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Toastmasters’ Speech Contest Follow-up Note from Korlan Bektassova

26th of November 2016 became an important milestone in the history of Astana Toastmasters Club and the whole Toastmasters’ community in Kazakhstan.

That Saturday afternoon 6 speakers representing 6 different Toastmasters Clubs, officially chartered in Kazakhstan, gathered together in a cozy hall of Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, to compete in the art of public speaking.

Though the idea of having such a contest was in my mind for a long time and it was one of my promises during the presidential campaign, the actual preparation for the event started in the last decade of August. It was the first time when I addressed all the Toastmasters Clubs I know in Kazakhstan: NCOC Toastmasters, Atyrau Open Toastmasters clubs in Atyrau, NU Toastmasters and Samruk Kazyna Toastmasters clubs in Astana and Almaty Toastmasters Club in Almaty. All the clubs immediately supported the idea, and showed willingness to participate. I expected nothing less from a community of true leaders. First step was done.

From that very moment, a busy season began. We had many tasks to fulfill: finding the venue with a good location, finding judges, recruiting volunteers to help with organizational matters, promoting the Contest to attract visitors, preparing certificates, and gifts for winners and participants and many other little details that seemed to be unimportant but actually meant a lot.

The most challenging part was finding a perfect venue. Location was important.   

There are many venues in Astana with necessary equipment and capacity, and Hilton Garden Inn was indeed a perfect location for the Speech Contest. However there was one main restraint: being a non-profit organization, we do not have financial resources to be able to “buy” any venue we want. Thus, we needed a venue for free. That doubled the challenge and this challenge was accepted by the Sergeant-at-arms Kanat Bazaraly. He successfully tackled the problem by applying his leadership skills and persuading Mr. Michael Adams, the director of PwC Kazakhstan, that there were benefits in sponsoring the Speech Contest. Perhaps one would say that it was an easy task, since Mr. Adams was supportive with the ideas and values of ATC, and once again, I’d like to thank him and PwC Kazakhstan management for believing in good causes of such an event and agreeing to sponsor it.

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The next thing to do was to recruit judges.

The task was complicated by three factors: 1) we needed someone who is familiar with public speaking principles, 2) we needed someone who speaks and understands English at the highest possible level and 3) we needed unbiased parties, unrelated to any of the competing clubs.

The problem was solved when Aliya Sariyeva, the only Distinguished Toastmaster in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, called me and said that she wanted to lead the event and be the toastmaster of the Speech Contest. I could not have imagined a better candidate for this task.

She was also the one who recommended Miss Mary Francis and Miss Jane Knight from Haileybury School in Astana as judges. The third judge was Trevor Hogan from PwC Kazakhstan. I’d like to thank these lovely people for agreeing to take such a responsibility and sparing their time and efforts.

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The other thing which was still on the table was Gifts for the participants.

At first we thought we’d have a participation fee for the contestants, however later on we waivered this prerequisite as it is not a common practice in Toastmasters. However we still needed funding. That is when a little fundraising campaign started within the club. With the help of members of ATC, we managed to raise enough money to buy books for gifts for each contestant. I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the fundraising, and my special thanks is to Banu Ibragim, a member of ATC, who recently moved to another city and could not be present at the Contest, she was the one who contributed the largest amount. That’s what we call true devotion to the club.  

Speech Contest was a great opportunity to raise awareness about Toastmasters. A press release about the event was sent to media and published on social network. Thanks to the efforts of PR team from ATC and PwC, we were able to attract an audience of nearly 100 people and even had some TV journalists.  

Conducting a Contest of such a scale by gathering Toastmasters together was the key goal I announced during my presidential campaign and now I can say that the mission is successfully accomplished. Thanks to teamwork and dedication, the event turned out to be a tremendous one.

For me it was never about winning but I’m happy that Aigerim Kosheken who stepped up to represent Astana Toastmasters Club reached the hearts of the audience and the jury by winning the 2nd place and Audience choice award. Thank you, Aigerim!

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Look at these courageous women and men who stepped up to represent their clubs, without them it would not have happened.

The results of the Speech Contest turned out to be as follows:

1st place Sayagul Berdenova from NCOC Toastmasters Club

2nd place Aigerim Kosheken from Astana Toastmasters Club

3rd place Yernur Satybaldiyev from Almaty Toastmasters Club

Audience choice award was split between Aigerim Kosheken and Yernur Satybaldiyev, who got equal number of votes.

Videos  of their speeches are here.

Photos are here

In the end I’d like to thank officers’ team for supporting the idea and making the it happen, each member (ex, current or future) who contributed their time and money, great photographers Matthew Charnetski and Makhmud Baikhodzhayev, Saule Temirbayeva, who prepared the ballot box and voting sheets and Aikorkem Nurzhanova who promoted the event by all means possible.   

More great events to come!

Sincerely yours,

Korlan Bektassova