SPRINGBANK - It's well known that for many people, speaking publicly is one of the most daunting and fear-inducing activities there is – even more so than death itself. As the joke commonly goes, more people would rather be the person in the casket than the one giving the eulogy.
But for one Rocky View County resident who has embraced the art of addressing a crowd with poise and professionalism, her rhetorical talents have propelled her onto the world stage of a long-heralded public speaking competition.
For the second year in a row, Springbank's Molly Hamilton is a semi-finalist in the Toastmaster World Championship of Public Speaking. Hamilton landed a spot as one of the 28 semi-finalist for this year's competition after beating out over 33,000 competitors from 143 countries.
The semi-final will be held in Nassau, Bahamas on Aug. 17.
Talking her way through six levels of competition to become a semi-finalist, Hamilton said she remained in a state of disbelief after coming out on top in each round. Although hopeful she wins the overall competition, Hamilton believes the bigger picture is recognizing the power of a good speech can carry on with listeners, even after the crowd has left the room.
“Whether I win the competition or not, it's a way to really have a great speech that I can use for the rest of my life,” Hamilton said. “It’s about having a message that you want to share with the world.”
Hamilton said that most Toastmasters use the same speech for the first six rounds of the competition, but that Toastmasters requires new speeches to be used in the finals.
The speech she has prepared for the semi-finals is titled “A Little Birdie Taught Me So.” Hamilton said she has re-written it 38 times.
When asked about the process from start to completion of drafting the speech, Hamilton confesses it is never fully complete. She noted that changes or edits are made, daily rehearsals are part of her schedule, and working with coaches is key to perfecting the message she wants to convey to listeners.
“It's always a work in progress,” she said. “I practice the speech every day a number of times and I work with coaches.”
The inspiration for her upcoming speech came after witnessing a bird fly into the glass panel of her family's deck railing. She said the bird was stunned motionless by the impact. After a period, it attempted to fly away, only to hit the glass once again.
On each side of the glass panel is a four-inch gap that the bird, according to Hamilton, eventually noticed and was able to fly away. She recognized this anecdote as a metaphor for life in recognizing that oftentimes, people focus on the barriers in front of them without realizing the opportunities to find a different way around those blockades.
“The essence of the speech is about how sometimes we run into these invisible walls where we have these dreams or projects that we want to finish, and they're important to us,” she said. “But for some reason, we just can't seem to get to the finish line.”
Wanting to become a professional speaker, Hamilton confesses she has experienced those barriers herself. At one point while struggling to write her keynote speech, she felt ready to give up. After looking for opportunities to overcome her barriers, Hamilton worked with a coach and finished her speech.
Hamilton is no stranger to the spotlight of a big stage, as she spent most of her life as a professional singer. She even performed at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and was a featured entertainer during a half-time show for the Grey Cup.
Feeling the universe has given her a gift to be on a stage and perform to a live audience, Hamilton feels her new calling is to share messages that touch the hearts of people.
“I feel that I've been given a gift to be able to share messages that can make a difference in people's lives,” Hamilton said. “To really inspire hope to be successful or be the person that you want to be.”