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Headed to U.S. with inspiring speech
The decision to join a local Toastmasters group in 2006 has led Berni Plett to an international competition.
Plett originally joined the group to become a better public speaker. The East Kildonan resident is now so comfortable doing so it’s become second nature for him.
"At the time I had an anxiety of public speaking which had grown into this monster," he said.
"I figured I had to do something about it so I went, and the first time I didn’t last for more than a minute. But I stuck to it and within a year I started to enjoy some of it and enter contests."
Plett defeated more than 100 local participants to win the District 64 level of Toastmasters International Speech Contest, which is the world’s largest speech contest and features 30,000 participants from 116 countries.
District 64 Toastmasters is one of 82 districts, and includes more than 109 clubs in Manitoba and Northwest Ontario.
With the win Plett qualified for the semifinal round of the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, which will be held in Orlando, Fla. in August. Plett will face off against 82 district winners from around the world on Aug. 16.
Nine finalists will be selected to take part in the finals on Aug. 18.
Plett’s speech, Courage to Speak Up, touches on the themes of fear, justice, and the courage needed to confront human rights violator. He wrote it following a conversation he had with his 11-year-old daughter last year.
"My wife, daughter, and I were driving past the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We were telling my daughter about the injustice experienced, and different things from our own German background," Plett said.
"When we got home I pretty much had the outline of the speech in my head."
Catriona Younger, public relations officer for District 64, said Plett is the only Manitoban competing in the semifinal round this year.
"It really generates a lot of excitement because it’s only the third year that people go directly to the international venue," said Younger, who lives in St. Norbert.
"He could be competing with someone from Africa, the United States, or someone from Canada."
Younger said the international competition is the Super Bowl of Toastmasters events and she’s looking forward to see how Plett fares.
"Berni is a very good speaker, he’s been on the district stage a number of times," she said.
"People who win the World Championship of Public Speaking often become highly sought after professional speakers."
For more information about District 64 Toastmasters visit www.district64.ca.
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