Taking impromptu speaking to the world | Sunday Observer

Taking impromptu speaking to the world

7 November, 2021

Sandun Fernando recently emerged as the world champion in the recently held Worldwide Impromptu Speaking Extravaganza. He competed against the world’s best speakers.

Fernando is also a personal trainer and business coach, conducting many programs across the globe.

Speaking to Youth Observer, Sandun shares his journey of preparation, winning and what is next for him.

Q: Tell us about the Impromptu Speaking Extravaganza and how did the Sri Lanka team prepare?

A: The Worldwide Impromptu Speaking Extravaganza (WISE) is an independently organised championship challenge for all Toastmasters International District Champions of Table Topics (impromptu speaking) across the globe.

Official invitations were sent to all past and present TMI District Table Topics Champions through the District Officials, and approximately 60 District Champions responded within due timelines and 40 Champions proceeded to compete at the Championship rounds.

Three Sri Lankans qualified from the first round, and made it to the final 12. The WISE grand finale was held in October. The contest is slightly different to the traditional Toastmasters format where two speakers are given an open statement as the topic, and are required to present their arguments persuasively through three rounds in the form of a debate.

There is no prior notice given to the speaking order(moderator randomly picks one speaker to start 10 seconds after the topic is read, followed by 3 three rounds each one after the other with no breaks in between).

All 40+ participants were put through 3 boot camps of training since this is a new concept and format.

Judging criteria were around a speaker’s impromptu/ critical thinking and persuasive speaking skills about the topics.

Q:  What about the topics of discussion?

A: Unlike traditional Toastmasters’ topics which are straightforward and non-controversial, all the topics given during WISE competition were current, complex and controversial. Topics ranged from human rights, animal rights, child protection and child privacy, abortion, sexual and gender-based topics,parenting, ethics around technology/ social media, government, economics, political ideology,legalisation of various subjects, racism and discrimination and more.

Q:  How does it feel to be 2021 World Champion of Impromptu Speaking?

A: I learnt to speak English at my alma mater St. Joseph’s College. As a passionate Toastmaster since 2009/10 I have competed in all 4 competitive speech categories for a very long time. Back in 2016, I became the first and only Sri Lankan to win 2 two District Championships in two different categories (impromptu speaking and speech evaluations) in one year, a record still unbeaten. That was the highest level for those categories and there was no world championship.

After five years to be able to compete with the best in the world and emerge as the champion is truly a joyful moment. I am grateful to all those who supported me in this journey. My beautiful family, my Toastmasters’ friends from Smedley.

Q:  What got you into impromptu speaking?

A: Ever since I joined Smedley Toastmasters Club back in 2009/2010 I had the privilege of learning from top speakers in the country. In Toastmasters, there is more preference and recognition given to prepared speeches since that is the only category that previously had a World Championship title. However, I believe impromptu speaking is the real test of a speakers since it checks your thinking as well as your speaking skills with no time to prepare. So I always pursued this discipline to better myself. Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, the World Champion of Public Speaking 2014 is special amongs all as he is one of my mentors and a dear friend who coached me in my journey.

Q:  What is next for you?

A: I want to promote WISE as a movement across the globe as it is a great platform to help individuals improve critical thinking and persuasive speaking. We need this now more than ever, considering everything that is going on around the world. I also want to further continue my competitive speaking career in Toastmasters and pursue the World Championship of Public Speaking (in prepared speeches).

I want to use my story and this achievement as a platform to inspire the next generation of Sri Lankans to take the slow march to greatness. As a country, we are in a very dark place. We don’t have a lot of good role models to look upto.

What is Worldwide Impromptu Speaking Extravaganza?

Worldwide Impromptu Speaking Extravaganza (WISE) is the flagship project in a worldwide initiative to encourage and help Toastmasters Clubs effectively hone their members’ impromptu speaking skills, and then to use this enhanced efficiency as a membership magnet in their ongoing effort to market their services to an increasingly larger share of their target market. Whereas WISE will be operational for three to four months each year between July and October, the general impromptu speaking skills enhancement project will be functional around the year.

Toastmasters around the world are invited to share Table Topics tips on this site and engage each other in activities of common interest to persons interested in honing their communication skills.

In 2020 WISE was sponsored by Achievers Toastmasters Club in District 47, and by Toastmasters Clubs in District 81 in 2021. However, the “sponsorship” of WISE is incidental as its aim is to encourage the participation of Toastmasters around the world. Clubs that assist in underwriting the operating expenses of WISE will be identified as “Financial Sponsors” and their District affiliation will be identified.