Speaking up has its rewards. Just ask Debbie Wentowrth.
Wentworth of Buxton, who works at Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Co. (MEMIC), won the National Association of Insurance Women’s Communicate with Confidence Speak-Off last week at the national finals in Orlando, Florida.
Competing against regional winners from around the country, her presentation was ruled the best by a panel of judges that included insurance industry experts and a national speaking consultant.
Wentworth won local, state and regional contests over the last 10 months, earning the right to compete at the Orlando conference that was attended by 500 NAIW members from around the country.
Her motivation to get involved, she said, was one commonly tied to public speaking: how to deal with nerves.
“Another big reason was to learn how to improvise,” said Wentworth, who coordinates MEMIC’s services with its independent insurance agents. “Being able to think on your feet at an agency meeting was something I wanted to master.”
The competition included a three-minute prepared speech and a one-minute impromptu speech on a topic presented by the judges. In her prepared presentation, she spoke about the value of involvement in local professional development organizations. Then the judges provided her the topic for her one-minute talk.
“They kind of threw me for a loop,” she said. “I thought they might ask me a question related to my first speech and I was prepared for that, but they gave me one word: ‘Dreams.’ I was a little worried but it all worked out.”
When asked her winning strategy, her answer is confidence. “I went into the competition thinking I had a great chance of winning and it paid off, the nerves were there, but I was excited to compete.”
For those looking to improve their public speaking skills, Wentworth offers this advice: “Practice. I had run through my speech so many times that I was able to focus more on my presentation skills and the audience rather then worry about content. The more you practice and perform in front of your peers, the better you are and more confident you become.”
Wentworth said her win has already had consequence. A competitor of hers at the national competition confided afterwards that Wentworth’s speech inspired her to run for office. The bar also has been raised at work, she said. “Co-workers are looking for me to prove myself as a ‘champion’!”
MEMIC, based in Portland, Maine, is Maine’s largest workers’ compensation insurer.
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