Thirteen years ago, an unknown systems engineer for Saudi Aramco, Mohammed Qahtani, walked onto a stage in Las Vegas and enthralled the crowd with a compelling presentation regarding the power of words.

His was the winning presentation for the Toastmasters International contest that night.

Here is an important takeaway.  Words are made more powerful when they are presented with care, empathy, and precise timing. Words are more effective when the presenter takes the time to rehearse — the tone of his voice, the pace of his speech, and the timing in delivering critical points. 

A great speech delivered to an admiring crowd begins with the lonely work of research, then writing and rewriting, followed by exhausting rehearsal and revision — time and time again the presenter practices until a good script becomes a powerful presentation.   It is in the painstaking rehearsal in which powerful words become poignant and memorable.

Most of you will never venture onto the stage for in a global speech contest, but the years that Mr. Qahtani invested in becoming the best Toastmaster in the world provides a remarkable example of how research, writing, and the hard work of rehearsal can make a big difference in our lives – for our careers.

Each year thousands of managers and executives fail to win their dream job because they did not excel in the interview.  Not to diminish Mr. Qahtani’s remarkable presentation, but the truth is that the job interview is the most challenging form of communication.  

Let me explain.  That night in Las Vegas, Mr. Qahtani had control of the stage – the time and the subject matter. The only interruption was the laughter of the audience.  

A job interview, on the other hand, is a presentation that must be memorable with compelling stories and enlightening facts, but it is also interactive. Someone is always interrupting you with another question.  You do not have control of the stage or the time. 

 In fact, succeeding in a job interview requires as much rehearsal as any successful keynote presentation before thousands of people.

I can already hear the pushback.  That your point is a bridge too far. 

My response:  I have interviewed thousands of people in my 27 years of global executive search and the vast majority were not successful because they came to the table unprepared.  

To watch the entire award-winning speech, with the touching completion, visit