The Motivational Speaker Smackdown

Jock Elliott prepares himself backstage before the competition.
Article Written by JOHN BOWE
Picture Credit: Tiffany Brown for The New York Times
Published: September 30, 2011

Jock Elliott paced the events room of Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas. Sixty-four years old, with a silver mustache and mild features, Elliott flew in a week before from Brisbane, Australia. The jet lag had worn off, but it was 6:10 a.m., and he had had only one cup of coffee — in a paper cup no less. “I hate coffee in paper cups,” he said. “It’s appalling. So uncivilized.”

In two hours, Elliott would try, yet again, to win the World Championship of Public Speaking, sponsored by a group called the Toastmasters International. Elliott, a “Toastie” since 1975, had lost in the finals six times before. His first defeat occurred in 1990, in Dallas, where he spoke about John F. Kennedy. Later, he noted it might have worked better in another city. In 1994, his speech was called “Que Sera.” It began: “When I was just a little boy, I asked my mother, what will I be? Will I be handsome? Will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me. She said no.”

Elliott, who quit his sales job 13 years ago and has been trying to make a living solely as a public speaker ever since, was also a finalist in 2006. In an otherwise strong speech about his pregnant grandmother’s heroic efforts to survive a bush fire in Tasmania, he made the mistake of saying the words “two fat ladies.” “There was a sort of mixed tooth-sucking that passed through the audience,” he said.

This morning, Elliott surveyed the competition as they practiced their routines. Onstage, Scott Pritchard jogged in place, panting with arms extended, imploring 2,000 empty seats in a husky voice, “What do you do” (pause) “when you’re pursuing your dream” (pause, breath) “and you’re faced with adversity?”

Olivia Schofield, four yards away but seemingly unaware of Pritchard, reached for a case covered in black velveteen. She slyly lifted the fabric to reveal a teddy bear. It was Rodrick, the little guy who helped her get over her childhood problem with the letter R. (Her speech is called “Wodwick.”) Looking into the distance above the seats, in a tremulous voice, she asked the imaginary crowd-to-be: “Is there something limiting you? Marking you as a failure?”

Speeches are a serious business for this crowd. Some of the participants were once unable to address strangers. Today most are seeking careers in motivational speaking. And at the championship, they were judged on content, clarity, humor, body language and rhetorical dynamism by Toastmaster luminaries. The prize: just a trophy and a title. No money.

At 8 a.m., the crowd, an assembly of Toastmasters from more than 50 countries, gathered in the events room to watch the competition. At audience level, front row, stage right, a stoplight cycled from green to yellow to red. At Minute 5, it turned green; 6 to 7, yellow. At red, a speaker had 30 seconds to wind down. Schofield (and Rodrick) elicited enormous laughs imitating her R-challenged self at an audition for “Cats” and singing her version of Queen’s “We Will Wock You.” But she went 15 seconds too long and was disqualified.

By the time it was Elliott’s turn, he felt good about his odds of winning. The speech he was about to give, “Just So Lucky,” was a reworking of one he first wrote in 1993. Since then, he has changed it 26 times. While the other speeches relied on props and histrionics, Elliott’s was much quieter. “I was very conscious that the style of it, the physical stillness and vocal quietness, would be at variance with the others, and that would either work for or against me.” However, he said: “The speech was worth doing and the message worth saying. Besides, I’m sick to death of the bloody Barnum and Bailey circus.”

Elliott took his place on the stage, his toes right up against the edge. “If I joined Twitter or Facebook,” he began, “I could have hundreds of brand-new friends. But how many of them would roll out of bed at 3 o’clock in the morning and come to my aid?” Elliott talked at 102 words a minute, allowing for longer than normal pauses for the larger than normal room. He spoke at length about the love he has for his wife, whom he met at Toastmasters and married at age 42.

He then asked the members of the audience to consider their own loved ones. “Feel their warmth, feel their friendship, feel the ties that bind. And if we treasure these ties” — his light went red — “we’ll have all the luck we’ll ever need.” (Pause.) “And we won’t need Facebook!”

The applause was followed, per contest rules, by several moments of silence for the judges to complete their tallies. Elliott had won and was called up to make an acceptance speech. “No problem,” he said. “I’d only been playing with it in my head for about 40 years.” Afterward, he headed back to the greenroom for a moment alone. “I had a little cry,” he said. “I just thought: What a blessed relief. I’ve not been barking up the wrong tree.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 2, 2011, on page MM18 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: The Motivational-Speaker Smackdown.

