Kay Terera, the Best of the Best

On 9 May 2020, Kay Terera from Engineers Toastmasters Club in Harare, beat nine other orators from Southern Africa to take up the top spot at the annual District Public Speaking Championships. I spoke to her recently, a few weeks after the trophy landed in Zimbabwe from South Africa.

What made you compete for the Public Speaking Championship?

It all started when one of the seasoned Toastmasters in Zimbabwe said that I had done a very good evaluation. Riding on that positive feedback, I decided to give contests a go by starting with evaluations. That first year I competed up to Division level where I came second. Dave Cairns (the 2011 District Speech Champion) positively reinforcement me by saying, “Don’t give up kid.” I’ve never looked back since.

What can the other Toastmasters in District 74 learn from your success?

It took me 5 years of contesting before I won the big one. That’s persistence! Persistence means being dedicated to learning from mistakes and consuming as much knowledge about speaking as possible. Through continuous improvement, I performed better and better every year until eventually I won at District level. The experiences compounded towards victory, meaning all the previous failures were not in vain.

Were you confident you would succeed when you started on this winning project?

As much as I can do my part in preparation and performance, I can never be 100% certain of the outcome because I have no control over the performance of the other contestants and how the judges respond to my performance. These factors make contests somewhat subjective and I have had to make peace with that. I did my best and I let God do the rest.

How long have you been a Toastmaster and how did you find out about the organization?

I became a member in 2014, so that makes it 6 years. My older sister mentioned Toastmasters in passing, as a way to improve one’s presentation skills and months later I did a Google search on the Toastmasters International website and found Engineers Toastmasters my club.

What does a Public Speaking champion do with her free time and outside of Toastmasters what does she do?

Reading, writing and occasionally painting. I’m a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe specializing in graphic design and design-related courses.

The competition was stiff. What set you apart from the other competitors?

Honestly all of the other competitors were phenomenal with the kinds of messages that touch the heart and the mind. Any one of them could have won. The philosopher in me says “time and chance…”

How do you balance the contest preparations with your other life?

I prepare by thinking and taking notes about my speeches well ahead of the contests themselves. By the time “contest season” starts I am already rehearsing and refining.

Have you found a special place for your trophy yet?

Right now it has pride of place on my dining table. I haven’t found a display cabinet big enough to accommodate it yet.

Any advise for future competitors?

Keep your eye on the prize. “Prize”  meaning personal improvement. Bob Proctor says “success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal”. If progress is your real goal you will win every single time!