On a Saturday morning last month my alarm went off at 4:30am. Groggy, I collected myself and cameras and rolled into Bally’s on the Las Vegas Strip for a 6am assignment shooting the World Championship of Public Speaking, sponsored by Toastmasters International, for the October 2 edition feature, You Are Here in The New York Times Magazine.
I covered Toastmasters years ago for another story but really had no idea what to expect from this event, it’s participants and audience. It was pretty clear upon my arrival that this event would be taken with seriousness by all involved as it was explained to me that this is the Olympics of public speaking, with finalists and supporters from the world over in attendance. Hefty security, hushed voices and repeated reminders to me that if any of the participants were uncomfortable with my presence (and shooting) at any time that access would be withdrawn.
Reporter John Bowe shares the full story best, so I’ll leave it to him. The morning was a fun one. The finalists were each interesting in their own right, and no one minded me documenting their preparations leading up to their world championship public speaking performance. It was another great reminder of how fascinating all of our unique stories, passions and sub-cultures are.
The tear sheet and a few out-takes from backstage…