Muscat: The level of competition was strong as the District 20 Toastmasters Annual Conference got underway on Thursday at Al Bustan Palace – A Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The opening ceremonies were held on Thursday evening, under the patronage of Her Highness Sayyida Muna bint Fahd Al Said, following the first day of competition featuring finalists from Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar and the UAE speaking in four categories: International Speech, Humorous Speech, Table Topics Speech and Evaluation Speech. Participants in the three-day conference also attended workshops and heard from a number of keynote speakers.
"The level of competition is good. It's challenging and it keeps your grey cells working. I'm still in touch and I've updated myself," said Robin Anand, representing Oman in the Evaluation Speech category, in which speakers are asked to critique another speech.
Anand reached the District 20 contest in 2011, and was thrilled to represent Oman again. He said the conference not only gives him a chance to showcase his own speaking abilities, but he can learn a lot from the other speakers, even though he's been member of the Saud Bahwan Toastmasters Club for seven years.
Nisreen Al Khatib, a contestant from Lebanon in the Evaluation Speech category, said the competition was intense.
Though it was her first time competing at this prestigious level, she was confident and poised on stage as she made her evaluation of an earlier speech.
"It's a nice opportunity and good exposure to compete with the best. We are competitive but supportive of each other," she said.
Indeed, as the competitors took their turns on stage, the audience's applause and cheers were warm and encouraging, regardless of the countries they were representing.
In addition to the 100 finalists, many more Toastmasters from clubs both here in Oman and around the region descended on Muscat to participate in the conference. Nayana Shaiju, president of the Al Nahda Toastmasters Club in Dubai, came to Muscat with nine of her fellow club members, even though none of them were finalists.
"Last year it was in Dubai and we really enjoyed the programme. It's basically for networking and learning," Shaiju explained.
After the first few hours of competition on Thursday morning, Shaiju was already impressed by the speakers she'd heard.
"It's definitely good. It takes a lot of courage and confidence to be at the district level," she added.
Many members of the 37 Omani Toastmasters clubs were involved in the conference, too, either as organisers or participants. Yacoob Al Aufi, who joined the NTI Toastmasters Club a year-and-a-half ago, attended a conference several years ago and knew how valuable the experience could be.
He said Toastmasters has been incredibly beneficial to him both for his career and personal life, so he was keen to learn more from the conference's speakers and workshops. "You get a lot of ideas. Toastmasters has improved my capabilities in terms of talking to people, in terms of giving speeches, and even in terms of communicating with my family and colleagues," he said, before heading back to his seat to hear more speeches.
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