Arabella Bengson – 1986 World Champion of Public Speaking

So many Toastmasters enjoyed Arabella’s presentation at the Fall D21 Conference! We asked her to tell ‘What’s the Buzz?’ readers a little more about herself. Here’s what she shared with us.

Even before I won the World Championship of Public Speaking, I realized what a great organization Toastmasters is. Almost every Toastmaster I know wants to learn and grow.  And when we develop skills, we love to pass them on to others. The camaraderie, the culture of service, the idea of helping to make every event successful, and enjoy ourselves in the process—these are all wonderful elements of the Toastmaster experience. To me, it is such a privilege to be in a helping organization, sharing my skills and knowledge, and helping others grow. In the process I’ve become a lifetime learner.

An inspiring high school teacher motivated me to teach others, but I didn’t realize that my audience could be the world. Even before I won the world championship, I was asked to speak in different organizations by Toastmasters who heard me speak. The win enabled me to reach a much bigger audience. I left my career of Training Manager in Bell Canada to speak and train on the international stage.  Being a professional speaker and coach allows me to reach countless people from all walks of life. I am so blessed for the opportunity of helping others perform at their best through my coaching.  I am humbled as I admire many qualities I see in others and I am motivated to continue growing.

Authenticity is very important to me.  I can only address my audience from my perspective, though I enhance that perspective with deep respect for the audience and recent research findings to enrich their life, health, and speaking skills.

I find out what my audience needs and how best to address it —I use brain-based, accelerated learning strategies that include fun, novelty and interesting information that challenges the mind, touches the heart, tickles the funny bone and involves the whole person.

I remind my clients that “A presentation is a gift you give of yourself to others”. Speakers avoid worrying about how they are being received, by focusing on the gift they are giving to their audience. The more audience-focused we are, the less anxiety we feel about our own performance.

I do believe that the triumph is NOT in the trophy, it is in the striving to do your best. No matter how the judges vote, I believe you have a winning presentation each time you address the audience’s needs, and impart to them learning, skills and fun they can use in their life, career and speeches.

I realize that we are given the privilege of the platform: the ability to touch others’ lives. I respect and earn that privilege by sharing, the best of what I know and inspiring others to strive for their best.

My top three tips for speakers?

1. Take every chance to speak and prepare for it.

2. Practice, and realize practice does not make perfect, it only makes permanent. If some parts do not work well, do something different. This is when it is very useful to get a coach. A speech coach will help you improve much faster than the normal Toastmaster experience. I do not believe I could have won the world speech championship, without the help of my speech coach Fraser McAllan, and others who gave me specific points for improvement.

To me, coaching is the winning edge that allows us to do our personal best. It is for me, the most memorable and enriching part of my learning experience. This is why coaching is such an important part of my professional career because I believe all of us have a gem that can be polished to brilliance. I also encourage speakers to practice before as many different audiences as they can.

3. Go outside of your club not only to support your club members, but also to be inspired.  Area, Division, District and International conferences are such enlightening turn-ons. You will see what things are possible, and how the best presenters, in whatever capacity, will make you realize that every role can be inspiring. The learning you get will motivate you to do your best at every role.

This is my eighth year in BC. I rejoined Toastmasters after an absence of about ten years, though I was speaking and coaching throughout.  Currently I am an active member of Sixty Minutes Toastmasters and VP of Public Relations in Mid-Island Advanced Toastmasters. My husband, Fraser McAllan, a former DTM, passed on a year ago. His failing health brought us to BC for a gentler climate, and a quieter way of life–away from the bustle of Toronto.  It was wonderful that this gave us eight more years together in our beautiful Comox Valley.  To me it makes perfect sense that when I lost my life partner—my former mentor (and “tormentor” who challenged me to always give the best I can), that I’d return to the organization that brought us together, and re-kindle the love I have for Toastmasters—for all that it gave me, and to give back all that I can.

Arabella’s perspective is embodied in her winning speech which may be accessed Here via YouTube.  Arabella is featured in this month’s Toastmaster Magazine.