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TORONTO STAR
Toronto
Sunday, August 28, 2005
A4

From the left: Angela Louie, Rowena Romero, Lance Miller and J.A. Gamache take thier turn at the podium during the public-speaking contest at the end of the Toastmasters convention yesterday. Miller won

 
 Cha-ching' for the champ

A slip of the tongue was all that separated the World Champion of Public Speaking, from, well, toast.

The final event in the 74th Annual Toastmasters Conference brought the world's most impeccable speakers to the Westin Harbour Castle yesterday.

The rules were simple.

Speeches could be no less than four minutes, 30 seconds; no more than seven minutes, 30 seconds.

And they had to be fresh.

Contenders wasted little time in targeting the heart, because, as every good Toastmaster knows, the cornerstone of communication is reaching that most vulnerable organ.

And so speakers laid siege to the audience of 1,600 — reuniting with fathers, inspiring troubled youth and inciting deaf children to sign "I love you."

Eventually, those five-minute bullets took a toll on the audience.

"Honestly, I got tired of all the sob stories," said George Conover of Kentucky. "I was like, come on, somebody's got to break out."

Then Lance Miller stormed the stage.

The California Toastmaster used the analogy of parking validation to show the importance of validating others "by accentuating the positive."

His anchor phrase was "cha-ching," which he used so often the audience gleefully began chipping in the last syllable.

Miller won handily.

When he stepped up to the stage to accept the championship

trophy, the first word out of his mouth was "CHA-CHING!"

Then he thanked L. Ron Hubbard, the late founder of Scientology, for helping him "identify and overcome my personal barriers."

Standing on the sidelines, a tearful J.A. Gamache rued his own personal barrier: the clock. The contender from Laval, Que., had gone three seconds over the time limit.

Perhaps he had dangled one too many metaphors, or fell to his knees once too often, or made just a hair too much use of silence.

"It's okay," said Gamache, surrounded by supporters afterward. "It's okay.

"I've grown as a human being. Those three seconds don't take anything away from that."

— Christian Cotroneo

     
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