It’s one thing starting on a pathway and making progress along it at club meetings, but when my mentor suggested that I enter the humorous speaking competition earlier this autumn I was initially sceptical. I very much appreciate certain genres of humour but never saw myself as a performer in anything remotely humorous.
But after some thought, and possibly because I am always up for a challenge, I decided to enter and only then started to think about what I’d talk about. I mulled over a few ideas – even wrote the outline of a speech for one of them – but then the speech I eventually gave came to me one rainy afternoon.
I gave my speech a deliberately misleading title, and practised it several times at my laptop, recording my actions and words. I worked out some props to show and felt I might be nearly ready for the contest. But I wanted to practise some more in front of a live audience.
Since all Toastmaster meetings are online at present I decided to book a speech at a club in London that I had visited before, and asked for feedback. My evaluator – and indeed most of the Toastmasters present – all came back with some suggestions for enhancing the speech.
It was about this time that I thought to myself that if I am giving a humorous speech I might as well take some steps on a new pathway, so I hastily enrolled on Engaging Humour (my initial pathway is Persuasive Influence) and booked with a club in the US to give the speech again, but this time on the new pathway. I used the feedback from that to present the speech finally at the contest in our club. And I had two speeches ticked off on my new pathway. I gave the icebreaker a couple of weeks later, and have booked to do my fourth, so I can complete level 1 very soon.
I was incredibly nervous and the contest setup means that you don’t actually get to see anyone’s faces while speaking. That is fairly unnerving because it’s reassuring to see a smile on a face because that way you know that you have achieved your aim – to raise a smile from at least one person.
I was up against four others and my aim was to try and beat a DTM (distinguished toastmaster). I didn’t quite make that goal, but I did come second.
I also recklessly entered the table topics competition, held on the same evening, even though I don’t think I have quite mastered the art of constructing a short speech on the fly, with a beginning middle and end – and a point. But I saw this as another challenge
Since table topics are impromptu speeches, I could not prepare a particular topic, but in the run up to the competition I volunteered for table topics at any meeting I attended to practice until I was no longer frightened of what might come.
When it came to the competition, I found the subject very easy to grasp and immediately thought of something to speak on. To be honest I cannot remember anything about it, but I apparently did well enough to come second in that too.
The net result of the club contest is that I will be going forward to the area competition in November. But that is where I expect my progress to end. It also means that more adrenaline will be required in the run-up to that.
Despite the fear factor, I can only recommend that all members try entering a competition, no matter what stage you are at in your journey. The contest is not exclusive to members who have been around for years, although they are a hard act to beat. And it’s fantastic practice for your public speaking journey.
NB – in case you are wondering what my speech was about, I am not revealing that until after the area contest.