Public Speaking – A world champion

Article by Janel Shorthouse – ABC Multiplatform

Only two Australians have ever won the World Championship of Public Speaking, and surprisingly both winners are from the sleepy seaside town of Bribie Island in southeast Queensland.

One of those winners is Jock Elliott.

In a speech underscoring the value of close connections with family and friends, Jock, a Toastmaster from Bongaree, won the final round of the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking held in Las vegas in 2011.

Jock, along with eight other final contestants, reached the championship round after several eliminating rounds that began with 30,000 participants from 116 countries.

“We often don’t look after the people who really matter in our lives the way we need to,” Jock said. His speech resonated with a capacity crowd of nearly 2,000 listeners from around the world who attended the contest. The core message of his winning speech was about maintaining the relationships that make his life rich.

A veteran competitor, Jock joined Toastmasters 38-years ago and competed in hundreds of Toastmasters speech contests before reaching his lifelong goal of earning the title of World Champion of Public Speaking.

A six-time World Champion finalist, Jock says if he had won this award five or 20 years ago, “I might have been a richer speaker but not a better speaker”.

A speech coach by trade, Jock’s book Speak Easy offers some good advice for aspiring public speakers, “A good speech is like a good book or a good song. It’s memorable and creates an emotional connection”.

“Adults learn best by doing, and practice in a sympathetic environment amongst people who are able and willing to give you positive feedback on your presentations. From there you can step up to an audience, get work as a volunteer or a professional in a place where you are required to speak in public.

“It’ll give you increased confidence, it’s very good for self-expression, it’s very good for self-respect, it’s very good for problem solving because you have to determine what it is you want to say, you do have a time limit, you’ve got to get to the point, you’ve got to make your point and you’ve got to make it to the right people.

“All of that generalises to other activities with report writing or problem solving in the work place or at home. It just teaches you directly and indirectly a big bag of skills.”

Public speaking secrets of a world champion

Public Speaking Secrets of a World Champion.

For those of you who read my May newsletter which outlined my participation in the Toastmasters Annual International Speech Competition, the finals were held in Las Vegas in August and the 2011 World Champion of Public Speaking Final was won by Australian Jock Elliott. The competition from start to finish takes approximately 6 months, my journey in the competition was an exciting and grueling 12 weeks of speech preparation and training. Jock went onto compete in the finals and ultimately win the global competition. His journey took an additional 3 months after my intensive journey of speech preparation and delivery had finished…..I can only begin to imagine how intense, all-consuming and ultimately exciting his journey to final victory must have been!

I was therefore fascinated to listen to both his speech and post-speech interview recently and gain an insight into both his journey and of course his winning technique. I recently listened to Jock being interviewed by a previous world champion Mark Brown (1995). I want to share some insights I took from Jock’s feedback on public speaking because I believe they are relevant to all of us when speaking or presenting.

In reply to the question “What techniques did you use consistently to advance in the competition?” Jock mentions the following key points which I have summarised in bullet points.

Key takeout 1: Don’t stop competing, compete in every competition you can as this exposes you to risks and takes you out of your comfort zone. Jock’s insight is highly valuable and does relate to everyday speaking and presenting. Speak at every opportunity you get, put yourself forward to speak or present even when you don’t really want to. Speaking frequently will take you out of your comfort zone but you will become a better speaker for it and learn a lot about yourself and what you are capable of.

Key takeout 2: Prepare thoroughly and continually. He reiterates the importance of good preparation when speaking in the areas of content, physical preparation and psychological preparation. This point is extremely important as good preparation can reduce nerves significantly and it also ensures you set yourself up for success. How to prepare effectively is a key component of my group and one-on-one training. It is fundamental to success in public speaking.

Key takeout 3: Relate to your audience always and address the needs of the audience.Jock’s point is again fundamental to good public speaking. Public speaking is not about you,rather it is about the audience which means you have to identify with your audience. The more you know about them before you speak the easier it is to engage them.

Key takeout 4:Jock always tries to use humour, pauses and eye contact when speaking.These are 3 important delivery techniques that will help you engage your audience when speaking or presenting. The implementation of these techniques takes the most coaching and practise. They can feel very unnatural to begin with but are crucial to the delivery of a good presentation or speech.

