By Arianna Ongaro
Nico Muniz is suited up and ready to go. A nervous buzz fills the room as he stands up and adjusts his tie.
“OK guys, change of plans, Waleed you’re up,” one of the coaches calls over.
The group exchanged nervous glances in the conference room-turned-holding area.
Waleed Mubashir, a third-year business management student, stands up and walks quickly to the door. He’s the first of eight contestants in Ryerson’s Next Top Speaker 2016 competition.
About seven minutes later, he is finished giving his first speech.
Back in the waiting room, the group is eager with questions for Mubashir. “How was it? Was it as scary as you thought? How close are the judges?”
Over the course of the night, contestants were evaluated in three rounds: prepared speeches, duets and impromptu— all exploring the theme of being human. Topics ranged anywhere from happiness, to pushing personal limits.
The crowd certainly seemed to relate.
“I get nervous with public speaking, my cheeks swell up and I cover my eyes…” – Rida Shahid
“Hearing different perspectives talking about the same thing is really interesting,” said Abdur Khawaja. One contestant in particular struck a chord with the third-year occupational health and safety student.
“I really enjoyed Sid’s individual speech,” said Khawaja.
That contestant, Sid Bhalla, also caught the attention of judges and was named this year’s winner. Other finalists included fourth-year business management student Muniz, who placed second, and Raven Wilkinson, a third-year creative industries student, in third.
It was clear that while exploring the idea of being human, many contestants experienced their own personal growth.
“You can do so much more than you thought you could,” Wilkinson said. “It’s easy to be scared but pushing yourself and sharing your story is a really good feeling.”
Abdul Khandwala, Ryerson Toastmasters president, shared those sentiments.
“You see these eight speakers grow. To know an event you and your team held did that for someone, it feels good. I was proud of that.”
The audience consisted largely of business students and working professionals.
Students echoed pride and respect for their peers. “I get nervous with public speaking, my cheeks swell up and I cover my eyes,” said Rida Shahid, a fourth-year business management student. “I think it takes a lot of gut and you need a certain personality type.”
Each contestant presented his or her own style of speaking.
One candidate in particular stood out — People’s Choice winner Kseniya Kachor. A natural on stage, Kachor captivated the audience with her warm presence and sharp focus.
“I didn’t come here to win, I came for the experience,” said the fourth-year global management student, with a trophy in hand.
The annual event was held at the Grand Hotel and Suites on March 18.