District 39

Where Leaders Are Made

Where Leaders Are Made

Donny_Trophies_smallIn this interview, we learn insights from Donny Crandell after his experience at the 2016 Toastmasters International Conference in Washington DC. He won first place in his semifinal speech contest and then competed in the final 10 in the World Championship!

Can you recommend an extraordinary Toastmaster for our next spotlight? Email the roving reporter at davidgoadspeaks@gmail.com

Q: Donny, which club do you belong to and how long have you been in Toastmasters?

A: I’m the current President of Washoe Express in Reno, NV. I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for 5 years.

Q: Let’s start with the most important question, how is the new baby?

A: I love having a baby! He’s already learned an incredible talent: before I can even get a new diaper buttoned up on him he poops again, making me hurry to put a second diaper on. Then, he grins and gives me a little laugh.

Q: Congratulations on winning the semifinal. That’s an achievement that very few speakers accomplish. What did you do differently this year that helped propel you to the win?

A: This year’s contest was a little different than last year. This year I used two call-backs from contestants who spoke before me. I also knew what to expect from being on the semifinal stage and about how many people would be in the audience. It helped to have a year of experience. I appealed to the international audience by talking about different geographical areas in my speech. But the main difference was that I was more comfortable with myself and the contest this year.

Q: What did you share in your contestant interviews on stage?

A: In my first interview, I gave a shout out to District 39 and thanked the Toastmasters who gathered at UNR at 5:00 A.M. to eat donuts and watch me speak. But, my best line was sharing how “I joined Toastmasters to learn how to preach shorter sermons”. Everyone clapped!

In my second interview, I shared how one of my rituals before giving a speech is taking a minute to pray. I gave a list of four things I pray about, but the last one got the biggest laugh: “I pray that God helps me not go over time. Sometimes He answers my prayer and sometimes He leaves me to my own devices.” Of course, I already knew that I disqualified myself by going over time to 7:34. I also cut it close in the semifinals at 7:28!

Q: What are some of the comments you received from audience members after your speech that really stuck with you?

A: After winning the semi’s, I felt like a celebrity as I walked through the Marriot Marquis lobby. For a day, I thought I was Donald Trump instead of Donald Crandell. I was stopped by dozens of people who congratulated me and wanted to take selfies. After the championship, I had to remind those who stopped me that I didn’t win or even place and their response was….” that doesn’t matter, YOU WON! You made it to the World Championship.”

Very few people had a critique, maybe because they knew I disqualified myself. Overall they liked both my speeches and they made them feel good and inspired. There were a couple folks who asked permission to give constructive criticism and they shared valuable insights with me about being more conversational and not pacing as much.

Q: Which of the other finalists were you most impressed with and why?

A: There were 5 men and 5 women, which I think had never happened before on the championship stage. It also seemed there was a divide between older folks (like me) and millennials. The last contestant, Katina was very nice and we whispered our evaluations to each other after every speech. I was number 9 speaker and she was number 10. I would say the final 10 were a pleasant, diverse, international group of contestants. But, like the Olympics, we had more from the United States than any other country. As far as my favorite speech, I liked Aaron’s message, “You can say a lot without saying a lot of words.” Darren’s championship speech about “bullying” was well-done, but in my opinion not as original as the first one I mentioned. Okay, the underwear was original!

Q: What did you learn from the experience competing at this level that you most want to share with your fellow District 39 Toastmasters?

A: My take-aways? If I ever make the championship stage again, I will use a winning speech I’ve already done, instead of writing a new one. I challenged myself this year to write a new semi and championship speech. I had only given my championship 1 time before giving it on the championship stage. If I had used my semifinal speech from last year, I’m convinced I would have at least placed. Secondly, make sure you get some sleep the night before the contest. My wife couldn’t go (because of our pooping baby), so I had a buddy join me for the conference. He snored so loud, I didn’t sleep 10 minutes the night before the championship contest. And finally, pray harder about God helping you not go over time, and help God answer your prayer by shutting up sooner.

Q: Anything else you want to add that I did not ask you about?

A: It was awesome to have our district members support me. They sat together, cheered together and made me feel like a winner. I was especially impressed with those who got up at 5:00 A.M. to watch the contest live stream. I wish every competitive Toastmaster could experience the Big Stage. It’s a natural-high like no other.

Now that I know what to expect, I leave you with the words of Arnold Swartznegger, “I’ll be Back.” I also want to thank the clubs who offered and allowed me to practice with them. District 39, I tried my best to get us on the map again and make you proud. Next year, if the D39 winner is someone else, I pledge to support them in the same way I have been supported.

Learn more at www.donnycrandell.com