Check out Jock’s winning speech at

This is obviously a subject I am passionate about….contact me to discuss how you can become a world champion too.

Source: “Interview with the 2011 World Champion of Public Speaking, Jock Elliott.”
Date: September 2011



Responses to Toastmasters International Speech Contest win 2011


  1. Elly Fleming says:

    Congratulations of the fantasting effort Jock. Good to see another Aussie win the title.
    Elly Fleming DTM
    District 70

  2. Della Jenkins says:

    Congratulations Jock. You have done yourself and Australia proud.

  3. Mark Kyte says:

    Congratulations Jock! And congratulations to D69… That’s two world champ’s in very quick time!

  4. Earth Waratah says:

    That is great news. Well done, Jock!

  5. Jeff Clout Area 17 says:

    Well done and congratulations, I heard him speak at District and it was great. Now he is world champ, bloody brilliant.

  6. muriel smith says:

    Robert Bruce was correct in saying “Try try again”
    Well done Jock and congratulations from Muriel and Kawana Waters Toastmasters Club

  7. muriel smith says:

    Congratulations from Muriel and Members of Kawana Waters club

  8. Thanks for inspiring us and making Aussies feel proud. Congratulations!

  9. Jan Griffin, Dist 69 says:

    Well done, Jock! And a 10 for persistence.

  10. Patti Kuss says:

    You are a great example of the power of vision supported by skill acquired via supported effort. Congratulations from Area 3 District 69.

  11. Allie Lovett says:

    Congratulations Jock from Allie Lovett and Glasshouse Country Toastmasters.

    We know how much time,practice, determination, enthusiasm and persistence went into contributing to your win.

  12. Congratulations Jock from all the members of City Tattersalls Club. What a wonderful example of persistence to us all. We should all tell the story of your journey to the World Championship forever.

  13. Congratulations Jock. It was worth swimming with the crocodiles for this one. Enjoy. Form all of us at Kilcoy Toastmasters.

  14. Ede D’Angelo says:

    Founder’s District in So. California would love to send a congratulatory email to Jock Elliott. Can you provide his email for us?

    Ede Ferrari-D’Angelo
    2010-11 Founder’s District Governor

  15. Ali Ralph says:

    Congratualtions, Jock from all at Downunder Toastmasters. Just heard your ABC radio interview . . and you are so cool, calm aand collected after such a well deserved win. A true ambassador for Australia and for Toastmasters.

  16. Ros Scoble says:

    Jock, you are an inpirational role model to us all. You have fantastic skills and have used them with determination and effort. Congratulations from everyone in Inverell Breakfast Club and Northern Nomads Advanced Toastmasters Club.

  17. Ros Scoble says:

    Jock, you are an inpirational role model to us all. You have fantastic skills and have used them with determination and effort. Congratulations from everyone in Inverell Breakfast and Northern Nomads Advanced Toastmasters Clubs.

  18. Deb Smith says:

    Hi Jock
    Metro Division has had the pleasure of hearing you and giving you feedback on your speeches on many occasions. What a great thrill to hear that you made it to the top of the mountain and in doing so you have inspired many more to follow.
    On behalf of Metro Division – a voluminous congratulations! Although our days of hearing you competing in the International Contest are over we look forward to hearing you speak via other pathways.
    Best wishes
    Deb Smith

  19. Congratulations Jock, from Robyn Downey and all at Caboolture Toastmasters. It was a fantastic win and a great reward for all the effort you put into it. You are an inspiration to all and a great example of the power of persistence and dedication. Well done!!

  20. You have finally won it. Congratulations on becoming the 2011 World Champion of Public Speaking. You really show that the saying “If you first don’t succeed, try try again” is true. Thank you for the time you spent in District 73 and the knowledge that you gave us while you were here.

  21. prabakaran says:

    Congrats. Finally the goal achieved!!! with experiance of 36 years. Your are truly a inspirational to many people who aspire to become a public champion.

He’s the talk of the town

WEST END, July 24: Toastmasters has given West End’s Jock Elliott confidence, a career, friends worldwide and a wife.

Now he is aiming to top it all off by being crowned public speaking champion of the world.

Mr Elliott will next month travel to Calgary, Canada to compete in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.

It is the seventh time he has competed at the championship, having placed third in the world in 1994.

Mr Elliott, who has a background in sales, has been a member of Toastmasters for more than 33 years.

He said he joined because he was good at telling jokes but felt uncomfortable speaking in public.

