Analyzing The Top 3 Finalists From 2017 Toastmasters Speech Contest

Matt KramerPublic Speaking, Speech Breakdowns4 Comments

2017 toastmasters speech contest public speaking tactical talks analysis breakdown kevin stamper simon bucknall manoj vasudevan


Today, for the 2017 Toastmasters Speech Contest, I'm doing something I've never done before... 

Normally, I break down ONLY the winning speech—you know, the one given by the speaker that gets the lucrative title, World Champion of Public Speaking.

That's obviously not a terrible idea, but there's an unfortunate axiom for all things competitive, and that is...history only remembers the victor.

Today I'm putting an ax to that axiom.

I'm going to shine light not only on the 1st-place Champion, but the 2nd and 3rd-place speakers as well.

Hard-Fought Journey...


Something that shouldn't be forgotten is that all of the finalists went through the same rigorous journey to even get a chance at competing for that final trophy.

For perspective, there are about 30,000 speakers that enter this contest each year with only 10 speakers getting to compete on that final stage. And of those 10 speakers, just 1 can win.  

Now, that doesn't mean that the other finalists didn't have a championship caliber speech. Not only does each speaker have their own unique story and message, but they also bring a unique style of presenting (most of the time, anyway).

And not only that, in a combined total, they've likely delivered their speech, recorded it, listened to it, received feedback on it, adjusted it, and visualized it more than a thousand times. 

That is a lot of energy and brain power put into a single speech. We'd be fools to take this for granted and let the hidden knowledge slip away simply because they didn't win...

And that's why we're here today, because we're no fools! This just means we get even more speeches to mine data from, and that makes us the real winners.

So, without further ado, today we'll be going over the TOP 3 speakers from the 2017 Toastmasters International Speech Contest

Let's get started...


First off, if you haven't watched the speeches, you should (videos provided for each of the speakers below). 

It will help you get the most out of the full in-depth speech breakdowns that will be available for each of the 3 speakers below (click the huge green button below each speaker to get the PDF version).

The speech breakdowns for all 3 speakers include the following:

  • Full speech transcript
  • Speech Info: Word count, total time of speech, and speech title
  • Humor Stats: LPM and WPL (Laughs Per Minute and Words Per Laugh)
  • Use of "You" focused words versus "I/Me" focused words (and what it means)
  • Foundational Phrase + frequency
  • Time Transitions
  • Stories
  • Use of Questions
  • Callbacks and Rule of Three
  • Vocal variety including specific examples
  • And much more plus an in-depth analysis that's unique to each speech

Once again, don't forget to download and view the full breakdowns below. NOTE: You will not be asked for any information or to sign up for anything; the speech breakdown PDF will simply open up in a separate browser window so you can view it. No funny business. Get started already! 

1st Place: Manoj Vasudevan

2nd Place: Simon Bucknall

3rd Place: Kevin Stamper

Comparing The Data: 


Below you can view a side-by-side comparison of the Color Key statistics for each of the speeches. Note that this data is available on each of the individual Speech Breakdowns (PDF files available above), but since we're going to compare them, it's useful to have the stats in one place.  

Due to the width of the tables the image appears small, so go ahead and click it for a larger image. If it's still too small, you can view the PDF version here to easily zoom in. 

2017 toastmasters speech contest data comparison

Click image to enlarge. You can also view the PDF here

Did The Judges Get It Right?


Well...it's tough to say for certain. As far as judging a Toastmasters speech contest, there is a criteria in which to judge and score a speech. 

That said, I think personal opinion plays a role and always will. I mean, isn't a speech about persuasion? The speakers are doing their best to sell a message, and that includes selling themselves to the audience (and therefore the judges). 

Top that off with the fact that the judges have only a short amount of time to tally up their score, and their time is split between watching the speech and trying to translate what they see onto this ballot.

Unlike me, they didn't get hours, or weeks, or months to break down a speech.

First Thoughts...


After watching all 3 speeches for the first time, my knee-jerk decision was that the 3rd-place winner, Kevin Stamper, should have won, followed by Simon Bucknall in 2nd, and then Manoj Vasudevan in 3rd.  

Bear this in mind, whenever I first view a speech, I try to watch it with zero expectations. I do my best not to analyze ANYTHING. I'm looking for how the speech makes me feel. Did I laugh? Was I motivated? Did it leave a positive feeling in my mind? Could I relate to it? Did it feel authentic or genuine? 

Those were my random spectator results.

After Analysis...


But then I went to work. I listened to the speakers again and typed out the speeches word for word.

Following that, I wrote down my observations or any gut feelings I had about anything and everything (at the end these will get fleshed out more, but I don't want to forget anything that comes to me during the early stages of breaking it down).

After going through (way too many times!!) and completing the breakdowns, I believe the judges...

...got it right.

Manoj had everything that the judges were looking for, and he delivered it in near perfect form. 

Here are the reasons I believe the judges got it right: 


Simply put, Manoj's message was the clearest.

  • He had just 1 story.
  • Only 1 guru.
  • Shortest speech in terms of word count and length of speech (705 words / 7:04 time). 
  • Most Callbacks which means he referred back to things already familiar to the audience (as opposed to introducing new or unrelated content).
  • Most bang for his buck in terms of Humor (lowest Words Per Laugh).
  • Most thoughtful questions for the audience to ponder.
  • And finally, Manoj used a high amount (second only to Kevin in this category) of the Rule of Three (things delivered in threes are said to be easier to remember).

All of those points, and some minor faults of the other speakers (discussed in the breakdowns), lead me to believe that the judges got it right. 

Close it up...


At the end of the day, like I said at the opening, we're the true winners. We benefit from the hard work of these speakers.

We get to take the shortcut of learning some of the best available techniques to construct a persuasive, memorable speech.

The only thing left to do now is offer a bit of gratitude. So here goes, A HUGE THANKS to Manoj, Simon, and Kevin for their time and effort in constructing such elegant word art.    

Until the next breakdown...  

Don't f​​​​​orget to checkout the other Championship Breakdowns for different years. You can find them on this page.  


About this guy...


Matt Kramer - Tactical Talks - Public Speaking

Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life and it can change yours, too. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life. I also analyze and tactically dissect speeches. 


  • Wow! I appreciate all the work you’ve put into this, Matt, so thanks for sharing. What a great resource!

    • Matt Kramer says:

      Thank you very much, Craig! I appreciate it.

      • You’re very welcome.

        P.S. You mentioned typing out the speeches word for word. Did you know YouTube provides transcripts for most videos? You just click the 3 dots near the Subscribe button (which opens a menu), then click Open Transcript.

        BTW, I’ve a couple of speech critiques, which you might like too. There’s this one of Allan Pease’s TEDx talk on body language, plus one of an official video from Toastmasters International (on “Managing Fear”). I hope you find them helpful.

        • Matt Kramer says:

          I did know about that option, thanks! I type them out because it helps familiarize myself with the speech before I dive in. A lot of stop and go and plenty of rewinding involved during the transcribing process, but it makes everything else easier.

          Thanks for sharing those critiques, I’ll check them out!