The latest Faces of Four is a special edition highlighting our District Humorous Speech champion, Jack Nguyen. At the recent District Fall Conference, Jack gave us all “Perspective” as he competed against the best of the best within the District. He stole the show, our hearts, and not to mention the coveted title. Let’s take a moment to get to know our newly crowned champion.
Tell us a little about your Toastmasters career. What clubs do you belong to? How long have you been with the organization? What made you join?
I’ve been a member of san mateo toastmasters (club 191) for the past 3-4 years now. This is the one and only club I’m a member of. Although I’ve given speeches in probably half the clubs in the south bay, I’m officially just a member of one. I joined because I wanted to “suck less” at public speaking.
How does it feel to be a District speech champion? What did you do to prepare for the big event?
It hasn’t quite sunken in yet. Ask me again in 11.5 months!
My “preparation” was pretty unusual. I’m VPE at my club and I really wanted to get everyone excited about competitions and district events, but people weren’t interested or motivated. I realized I couldn’t appeal to their sense of community (boring!) so I ended up going the WWE route (yay!)
So I did a tremendous amount of trash talking in club meetings, all the way from the area contest to the district finals (as an ongoing gag) to pump up my club members. We held the area contest at my club and I told everyone that we were going to have a bunch of people from other clubs coming to try to beat us in our own backyard and I told them it would happen over my dead body. We packed the room and it was by far the rowdiest area contest I’ve ever seen. (I’m so proud of my club!)
Then leading up to the division contest I told my club I was going to “destroy those fools” for “daring to get on my stage”. We had about 20 people from my club attend — never underestimate the power of smack talking (even if it’s part of a gag) to fire people up.
I really started to crank up the trash talking leading up to the conference and even used poetry:
“rose are red, morning dew is damp, on 11/12 — I will be crowned the champ”
It was a lot of fun being over the top obnoxious and a huge motivation for me to work harder. It was even more hilarious you realize how incredibly nice all the other competitors were, especially at the finals. On the one hand you had these awesome, very humble, amazingly talented speakers that were there with their families and wanted to just make their club and loved ones proud.
And then you had me — some random jerk who told his club he was going to “open a can of whoop-ass” on everyone at the conference…
While the trash talking was fun, it didn’t replace the amount of work I put in. I ended up doing 26 revisions of my speech and tested and retested jokes over and over on people. I got tons of great feedback and had people suggest jokes that were even better than mine. I took every speaking opportunity that I could get. I drove to Ukiah one weekend to be a test speaker at a division contest because I needed the practice. (fyi — that’s a 3 hour drive each way).
I researched each room that I was going to speak in to make sure there were no surprises. The room at the church where my division contest was held was oddly shaped so I talked to the pastor the week before to ask her how she gave sermons and how she moved on stage.
I know that the stage that the finals were being held on is 14 lengths of my foot from front to back because I counted them the week before when I visited the hotel. I also know it takes 19 seconds for me to walk from the back of the room to the stage because I timed it the night before. I know that there were 20 tables in the room and that the judges would most likely be sitting at one of the chairs facing the stage.
To paraphrase Will Smith, I knew going in that there were a lot of people that were more talented, more experienced, and just plain better than me. But I knew I could always work harder than them.
What led you to compete in this year’s contest?
I’m a big believer that competition makes you better. I’ve been involved in competitions of various kinds all my life, mostly athletic, so this was a nice change of pace to do a competition where your someone isn’t trying to toss you on your head.
How would you describe your speaking style?
I think of it as a cross between conversational and standup-comedy. (At least I hope that’s how I come across)
What advice do you have for other Toastmasters who are considering competing in future contests?
Do it. Losing makes you tougher. Winning makes you more confident.
I don’t think either of those is a bad thing. I’ve lost tons of competitions and lost very publicly and very spectacularly. Yet no one remembers the losses, only the victories.
A wrestler I knew from Florida lost every single match his freshman year, but he never stopped working hard or hustling to get better. He came back and went undefeated his remaining 3 years and eventually became the state champion. To me, that’s much more impressive than some undefeated genetic freak that never learned to deal with losing or how to come back from adversity.
When you’re not in Toastmasters, what do you like to do for fun?
I binge watch a lot of TV (game of thrones). I have a business card that says “First of his name, King of the Andals, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm”.
I’m also a foodie and have been known to consume amazing amounts of food. Maybe it’s time to take a crack at competitive eating? I’m calling you out, Takeru Kobayashi!
Congratulations again Jack on your huge accomplishment. We are excited to see what you do next!
What questions do you have for Jack? Please feel free to leave a comment below.