“I thought ‘this is silly, if you can tell a joke you ought to be able to speak,”’ he said.

Joining Toastmasters led to him meeting his wife and forging a career in public speaking, training and emceeing, through his company Speak Easy Presentation Skills Training.

“My only regret is I didn’t join more than 33 years ago,” he said.

The championship will see Mr Elliott take on speakers from around the world, with more than 8200 clubs taking part.

Each contestant must write their own seven-minute speech on a universal topic, with the winners going on to compete in three more levels.

The finals take place in front of about 1500 people.

Mr Elliott said fear of public speaking was rational but joining Toastmasters was the best advice he could give.

“It’s a normal fear we don’t want to make a fool of ourselves,” he said.

“But at Toastmasters, we’re all in the same boat … everyone can be better than average very quickly in a friendly, trusting and fully supportive environment.”

District 69 public relations officer Marilyn Freeman said they were “immensely proud” of Mr Elliott and knew he would give it his absolute best.

“The international speech contest audience, like any Toastmaster club, is always incredibly supportive of all competitors but having your own support team is always comforting and Jock won’t be without his Aussie supporters,” she said.

“About 26 Toastmasters from all over District 69 will be attending the conference and cheering Jock on as he steps up to the challenge … go Aussie go.”

The championship was first held in 1933, with about 25,000 contestants from around the world entering through their local club each year.

* Find a Toastmasters club at

Published Quest news July 2008. Article by Monique Ross

Make ’em laugh

This article is incomplete, the actual article will be published very soon

  • The use of humour in any presentation adds a whole new dimension.
  • It adds contrast, stimulates interest, creates fun, makes points more strongly.
  • But many people say, “Oh, I can’t tell jokes!”  Well, fair enough, but the use of humour in a presentation is not about telling jokes.  It’s about bridging a gap between the speaker and his or her audience and helping create a medium of understanding.  It’s not as hard as many people think.
  • And if you do want to tell a joke, there are techniques there too, which are rapidly being lost, but are well worthwhile rediscovering.

Jock Elliott demonstrates how humour in its different forms. crosses all barriers and helps make your message memorable.

Australian Wins Toastmasters 2011 World Championship

Jock Elliott rises above 30,000 participants to win world’s largest speech contest

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif., Aug. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — In a speech underscoring the value of close connections with family and friends, Jock Elliott, a Toastmaster from Bongaree, Queensland, Australia, won the final round of the ToastmastersWorld Championship of Public Speaking on Saturday, Aug. 20. Elliott, along with eight other final contestants, reached the championship round after several eliminating rounds that began six months ago with 30,000 participants from 116 countries.

“We often don’t look after the people who really matter in our lives the way we need to,” Elliott said. His speech resonated with a capacity crowd of nearly 2,000 listeners from around the world who attended the contest held at the Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The core message of his winning speech was about maintaining relationships with, “the friends of my blood which is about family, friends of my time which is about the people I’ve grown up with and shared experiences with, and friends of my heart, who have shared my life emotionally.”

A veteran competitor, Elliott joined Toastmasters 36 years ago and competed in nearly 380 Toastmasters speech contests before reaching his lifelong goal of earning the title of World Champion of Public Speaking. In his acceptance speech, he said, “Thank you for more than a lifetime of challenge, opportunity and friendship.” A six-time World Champion finalist, Elliott said if he had won this award five or 20 years ago, “I might have been a richer speaker but not a better speaker.”

A speech coach by trade, Elliott offers the following advice: “A good speech is like a good book or a good song. It’s memorable and creates an emotional connection.”

Speakers delivered five- to seven-minute speeches on wide-ranging topics, and were judged on content, organization and delivery.

Elliott claimed the title of 2011 World Champion of Public Speaking during the Toastmasters International Convention, held in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., Aug. 17-20.

Second- and third-place winners in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking were Kwong Yue Yang of Guangzhou, Guangdong, China, with his speech, “Fortune Cookie,” and Scott Pritchard of Las Vegas, Nevada, with his speech titled “Roscoe’s Words.”

About Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Founded in October 1924, the organization currently has more than 270,000 members in 13,000 clubs in 116 countries. Each week, Toastmasters helps more than a quarter million people of every ethnicity, education level and profession build their competence in communication so they can gain the confidence to lead others. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit

SOURCE Toastmasters International

For further information: Katie Ferguson, +1-949-858-8255,