Competitive Public Speaking in Toastmasters
That’s a lot of trophies! There are more in boxes. You may be thinking, so what! or you may be thinking – good on her for having a go. I’ve observed that for some people who compete in Toastmasters contests, it can become “all about the trophy”.
I recently competed in two categories in the Toastmasters District Final, Humorous and International Contests. It is my fourth year competing and each year I have progressed to the state final level. This time, I didn’t go home with a trophy. But I did go home knowing that I reached out and made a difference to many in the audience with my message
There can only be one winner in any contest. Judging is a tough job! At the District level, all of the finalists deserve to be there. It is always a very high standard and this year was no exception.
I have participated in plenty of speaking competitions and have watched countless more.
I have also had the delight to be in the audience for two of the World Championships of Public Speaking live, in Las Vegas when Mohammed Qahtani won in 2015, and Kuala Lumpur in 2014 when Dananjaya Hettiarachchi became the winner.
At high-level contests, all entrants are worthy of being on the stage. At District level, the contestants have already won three previous levels. It often it comes down to tiny differences in style and message.
High level speech contests are very much like a performance, the speeches have been practised, re-worked and practiced more. The best speakers are able to make their speech look so natural, like it is the first time they have done it.
Competitive speaking requires a commitment to writing your material, getting feedback, practice, and re-writing.
For every trophy I have won, I have lost other competitions. Although I don’t see it as losing anymore, it just means that on that particular day I don’t take home a trophy.
I believe that every time I step onto the stage in a speaking competition – I am a winner.
It takes courage, it takes practice and you have to be prepared to lose – a lot!
In the past, I have been ecstatic to win and I have felt discouraged to lose. That was before I changed my mindset. These days, the trophy is no more than a “shiny object”. These days I don’t enter to win.
What matters most to me is being able to reach out and make a connection with an audience. If I can make a difference to at least one other person in the audience with my message, then I am a winner.
If I can inspire another Toastmaster to step up and enter the contest, I am a winner. If I can show people that their stories are precious, powerful and worth sharing, I am a winner. If I can encourage one non-member of Toastmasters to join the organisation, I am a winner.
It’s not about the trophy
No trophy can ever replace the feeling of genuinely reaching out and touching another person in a heartfelt way. The power of storytelling is when one human connects with another human. This is the reason why I compete. I can honestly say it is not about the trophy.
As I enter any competition, I remember one of my favourite quotes about speaking, from one of my mentors and the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking – Craig Valentine,
May I forget myself, remember my speech, and touch my audience
In Perth, Western Australia, we are part of District 17 Toastmasters, our annual convention is held at the end of May. There are four categories of contests – Humorous, Table Topics, Evaluation and International.
There are 6 levels in the World Championship of Public Speaking. The first level is Club level, the winner progresses to Area Level, Division Level, then District level.
One winner from each District around the world goes on to compete in the Semi-finals of the World Championship of Public Speaking, which is held at the Annual Convention of Toastmasters International. This year it will be in Vancouver in August. Ten contestants compete in the final round for the prestigious title of World Championship of Public Speaking.
If you would like to find out more about Toastmasters International I encourage you to visit a club near you. Toastmasters has changed my life. I have made lifelong friends, some of them are like family to me.
Toastmasters is ideal for those seeking basic training in public speaking, all levels of speaking ability are welcome. The Toastmasters program will give you the essential skills in learning to speak with confidence.
If you are a Toastmaster who is currently competing or considering doing so, remember this; every time you step up and share a speech, you are a winner. You are learning and growing and if you are hopefully making a difference in the lives of others. That is what matters most.
All the very best to my Toastmasters friends and speakers from around the world who are on their way to compete in the World Championship of Public Speaking.
I am very grateful to my fellow Toastmasters who offer me support and encouragement. Most of all I am so thankful to my friend Lizze who is has been at my side for almost every competition I have ever been in and always has the right words of encouragement to keep me focussed.
I had the privilege of representing Competitive Speakers Perth Toastmasters this year. Our club is inspired by Ryan Avery 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking – one of my Toastmasters speaking highlights is getting to perform my speech Rainbow of Life with Ryan and Chelsea Avery in the audience.
Thank you to my fellow club members and a special thank you to Martin O’Connor who is a constant source of positive encouragement to me. Martin recently wrote a blog sharing insights from D17 competitors, you can read here
#publicspeakingcoach #whatsyourstory #yourstoryisworthsharing #storiesfromtheheart #TheStoryMidwife
Lisa Evans, MBA is the Director of Speaking Savvy and Founder of Stories From The Heart, a Professional Speaker and Public Speaking and Storytelling Coach, TEDx Speaker Coach and Community Ambassador/Speaker for RUOK? based in Perth Australia.