“A year ago, on this day [May 4] history was made by a man whose dedication speaks for itself. By all accounts, he was the people’s champion on The Day. I present to you Evans Afriyie Adu-Gyamfi, Winner of the Table Topics Speech Contest and the 1st Runner Up of the International Speech Contest at the 2019 District 94 Contest.”
I woke up to read these words from our Division Director, Michael Adote on a WhatsApp page for role players for the 2020 District 94 Speech Contests. In all sincerity, it elicited a pleasant feeling and an “inspiring flashback” as Toastmaster Jennifer Agyeman described it. But if you know Michael as I have come to know him, you would be sure his intention for weaving those words was far more than just to sing the praise a man who became a champion a year ago. Great it was, but that is past. Looking ahead, what’s next? Michael’s ‘psalm’ of praise was a reliable stepping stone to make a point and call two women upon whose shoulders the mantle had fallen to action. It was a challenge to brace themselves up for the championship that will held on Saturday May 16, 2020. And he kept it simple: “Irene and Helena, make us proud!” For what should Irene and Helena make us proud? The District 94 Speech Contests.
The question that comes next is what the host on Sapphire TV, Hannah curiously sort for an answer to even before we entered the studio: “Evans, what is this Speech Contests all about?” Here’s my simple an answer. Toastmasters has helped individuals and professionals from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders. Our annual Speech Contests therefore serve as the forum for some of our members to showcase their level of growth and development in the intricate art of public speaking.
It needs to be emphasised that speech contests are a Toastmasters tradition. The contests are in the form of International speeches, Evaluation, Table Topics, Humorous, and Tall Tales. The competition begins with club contests, and winners continue competing through the Area, Division and District levels. Winners of the District level International Speech Contest proceed to the regional quarterfinals level. For the International Contest, following region quarterfinals, winners advance to the semi-finals for a chance to take part in the World Championship of Public Speaking – the precious title. It is estimated that every year, more than 30,000 members around the world participate in the Toastmasters Speech Contests.
Should you participate in Speech Contests? By all means, YES! That was the invitational question followed by an apt answer the Distinguished Toastmaster Bill Brown had as the title to his article published in the September 2017 edition of the Toastmaster Magazine. Much as I wish it was the case, I equally admit it will be a grievous omission on my part to assume that everybody reading this article is a Toastmaster.
What, then, is the biggest advantage of participating in a contest? In a word: growth. DTM Bill pointed out; I couldn’t agree with him more on that. Let me attempt to explain this albeit briefly as the intention of this piece is to present to you two outstanding members of the Ghana Toastmasters community who deserve to be celebrated and supported to climb higher towards the World Championship of Public Speaking at this point in our history as a Division.
Judging from my personal experience, I can attest to the experience of growth and development of in the critical areas of leadership and communication skills over the last one year. Come with me back in time to that early morning breakfast meeting I had with Michael Adote. It was at the restaurant of Hotel D’Lamitie Bamako, a day after Michael was voted Division G Director elect. Being the leader, he had the responsibility of putting a team together to work with to be able to achieve remarkable results. Our conversation did not end, in my opinion. It took some days in between after we had returned to Accra to conclude on it – this time at the Marina Mall, Airport City. The conclusion? Evans, accepted to serve as the Program Quality Director of Division G (Ghana Toastmasters) for the 2019/20 mandate. Here’s my point. After the speech contest came many opportunities for growth and development. I repeat it…and still in one word: GROWTH! As I indicated earlier, these two women I choose to call “Champion Ladies” are focus for this writing. I resist the temptation of further travelling down memory lane. Here we go!
Our Champions – Irene and Helena
The winner of the 2019/20 Division G International Speech Contest, Irene Darko Asante, is Branch Manager of the KNUST Branch of Absa bank Ghana Ltd. IN Toastmasters, she is the President of the Spartans Toastmasters club in Kumasi and pursuing the Executive Management Pathway. (Spartans Toastmasters in one of four clubs with the Absa Bank family in Ghana). Irene has been a bank official for over 15 years. You guess. It will certainly not be an exaggeration to observe that Mrs Asante is passionate about the delivery of excellent service to customers. Of course, isn’t that the bloodline of any business? Why did she join Toastmasters? The decision to be an active member of Toastmasters is largely informed by Irene’s view of personal development and her firm belief in efficiency and professionalism.
The mother of three, Mrs Irene Asante, holds an MBA in Banking and Finance from Paris Graduate School of Management (PGSM), France and a proud alumnus of the University of Cape Coast where she had her Bachelor of Arts degree (English and French). It is unfortunate her husband was not at the British Council Hall on the 11th of March, 2020 to listen how he could benefit from his wife’s winning speech titled “Can We Talk About it?”.
Now to the other Champion Lady – Winner of the 2019/20 Division G Evaluation Speech Contest. Officially known as Helena Asantewaa Setsoafia but you can simply call her Asantewaa. Although she does not directly trace her routes to Ejisu (or Kumasi), she adores the name Asantewaa because it sums up who she is as a fighter – one who doesn’t give up easily once a goal is set. Just like Irene, Helena is also a banker with over 13 years of experience in one the largest banks in Ghana – GCB Bank. She deems it a blessing to be a mother of two adorable boys and to have a supportive man as husband. A woman’s leader at church with passion to mentor and help the youth unearth their abilities. Helena loves to impact knowledge but realised she was ineffective due to she shortfalls in communication and relationship building (networking) skills. She joined Toastmasters in April 2019 to overcome these short comings. In her own words “the growth over the period has been tremendous as she is now more confident, a better speaker, leader and the networking are simply unbelievable”.
Congratulations! Irene and Helena for accepting the challenge to represent Ghana Toastmasters (Division G) at the District 94 (West & Central Africa) contests to beheld online on Saturday May 16, 2020. Our champion ladies…go make us proud!
About the Writer
Evans is a Communication Practitioner, Social Researcher and Writer who loves to learn and share new knowledge through self-learning, writing and public speaking. As Program Quality Director of Ghana Toastmasters (Division G; District 94) Evans supervises twenty (20) corporate and community clubs in Accra, Kumasi and Tema. He is the author of ‘A Toast to Fatherhood’and the co-author of ‘The Dawn of Ghana Toastmasters’