini is a word in the Shona language of his native Zimbabwe that means “this is me.” This one word encapsulates the importance of accepting yourself and your true identity.
Dim grew up hating his Nigerian middle name (His father, whom he never met, was Nigerian). It was long and complicated, and he was teased by other kids. When he was 18, Dim removed his middle name from all his documents and tried to leave it behind. It became his greatest secret.
When he moved from Zimbabwe to Poland for university he felt like he still stood out, until he made a few friends. One day in the library his friend Nick dropped his ID card; Dim scooped it up and read his full name—a complicated and long Congolese name. Dim made a joke about it, but his friend held fast in his pride for his name and identity.
The encounter made Dim realize an important life lesson. He told the audience, “We’re all different … but [Nick] was special because he accepted himself.” Almost everyone has felt uncomfortable about themselves at some point, but “You are beautifully you. The only you.”
With that, Dim invited listeners to join him in embracing ndini and making it a part of their language. Then he shared his full name, a name no one but he, his mother, and his girlfriend had known for years, and closed with a final reminder—“This is me. Ndini.”
Dim wore traditional African clothing onstage, noting that he wanted to “dress as African as possible to deliver a message from the heart of an African.”
He rehearsed, and rehearsed, and rehearsed again. During convention, he even went to downtown Nashville, and asked strangers if he could tell them a seven-minute story that had the power to change his life.
Leading up to the competition, Dim wasn’t sure a story in his speech packed enough of a punch. He wanted to speak not only to Toastmasters, but to the world. While dancing backstage before the finals (“don’t ask,” he says) and brainstorming a universal moment to share, it came to him. He didn’t rehearse the new twist to the story—there was no time—he simply stepped onstage and began, trusting that his previous practice, plus the adrenaline of the moment, would kick in.
The Starting Point
It takes a skilled speaker to improvise on a such a big stage, and Dim has had years of practice. He began speaking competitively 11 years ago, participating in competitions organized by the National Association of School Heads, who invited advanced Toastmasters to be judges. “They would always make it a point to tell us they were members of Toastmasters International, so we were always aware of them. And we always had this sense that this is what happens next when you want to graduate to the next level of speaking,” Dim recalls.
Knowing he wanted to advance, Dim joined WrocLove Speakers in Wroclaw, Poland, four years ago while attending university.
There he learned an important lesson—drop the ego. As a new member, Dim felt he was a good speaker and wanted to show off his skills, but he quickly discovered he still had a lot to learn.
Dim learned through Toastmasters that speaking is a selfless sport. “If you’re going to make a speech that connects, people need to know that you’re there for them,” he explains.
Dim began what he calls “the pursuit of authenticity.” During his Toastmasters training and contest season, he had lots of opportunities to learn. “The greatest lesson I learned was to come to grips with who I am and leverage that to give a message that is both important to me and useful to the crowd.”
The People Behind the Champion
For the past two years, Dim has been mentored by Naomi Isaacs, a Toastmaster in Germany. Early on, she told Dim she could tell he was driven by the desire to win. “She is a very keen judge of character,” Dim says. “She could read me through and through.” While the speech contest is indeed a competition, it’s important to focus on leaving an impact, and that matters more than winning, Isaacs explained. This began Dim’s “long journey to erase that aggressive competitor’s spirit,” as he describes it.
Of course, this desire to be the best still crops up, including in 2020 when Dim didn’t advance past the Semifinals stage of the International Speech Contest. He was devastated, but Isaacs explained how he still did wonderfully and could move past this. She even brought his girlfriend, Kamila Tokarska, on the call to express how neither of them were disappointed in his results. “Kamila was a huge emotional cushion, and sometimes an absolute goofball,” Dim says. “She was exactly who she needed to be for me to shine onstage.”
Another one of Dim’s supporters is Aaron Beverly, 2019 World Champion of Public Speaking. Dim had reached out to Beverly after his win in 2019, and Beverly liked Dim’s drive to become a better speaker. He decided they should work together.
“He became a brother, mentor, coach,” Dim says. “He was really busy, but he always made time for me.” The two would work on the technical aspects of the speeches, focusing on word usage, the proper vocal inflections, and refining the speeches until they were just right.
It really takes a team to help build a champion, and at the heart of Dim’s team was Isaacs, Tokarska, and Beverly. “I would say those are the three people who were cornerstones in this championship run.”
The Next Steps
“This past year, all the writing and refining we’ve done, I’m kind of hooked,” Dim says of his speaking experience. “I picked up so many stories along this journey that I think it would be a shame if I didn’t make speeches about them.”
He always dreamed of speaking professionally and making it his career, and with a World Championship title under his belt, that dream is feeling like more of a reality. Dim says he’s working to brand himself as a public speaker because he truly loves doing it.
Another dream is to give a TED Talk, and that door may be opening for him, along with other plans.
“I’m still mindful of work I could do back in Zimbabwe to empower the youth because I strongly believe that there are far more talented individuals back home who simply don’t have the opportunity or the means to access world-class coaching,” he explains. “I think with the right help those people could blossom. They could really find themselves, find their voice.”
Dim believes that in finding your voice, you can contribute a lot to the world. He says the world needs more people who are brave enough to be themselves and share what matters to them. “I really want to be part of empowering the voices that will do that.”
And along the way, he will continue to remember who he is. Ndini.
