I joined Reading Toastmasters in March of 2004 because my employer at the time asked me to start attending some municipal Planning Commission meetings in his place. I felt I needed some extra confidence to perform well in front of a group, so I remembered back to what an old communications instructor had said about Toastmasters. He highly encouraged everyone in the class to join. I was intrigued by the idea of Toastmasters, but I never pulled the trigger. Now it was time. When I joined Reading Toastmasters, I knew nothing about the semi-annual contests. Even after finding out about them, I never considered competing. That is, until I gave a particular speech.
I told a story called “The Cursed Tribe.” When I wrote the story, I did a lot of research on the history of Berks County, Pennsylvania. I added several pieces of local history to make the story more plausible. The story was about a course placed on a small area in Berks County when one Indian tribe was wiped out by another, hundreds of years before the white man came to this land.
After I told the story, I found that many people in the audience thought the story was true. I had to explain that the whole thing was a figment of my very bazzar imagination. They continued to pepper me with questions about local history and I had a lot of fun answering them.
As I was ready to leave for the evening, the president called me over and told me that I “need to use that speech in the next International Speech contest”. I gave the speech in April 2005, well after the International Speech Contest was underway, so I had to wait nearly a year before I would be able to compete.
The day of the Reading Toastmasters International Speech Contest arrived quicker than I thought. I was prepared to compete, but I was a little nervous. There were two other competitors and each of them had nearly twenty years of speaking experience and there I was with only 2 years of experience. Before the contest started, I was pretty sure how the evening would end. At the end of the night, I realized I had guest right … mostly.