By: Camden Caye
"A simple choice of word can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message. "You can have a very beautiful thing to say but say it in the wrong words and it's gone."- Mohammed Qahtani
How many of us would recognize the name Mohammed Qahtani? With so many influential speakers and brilliant orators throughout history, it is rare that we have modern speakers put in the same league as the many historical figures. Even rarer is a powerful speaker who does not have the title of President or authority that validates his speech. So, I would like to introduce Mohammed Qahtani the winner of the title of Toastmasters International World Champion of Public Speaking.
Who is Mohammed Qahtani?
Mohammed Qahtani is a Saudi Arabian security engineer. He is passionate about public speaking and stand-up comedy. He has participated in several conferences around the world where he inspires people to chase their dreams. On August 15, Mohammed Qahtani won the title of Toastmasters International World Champion of Public Speaking. He survived seven rounds of a competition that lasted six months and included 33,000 competitors from around the world. Growing up he suffered from severe stuttering, but he was able to overcome it by facing his fears, pushing the envelope, and performing on stage. Mohammed speaks about several topics such as coping with change, Empowerment in the workplace, building the perfect team, the art of negotiation, and using powerful words when speaking.
Mohammed Quahtani as a Public Speaker
Mohammed Qahtani won the national speaking championship with a speech he entitled “The Power of Words”. You can watch a short video of the speech below:
Mohammed Qahtani Speech Tactics
Within this speech, he follows a very particular but powerful series of debate and speech tactics. They are as follows:
He immediately gets the audience on his side: Qahtani starts his speech with a sight gag, pretending to consider lighting up a cigarette before the audience's reaction convinces him not to. He transitions from this into a sober defense of the tobacco industry before saying, straight-faced, that all the facts he cited were made up. The audience then roars with laughter.
He does not lose sight of his message: The punchline of his fake defense of Big Tobacco is that you can convince people of a lie, even an absurd one, if you deliver it in the proper way. He follows his message up with a series of stories. He remains entertaining while he subtly convinces us of a premise we might not even be considering until the end. "Words have power. Words are power. Words could be your power," he told the rapt audience. His thesis, as simple as it is, seems incredibly profound after hearing him utilize that message throughout his speech.
He makes it personal: A friend once told Qahtani, "When you're on the stage, the most important thing is the audience. Don't care about how you look; where you are on the stage; how you sound — just care about the audience." In "The Power of Words," he cheats a little bit with the story about a friend dying from an overdose. The story, about a promising young man's tragic path to self-destruction partially due to an estranged relationship with his father, is real, but it is a story Qahtani borrowed. He says that if he presented it as a secondhand story, it would lose some of its immediacy.
He ends on a hopeful note: Qahtani opened his speech with humor to get the audience laughing and relaxed. A fantastic way to change people’s frame of life is through humor but if the entire speech starts and ends with jokes the topic losses some of its values or punch. Especially when the speech contains personal or even depressing anecdotes about life. However, you determine your speech will flow, Qahtani said, it's important that you always leave your audience with a feeling of hope. They need to feel empowered by what you just told them.
While you may have never heard of Mohammed Qahtani before this article, there are many things that we can learn from him as a speaker that we can apply to our own speaking. All of the tactics that I have broken down for you in his award-winning speech can be applied to any type of speech you make. While you don't have to pretend to light up a cigarette on stage to get people's attention, you can find an attention grabber that works for you. The small things like tying back everything to your overall message, telling a story related to your message, and even just keeping the tone positive can make a big difference. All in all, even though Mohammed Quahtani is not a high-ranking leader, he is a leader through his unique speaking style which we can all learn from.