Laura Mishkind is assistant editor for the Toastmaster magazine.
By Paul Sterman
Let them eat cake! No, really, let them, says Alexandre Matte, DTM, maker of a mouthwatering creation called the “no-bake cake.” His family members gobble up the coffee- and cocoa-flavored confection with delight. The cake was the centerpiece of Matte’s 2nd-place-winning speech, “Missing Ingredient,” in this year’s World Championship of Public Speaking.
As sweet as the treat is, its significance lies in what it symbolizes: tradition. The French Canadian’s extended family has gathered for an annual celebration for several generations, and the cake created by his “grand-maman” has been a longtime highlight. After his grandmother died last year, Matte was determined to continue the family tradition. So he made it his mission to prepare the no-bake cake for the gatherings. The cake, he says in a recent interview, “tastes like childhood.” (Visit www.AlexandreMatte.com to see the special recipe.)
A 15-year Toastmaster who belongs to two French-speaking clubs in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, Matte was the only one of the top three winners in the hybrid World Championship to participate online. He used the platform effectively, moving expertly within the frame, and employing animated facial expressions that played well on the screen. He accented his speech with the occasional French flourish.
Matte has had lots of practice with the format: His two clubs, Mots du Midi and Voix du Nord, in Sudbury, have been meeting only online since the pandemic began. In addition, he has been presenting online the past couple of years for his work as a professional storyteller. Drawing on his Toastmasters skills, he runs a business venture where he does storytelling to engage students of all ages in Canadian classrooms. He unspools entertaining tales and helps the young people craft their own stories as well.
“It’s rewarding and fascinating to see the eyes of the children light up when we bring them into a different world,” Matte says. “I can talk about a dragon who’s in the Great White North in Canada, and who makes his way to the suburbs of Toronto, and finally ends up in the school. And it’s like, for those moments that is true—the dragon does exist. So I bring them into an imaginary world with me.”
In the wake of the Toastmasters World Championship, Matte has received a number of requests to speak about how to present online effectively. The father of three girls, he says finishing in 2nd place was like “the cherry on top of the sundae.” Having competed in the International Speech Contest since 2009, and making the Semifinals twice before this year, he says his biggest goal was to reach the finals, where he could “share a message with thousands of people at once.”
That message was about the value of traditions, whether they be cultural rituals or the continued serving of a treasured cake. Such things bond people and can unite families, colleagues, or communities, Matte says.
In the eyes of one special observer, his speech deserved the top prize. When he greeted his excited family—who had watched the contest online—after the results were announced, “One of my kids said, ‘I know that the judges didn’t think you were the best, but I think you were the best.’”
Paul Sterman is senior editor, executive & editorial content, for Toastmasters International.
Mas Mahathir Bin Mohamad
By Stephanie Darling
Mas Mahathir Bin Mohamad’s experience winning third place in the 2022 World Championship of Public Speaking (WCPS), in person from the International Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, was electrifying.
It was quite a change from 2020, when he advanced to the International Speech Contest Semifinals, confined by COVID-19 to a small computer screen in an empty room. He loved the experience anyway.
For a young Toastmaster, some 10,000 miles from his home in Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, it was a thrill to participate—let alone place—in the World Championship.
“Reliving the experience on the big stage in 2022 was such a crazy experience! I felt alive! The energy, the people, the community! Everything made it worthwhile to be there,” he enthused. “Of course the change from online to onsite was huge, but that’s the fun of the sport, isn’t it?”
Mahathir is the third Malaysian to place in the WCPS, a feat that has drawn widespread media attention in Southeast Asia. To date, he is the fourth among his countrymen to have competed in the championship finals.
His speech, “Two Gifts,” blends humor, self-awareness, and insight gained from his parents—an amiable father and a stern mother with high expectations for her son. He began to avoid his mother and, with a nod to his degree in psychology, somewhat jokingly labeled her with “Heartless Mother Disorder.” It was not until the two sat down to talk that their relationship was completely transformed by listening and understanding.
“In today’s world we witness so much labeling and avoiding that divide us, but a listening ear and understanding heart are two gifts that unite us. Give them to anyone and everyone,” Mahathir said in an interview with The Sun newspaper in Subang Jaya.
While his message was serious, Mahathir sprinkled humor throughout his speech, even though it’s a technique he struggled with at first. He credits mentors, friends, and coaches for helping him find humor “in the simplest things.” Now, believing it’s a bonding bridge to audiences, he uses humor in many of his speeches and presentations.
Mahathir joined MII Toastmasters Club in 2016, following his parents, who have been Toastmasters for some 40 years and still participate in MII meetings. Mahathir is a former Club President of the District 51 club, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He’s also served as club Vice President Public Relations several times, including the 2022–2023 program year.
Communication is his beloved hobby and life’s work. He is the founder of MicFront Academy, which emphasizes confidence and enthusiasm, among other traits, to teach public speaking skills to adults and children in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other locations.
“We have helped thousands of kids, students, corporate clients, and companies build and develop their confidence in speaking, communicating, and leading in this new era … seeing it happen really makes me feel so alive!” he explains.
Although the 2022 competition is over, Mahathir is continuing as a firm believer in all the long-term benefits of Toastmasters International.
“Great things take time, and the more you’re involved in Toastmasters, the more you understand how to further develop and grow yourself,” he says.
Stephanie Darling is senior editor for the Toastmaster magazine.
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