Photo by Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Wikimedia Commons

A security engineer from Saudi Arabia is the winner of the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, a competition which began six months ago with 30,000 participants from more than 100 countries.

Mohammed Qahtani, who won with a speech titled “The Power of Words,” said he entered the contest “for practice” but never expected to bring home the World Championship trophy.

Contestants delivered five- to seven-minute speeches on wide-ranging topics and were judged on content, organization and delivery. This was the first time in the history of the contest that all three top winners came from countries outside North America.

The second- and third-place winners were from Mumbai, India, and Singapore, according to a spokesman for Orange County-based Toastmasters International, a worldwide nonprofit educational organization aimed at empowering individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.

“It’s a dream I never thought would happen in real life,” said Qahtani, whose speech was a personal tale about events in his life where “if words had been said differently, they would have elicited a radically different response.”

“Your mouth can spit venom, or it can mend a broken soul,” said Qahtani, who grew up being teased for having a severe stuttering speech impediment.

He said as a child, he was a mute who did not utter his first word until age 6.

“Words are power,” he said in his speech. “Words can be your power. You can change a life, inspire a nation, make this world a beautiful place.”

A capacity crowd of 2,500 people from around the world watched as Qahtani was named the winner on Saturday at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, according to Toastmasters.

Qahtani, who joined Toastmasters six years ago, competed in many speech contests and honed his timing in standup comedy before earning his title, which he hopes will be a springboard into a career in professional speaking.

In his acceptance speech, he encouraged others in the audience to “face your fears.”

“I used to be the laughing stock at school, but look at me now. If this can happen to me, imagine what could happen to you,” he said.

Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita and founded in 1924, Toastmasters’ membership exceeds 332,000 in 15,000 clubs in 135 countries.

— City News Service 

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