When Aurora’s Lindsy Matthews first participated in Speaker Slam, an international public speaking competition, in April, she never imagined it taking her on this journey.
She won that first competition that qualified her for the Grand Slam event, which brings the top two speakers from multiple events on stage to compete against each other for the Inspirational Speaker of the Year award.
Matthews finished in third place out of the 14 speakers from across North America who competed at the CBC Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto Nov. 18.
She said participating in the event was great from start to finish and it felt like a big deal with such a big crowd, so many talented speakers, and standing ovations after each speech.
“It felt so good to share my story,” she said.
The topic of the speeches at the grand slam was “joy,” something Matthews provides a unique perspective on given that she’s living with an incurable diagnosis of stage 4 metastatic breast cancer (MBC). She initially got involved with Speaker Slam as a way to bring awareness to breast cancer while helping to give her purpose.
“The theme was really important to me because I get asked ‘how do you do this?’ so much in terms of how do you stay positive, optimistic, happy when dealing with this,” she said. “I really wanted to explain to people exactly how I do that.”
Not wanting the stories in her speech to come across as sad, Matthews really wanted to show listeners that it’s not always sad and explain how she turns intrusive negative thoughts into motivation to put herself back in the moment.
Matthews talked about the fear of the future and how staying present is the way that she can handle everything.
Having known the topic was joy six weeks before the event, Matthews says she wrote eight different speeches in preparation and she had trouble choosing which one to go with for the big stage. Finally two weeks before, she stopped procrastinating and made her choice.
Going into the competition, knowing how big the event would be, Matthews felt the nerves heading into it, especially with a large group of friends and family in the audience.
When she’s nervous, Matthews says she tends to handle it by being silly and making jokes.
“I was really doing that a lot backstage,” she said. “I was having so much fun leading up to my speech that as soon as I got on stage I started off a little bit slow.”
She felt pressure to do well with so many loved ones watching and the other competitors being “top-notch,” and unlike during the qualifying competition, she could see all the faces in the crowd.
“Once I found my pace a few sentences in, it felt really good to be up there,” she said.
Getting to finally deliver the speech she had put so much time into writing and practising to a room of intent listeners was amazing, she said.
“It’s a feeling that I love,” she said. “I feel a rush being in front of so many people.”
Then to be recognized as one of the best after finishing in the top three, Matthews said it was surreal.
“You have so many thoughts in your head when they start calling the names,” she said. “When they called mine I felt relief and excitement.”
Having her family and friends there to cheer her on — they even brought a cutout of her face on a stick into the audience — made it feel that much more special and lucky.
Now that she’s participated in two different Speaker Slam competitions, and has such great experiences, Matthews plans on continuing with public speaking.
She said it’s always been a desire of hers because she loves helping people.
“I really hope that when people hear my story it motivates them to look at their lives and prioritize the things that matter most and go after that,” she said. “I think that people are so much happier when they’re intentional with their time and energy.”
Learn more about Speaker Slam here.